COLLABORATIVE PROJECT CLARA IBARRA / EMILY CALHOUN / PATRICIA BURASCHI
PROJECT AND TECHNICAL STATEMENT
Vitamin Green seeks to confront the fear, stagnancy and artificiality that permeate the modern urban space.Understanding that power thrives within a cultural framework that guides behavior towards social expectations, Vitamin Green rejects the inevitability of an urban monoculture. Interpreting fear to be the empowering tool for social conditioning, and stagnancy and artificiality as the effects of material ambition (driven by fear), Vitamin Green confronts our perpetual infidelity to raw personal instinct and sensibility.
Realizing the subway system as the urban commons, Vitamin Green utilizes the subway system as its laboratory, testing the pulse of the city under new and existing conditions.To explore these phenomena, we install pods of grass around the bases of subway poles, one after another, and journey from one end of a train line, through Manhattan, to the other end of the line.
To document the objective experience and subjective transformation of commuters, we capture video and audio, we draw and write and sense the goings-on of the people piling in and out of trains. To contextualize the entire experience of the subway commute, our journey and documentation often begins and ends in the neighborhood surrounding the train station. It is there that we witness the experience of crossing the finish line: the distinctive nature of each neighborhood that forms a part of the mélange of the city.Vitamin Green is a literal juxtaposition of the tranquilities of the natural earth with the wilderness of the city, but is also an exploration of the common psycho-social ground between them.
We pause in our daily plight, to close our eyes for the briefest moment, or stare out at the rows and columns of people piling in and out of the subway, our thoughts moving with the whirring of the engine and rumbling of the wheels along the steel tracks. The steel frames we have built to cart us from here to there, from home to work, from work to home, they become our five minutes or fifty minutes of solitude in a roaring sea of people.
In this sense, the urban landscape holds the same promise of repose and rebirth as the exfoliating grass beneath our barefoot feet. Perceiving the grass as something natural, associated with rejuvenation, triggers a return to the natural self, to natural instincts, unregulated by fear or material ambition.
At its most important and fundamental level, Vitamin Green measures the collective and individual distortions of spirit that result from ubiquitous, invisible power structures and environmental stresses on the personal instinct and sensibility. By exposing the urban commuter to a symbolic representation of “nature”, a kind of reverse homeopathy is explored, wherein our social illnesses can be dug up and confronted. But even beyond these expressions are those affected by introducing Change to the subway participants and to the entire structure.
On one recent journey on the Q route, one car’s passengers were responding to the live sods of grass, sprouting at the bases of poles, with whimsical pleasure and curiosity. As can be witnessed in still images and video, the grass was a mysterious evocation to the senses. One woman was inspired to draw, another couple looked to see if there was a pattern. No one felt threatened.
The pervasive effects of public surveillance condition us to stay within the boundaries of socially acceptable behavior and interaction. Grass is foreign biological material.
Vitamin Green can be experienced viscerally at the website http://vitamingreen.wordpress.com/