Electrified (an exploration)
This is a call to adventure for urban gardeners and foragers, biopunks and eco-hackers, amateur singers and ikebana arrangers, gamers and storytellers, as well as anyone else curious about the interaction between plants and humans in cities. We'd like to hear your stories and talk to you about becoming a part of Borrowed Scenery – as an active collaborator, a casual visitor or anything in between. Join FoAM, Claud Biemans, Stevie Wishart and Penelope Turner for an afternoon of music, urban edibles and plant stories. We are hosted by the Electrified project of the Vooruit, Timelab and SMAK.
Borrowed Scenery explores the city from a plant's point of view. It seeks out manifold relationships between the human and vegetal kingdoms, from providing food and energy, to cross-fertilising and purifying the air. Everyday interactions between plants and humans are moulded into a mythical world, inspiring humans to recognise, acknowledge and appreciate urbanised nature. In true stories and alternate histories Borrowed Scenery tickles our imagination about what is and what could be, if all living beings had a voice we could hear. How would environmental thinking develop? What would sciences and arts be like if we could talk to the objects of our research? How would we live if we could directly experience the pain we cause to a forest by clearcutting and pollution? What would our homes and streets look like? What relationships would we have with plants? To explore possible answers to such questions Borrowed scenery travels from everyday reality of an ordinary day in a city, to a wondrous world of 'patabotany' and back again. Both realities exist at the same time on the same streets and in the same rooms, we just have to shift our perception for a few degrees...
We begin the journey in the city as it is today. We begin to walk. There is nothing special about the walk, except that our gaze is directed to plants. We specifically look for plants that are edible, medicinal or otherwise used by humans. Our attention is drawn to the seemingly insignificant weeds and small green patches sprouting in unlikely and unlikable places. A modest grass becomes a hero in a story about bio-remediation, the common clover a star ingredient in a sumptuous dish. To remember the plants and the stories, as Hansel and Gretel we leave bread-crumbs on an online map of Ghent. We use Boskoi, an urban foraging app, that allows us to record the plants and sites where the plants grow. We annotate our entries and leave our own stories and recipes, literally putting the plants on the map – both geographical and cultural. From June onwards we will continuously populate this map with plants and stories, creating a new layer in Ghent's digital layout.
To quench our thirst we end our first expedition with an afternoon tea, made with collected urban herbs and flowers. While sipping the tea, we talk about urban and imaginary botany as well as their hybrid, the so-called patabotany – an alternate reality and fictional ecology where humans, plants and technology create a common culture. We hear about inspirations of Borrowed Scenery, such as plant neurobiology, ethnobotany or Hildegard of Bingen's Viriditas. We mull over various plans and talk about different ways in which people can be involved.