July 19, 2009 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
Artist, Lisa Cheung, with one of her mobile allotment planting stations
A collective of UK artists and curators is maintaining the cutting-edge of environmental awareness and having fun in the process.
They are members of Avant-Gardening, an arts and environment project aimed at engaging all sectors of the community with environmental and sustainability issues through art, gardening, and food. With fun, thought-provoking workshops and activities, Avant-Gardening aims to solicit the community’s creative responses to issues such as global warming, recycling and bio-diversity through an ongoing and organically evolving arts program which will give a voice to the participants and involve them in cutting-edge projects and activities.
In bringing fun and creativity into the city’s urban green spaces, Avant-Gardening encourages participants to reconsider the local environment and their interaction with it.
One of the group of artists, Lisa Cheung, has devised the Mobile Allotment project to engage entire communities with creative food growing and arts projects. Cheung works with participants to design and build the mobile allotments, modular structures that become the central hub for events and community-based activities to promote creativity, healthy eating, and environmental awareness.
Mobile allotment stations ready to go
The project is led by experienced practitioners of socially-engaged collaborative arts who are selected for both the innovation of their practice and their commitment to broadening access to the arts.
The communal mobile allotment planting station and cold greenhouse, which is parked for the summer at the Nightingale Estate in front of the Wel-Care Project in Woolwich, grows broccoli, lettuce, carrots, sunflowers, herbs, strawberries, and a variety of flowers. Project activities, free and open to all residents, include an after-school gardening club, a Saturday “Let’s Plant” gardening advice and art workshop, garden parties with vegetable-inspired games and a flower raffle (the next is Saturday, July 25, 1-4pm, and a best balcony/window box garden competition.
Lisa Cheung is interested in art as a social space, taking as her inspiration everyday life and people. Her practice encompasses communal dinners, lighting installations, limited edition chinaware, mobile kitchens and performances. Her work is site specific, situated in museums such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, art galleries, disused shop fronts, café counters, council estate parking lots, army bases and gardens.
Greenies Greenhouse is an after-school club created and run by pupils at Clapham Manor Park School with support from the Avant-Gardeners. The Greenies decided that they wanted to create Green superheroes who would protect the planet for future generations and worked with Avant-Gardener, Polly Brannan, to develop their superhero and their planet saving powers.
After school at the greenhouse
The students imagined their superhero and their special powers and then made costumes using recycled materials. The Greenies created their own cartoon comic strip to showcase their super powers and posed for superhero portraits with photographer, Jack Goffe, picking up some some superhero photography skills along the way. Each superhero worked with film-maker Kamala Katbamna to create a short, superhero video profile which they will be unleashing on the world soon!
Mobile Porch is a mobile mini-architecture designed for roaming the public sphere. It is an urban toy used to engage with users and governing bodies of public sites. Mobile Porch was developed for the North Kensington Amenity Trust to roam its public domain. Everyone was invited to use it, to shape it, to mould it, and to temporarily own it.
The flexible design allows it to be transformed into a stage, a screen, a reception desk, a dinner table, a shop, an exhibition board, a workshop, a billboard, a hang-out… the possibilities are endless.
As explained by Public Works, in using this physical tool to examine the existing non-physical aspects in public spaces (such as lack of play space or platform for expression), we develop new ideas for the use of neighboring space.
The playfulness of Mobile Porch allows its users to express their ideas concerning public space through direct action and participation. What do people come up with when given a flexible space to play with?