“Over the past nine months, I’ve carried out weekly multisensorial fieldwork sessions as part of an ongoing art-science experiment, the Lawn (Re)Disturbance Laboratory (aka Lawn Lab). These sessions have gifted me regular doses of phytosocial engagement.
After a long season of social and physical distancing from fellow humans, I have come to an even deeper appreciation of the sustenance I derive from being in close contact with plants and soil. To offer a bit of this sustenance to others, in September I developed a fall audio tour, an invitation to slow down and root in place, carrying out a set of simple fieldwork activities that mirror some of what I’ve been doing across the past nine months.
Interspersed within these activities are prompts, questions, and stories that ask participants to consider how maintenance, care and resistance play out in lawn ecosystems. What was here before? What might be here in the future? How might humans—you, me, this community?—act in solidarity with our multispecies neighbors as we work towards a more equitable and just urban habitat?
Developed as part of the growing environmental education campus at NATURE Lab Troy, the tour was offered to people who were able to be physically on the ground—actually touching the soil—at our experimental lawn in North Central Troy.
For those who can’t make that trip right now, I’ve taken video and audio documentation of my fieldwork practices, and integrated them with the audio tour, creating a hybrid audio-video essay that centers plant life and its connection to the soil. This meditative, vegetally-paced essay mirrors and expands on the thirty minute experience of moving through multisensorial fieldwork on the lawn in North Central Troy.
I’m curious how it will reach those of you re-entering lockdown, anxiously monitoring the U.S. election cycle, or preparing for the arrival of winter. Can you take it with you to a lawn near your home, and engage in a layered activity that combines and collides my lawn fieldwork with yours?
Or maybe you want to let it loop on your computer or phone as you prepare dinner or fold laundry, taking a moment here and there to breathe deeply and move differently in response to the plants and the prompts?
However you choose to engage, I hope it offers you some fresh motivation to find more moments to break the (phyto)social distance.
Chapter 1, which introduces the tour, and Chapter 2, which guides you through fieldwork on the lawn, are available now. Chapter 3, which includes participant responses, will be available later in the season, as we process and respond to each participant. You can find the videos here and on our Lawn Lab website.”(from the Urban Soil Institute’s Pedosphere blog.