The Tree Question: Field research & cultivation practices in community-based public art in an age of ecological crises

2016 April 25 presentation Geneva University of Art & Design

Trans – Mediation, Education, * Haute École d’art et de design Genève HEAD


abstract: 2016 April 25 Brochu-Ingram TransHEAD ‘tree’ presentation

bilingual notes: (trad) 2016 April 25 Brochu-Ingram TransHEAD ‘tree’ presentation

powerpoint: 2016 April 25 Brochu-Ingram TransHEAD ‘The Tree Question’ PowerPoint

title of The Tree Question


Since the pioneering 1982 intervention by Joseph Beuys, the 7000 Eichen – Stadtverwaldung statt Stadtverwaltung) / 7000 Oaks – City Forestation Instead of City Administration, tree planting, and cultivation more generally, have increasingly become contemporary art practice. Employment of such cultivation interventions, as contemporary art and not as landscape architecture, have nearly always used as a way to challenge particular notions and demarcations of the ‘public’, on one hand, and experiences of communities, landscapes and ecosystems, on the other hand. Such a set of oppositional tactics often contrasts itself with professionalized landscape architecture more often employed to re-enforce the status quo of public space. And since documenta 7, a raft of experimental artists have rifted on notions of agriculture (and silviculture, horticulture, and permaculture) as visual culture most notably Alan Sonfist (et al 2014, Landi 2011), Ron Benner (2008), the Fallen Fruit collective (Goodyear 2012), and Sam Van Aken (Brooks 2014). But precisely how ‘contemporary’ are such tree planting ‘works’ and how are associated practices and conceptualizations changing as ecological crises intensify, as cultural signifiers shift, as access to scientific information increases, and as data sources and ecological and social paradigms diversify? And how do these Western and often Eurocentric aesthetic movements, involving trees and urban space, construct relationships with recoveries and practices of indigenous communities often at odds with modernity?


One point of inquiry is provided by Claire Bishop’s 2012 note that, “Beuys drew a conceptual line between his output as a sculptor and his discursive / pedagogic work” (page 245), the latter including his tree planting. But if cultivation is more of a conceptual disruptor and teaching opportunity than part of artistic production to produce an art work, why does the aesthetic importance of trees for interventions in public space continue to increase? A more problematic and indefinite set of questions derive from the divergent and shifting uses of tree planting in contemporary culture. For example, there is no sign that the 1982 intervention in Kassel was intended to contribute to carbon sequestration or to conserve local habitat and species, or to build community through sharing fruit as in the recent tree planting work in Los Angeles of Fallen Fruit. Today, it would be difficult to plant a tree, as a contemporary art work, without professed relationships to countering climate change, gentrification, and homelessness and contributing to carbon sequestration, food security, and social equity. So like painting, drawing, and sculpture, the basic ‘materials’ of tree planting, however organic, are infinitely pliable — as long as respective organisms and ecosystems can survive and be part of public space. There is an implicit aesthetic of survival.


What are the diverse roles of science in these forms of artistic research? In particular, how does tree-planting-as-contemporary-art challenge, expand, and re-enforce broader art movements such as,

  1. various forms of community participation as art (embodied in the work of Suzanne Lacey and Martha Rosler),
  2. scientific experimentation as in ‘wetware’ and biological modification,
  3. traditional knowledge and other indigenous experiences,
  4. relational aesthetics as new forms of education and community aesthetic engagement, and
  5. micro-urban tactics that transform multiple publics?

Or do the heightened skills and artifice required to sufficiently manipulate a site in deteriorating environments, to insure that trees will thrive, represent another kind of cultivation of culture that signals a new and more tenuous phase of the “Anthropocene” (Wark 2015)? In other words, are the creative perspectives and practices of contemporary artists, particularly collaboratives and collectives, increasingly necessary to keep communities, ecosystems, and public spaces ‘alive’, diverse, and evolving?


Brochu-Ingram presents some early results from some of his ongoing investigations, designs, and interventions in the Vancouver and Geneva regions.



Benner, Ron. 2008. Gardens of a Colonial Present / Jardins d’un Present Colonial. London, Ontario: London Museum.

Beuys, Joseph. 1982. 7000 Eichen – Stadtverwaldung statt Stadtverwaltung) / 7000 Oaks – City Forestation Instead of City Administration. Kassel, Hesse: documenta 7.

Bishop, Claire. 2012. Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship. New York: Verso.

Brooks, Katherine. 2014. This One Tree Grows 40 Different Types Of Fruit, Is Probably From The Future. The Huffington Post (July 24, 2014)

Goodyear, Dana. 2012. Eat A Free Peach: Mapping “Public Fruit.” The New Yorker (March 12, 2012).

Landi, Ann. 2011. Separating the Trees from the Forest: Alan Sonfist has built a career as an urban land artist. ARTnews (Summer 2011) (POSTED 08/15/11 5:58 PM).

Sonfist, Alan, Wolfgang Becker, and Robert Rosenblum. 2004. Nature, The End of Art: Environmental Landscapes. New York: Distributed Art Publishers.

Wark, Mckenzie. 2015. Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene. London: Verso.

salmon smoking rack bean trellis

2015 August 3 treillis abstraction 04-08-15_1426 Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram

2016 Feb 9 y trellis montage - Gordon Brent Ingram

above: early February 2016 after the runner bean vines have died back

below: July 2015 at the height of flowering of the runner beans

2015 August salmon smoking rack bean trellis Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram

2015 August 5 Burgoyne Valley Community Farm (google satellite) Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram

This work is currently installed on Plot 20 in The Burgoyne Valley Community Farm at 2232 Fulford Ganges Road, east of Reid Creek, on Salt Spring Island. The trellis is roughly in the centre of this modified scene, just south-west of the West Gate.

The dimensions are roughly 9 meters x 3 meters and extending at times to a height of 7 meters. Some of the vines may well establish as perennials and the local, dead wood, harvested from the riparian forest along Reid Creek, is already beginning to break down — contributing more nutrients such as nitrogen to a clay soil that is depleted by partial water-logging and standing water in the winter. The trellis will be replanted next year but the design will change as the height increases to support the long vines.

2015 Oct - aerial - trellis

2015 August 6 trellis montage Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram

2015 August 06 07-08-15_1433 Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram 2015 August 6 07-08-15_1447 Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram 2015 August 6 trellis 07-08-15_1435 Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram2015 August 2015 07-08-15_1449 Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram

2015 August 3 04-08-15_1443 Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram

 2015 August 3 trellis 04-08-15_1444 Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram

2015 August 3 trellis 04-08-15_1445 Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram

2015 August 1 02-08-15_1724 salmon smoking rack bean trellis 2015 Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram 2015 August 1 02-08-15_1653 salmon smoking rack bean trellis 2015 Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram 2015 August 1 02-08-15_1658 salmon smoking rack bean trellis 2015 Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram


2015 August 1 trellis - darker sky montage salmon smoking rack bean trellis 2015 Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram

2015 Sept trellis iteration - Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram (small)

2015 August 1 trellis - lighter sky montage salmon smoking rack bean trellis 2015 Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram (small) 2015 August 1 trellis - turquoise sky montage salmon smoking rack bean trellis 2015 Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram (small)


2015 July 23 trellis & blossom - Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram

2015 July 27 trellis blossoms #2 - Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram

2015 July 27 trellis blossoms #1 - Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram


2015 July 27 trellis blossoms #3 - Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram

This traditional variety of Scarlet Emperor Runner Bean, that was only planted on June 10, 2015, started blossoming massively on this trellis on July 24. Many honey bees and some hummingbirds are now enjoying the trellis.

2015 July 21 salmon smoking rack bean trellis - composite - Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram

2014 July 23 blossom montage trellis - Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram

2015 July 21 salmon smoking rack bean trellis - composite - Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram

2015 July 21 salmon smoking rack bean trellis - Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram Continue reading salmon smoking rack bean trellis

Focusing on traditional indigenous fruit trees: Revisiting traditional experiences of gratitude


2015 August 13 chokecherry drupes Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram (small)

chokecherry drupes, Salt Spring Island, 2015 August 13

Focusing on traditional indigenous fruit trees: Revisiting traditional experiences of gratitude

For most of us, fruit comes as a gift unless we’re working full-time in orchards or vineyards. Even if we buy fruit, it is typically under-priced. Fruit wild trees can be free. There is a movement to make new orchards where the fruit can be freely picked with a monetary exchange. Fruit in many culture carries symbolism as very special gifts. In the monotheistic religions, fruits such as the apples of Eden and the dates of desert oases link providence and knowledge.

Both the recent human societies of Western Europe and on the West Coast of North America were build on the fruit of a small number of gene pools especially:

Malus species including apple, pear and crabapple;

Prunus species including plum and cherries;

Corylus species all producing similar kinds of hazelnuts;

Rubus including raspberry and blackberry;

Fragaria, strawberry; and

Vaccinium including blueberries and huckleberries.

While many of these wild species in both Europe and in North America are under-documented, there are a number of archives with precise, scientific photographs. In contrast, we have not been able to afford, in recent years, the medium-format photographic equipment with which I was educated and on which I developed my career. In recent years, Julian Castle and I started photographing and making video clips with the best equipment that we have been able to find: old (un)smart, mobile telephones — without the focusing functions of more recent smart phones.

The images are blurred and crude but at least we found these wild trees. Some of these groves were carefully cultivated and protected by Salish communities as late as the mid-twentieth century. These trees hold many stories and layers of culture within the landscape. Celebrating this fruit and carefully harvesting it for food can be part of a decolonial recovery process when there is full acknowledgement of the ownership of these sites and resources by the traditional communities that nurtured and have protected them. This decolonial process, linked with gratitude, could eventually lead to many more areas returned to their rightful owners with traditional stewardship and harvesting re-established.

In Canada, we are currently reconsidering a swath of damaging over-generalizations about the diversity of indigenous cultures and religions.[*] After well over a century of cultural genocide, this recovery is sometimes painful. But while indigenous cultures in the Americas often have ‘loved’ the Earth, there is as much richness in those experiences and practices, and as many contradictions, as those across European and Asian cultures.

Two relatively common experiences around the Salish Sea, related to food resources, ecosystems and sites, are rich feelings of gratitude, especially around fish and fruit, often expressed in quiet practices, prayers and reflection embodying ‘conversations’ with those plants. In Salish cultures, people engaged in rich sets of horticultural practices from planting to burning and pruning, often ‘talked’ to plants particularly ones that they ate (and in harvesting rarely killed entire plants outright). So the blurred aspect of these photographs is not just about temporary economic constraints and as about finding ways to enjoy, learn from, and protect these often dwindling groves and legacies of indigenous communities now struggling to recover their cultures. The blurs are the beginnings of new conversations.

Last year, we ate more fruit in the Rubus and Vaccinium gene pools. This year has been one of the warmest and driest on record so those berries dried early. These days, we have been fortunate to find early ripening crabapple and chokecherries, both genetic linked to similar apple and pear (Malus) and cherry and plum (Prunus) populations in Asia and Europe.

These drupes (little tasty and very edible cherries) of chokecherry, Prunus virginiana subsp. demissa, are from Salt Spring Island on August 13, 2015. This fruit (with medicinal bark) was a crucial fruit in the formation of Salish society and there are sites at the eastern end of the Fraser Valley with many thousands of cherry pits in old pits going back at least 8,000 years. As well as still important to the W̱SÁNEĆ (Saanich) First Nation and the Shhweenustham ‘u tu Quw’utsun Hwulmuhw (Cowichan Tribes), this slender tree (preferred on the prairies for teepee poles) is important for maintaining woodland and vegetation cover, more generally, because it is poisonous and is not eaten by deer and (introduced) rabbits.

2015 August 7 chokecherry drupes Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram 1 2015 August 7 chokecherry drupes Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram 2 2015 August 7 chokecherry drupes Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram 3 2015 August 7 chokecherry drupes Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram 4 2015 August 7 chokecherry drupes Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram 5 2015 August 7 chokecherry drupes Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram 6 2015 August 7 chokecherry drupes Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram 7

Along with berries, these crabapples was perhaps the most important fruit in terms of quantities eaten. Crabapple groves often held powerful nutritional, spiritual and cultural importance.[†]

(6)1 2015 August 7 Burgoyne crabapple Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram (small) (6)2 2015 August 7 Burgoyne crabapple Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram (small) (8) 2015 August 7 Burgoyne crabapple Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram (small) 2015 August 7 Burgoyne crabapple Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram 01 2015 June 28 crabapple Burgoyne #2

The rich gene pools of Rubus, including raspberry, and Vaccinium, including blueberry and cranberry, also span Pacific Canada, Asia and Western Europe. There are four native Rubus species on Salt Spring Island: salmonberry, thimbleberry, trailing blackberry, and blackcap (raspberry). Salmon berry, Rubus spectabilis, starts blooming in late February and will be fruiting as early as late April with blackcap raspberry, Rubus leucodermis, fruiting from late June into August. And of the native Vaccinium species, red huckleberry, Vaccinium parvifolium, is more common but vulnerable as damper forests are cut and the climate heats.


2014 May 27 salmon berry - Rubus spectabilis east of Westin Lake SSI - last bloom 4

salmonberry, Rubus spectabilis, Salt Spring Island, 2014 May 27

2014 June 26 fruit - blackcap raspberry - Rubus leucodermis 0544

blackcap raspberry, Rubus leucodermis, Salt Spring Island, 2014 June 26

Red Huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium 26 July 2012

red huckleberry, Vaccinium parvifolium, 2012 July 26

All of these species are the objects of ceremonies to celebrate the first fruits of every year. Reflecting on these practices linking gratitude, conversations, horticulture and ecological protection is for another year and another essay.

[*] Garneau, David. 2015. Indigenous Criticism: On Not Walking With Our Sisters. Border Crossings 34(2) (#134): 78 – 82.

[†] Nancy J. Turner. 2014. Ancient Pathways, Ancestral Knowledge: Ethnobotany and Ecological Wisdom of Indigenous Peoples of Northwestern North America. Volume Two – The Place and Meaning of Plants in Indigenous Cultures and Worldviews. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press. See pages 90, 189, 196 – 198, 211 – 214, 271, and 344.


Rifting on Proust’s Twentieth Century notions of memory, desire, subjectivity, landscape & narrative

1913 first edition A LA RECHERCHE cover

“how paradoxical it is to seek in reality for pictures that are stored in     one’s memory” Marcel Proust 1913*

More than any other major twentieth-century author, it was Proust who codified the modern subject: largely a viewer and consumer with peasant knowledge of plants and place effectively under-valued and reduced to a cultural anachronism. Proust’s writing effectively re-enforced French colonialism, extolling the primary of metropolitan culture, at a time when its empire already in decline. Today, Proustian subjectivity in aesthetic experience effectively excludes a group of vital material and collaborative practices particularly important to making public space more effective for a wider range of audiences and populations. And some of these site-based practices, if sufficiently valued in a post-Proustian world, could, in turn, transmit knowledge on how to better survive both as new urbanists, acknowledging and sometimes learning some of the old peasant and traditional indigenous expertise, and in deteriorating environments where new kinds of creative survival are increasingly necessary.

It has been over a century since the publication of Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu: Du côté de chez Swann. This 1913 volume and the following six in the subsequent decade, comprising the entirety of À la recherche du temps perdu, effectively constructed and reproduced modern notions of memory, subjectivity, desire, landscape, and narrative. If there was one single body of text that laid the basis for both contemporary experience of subjectivity, class positioning, sexual autonomy, consumerism, and landscape aesthetics, it was À la recherche du temps perdu. Much of what we consider ‘modern’ and even ‘postmodern’ was codified by Proust.

Lucien Daudet gazing at Marcel Proust w border Marcel Proust centre with partner Lucien Daudet, on right, with photograph from the years when Proust was completing À la recherche du temps perdu

But today we can see some of the constraints and redundancies embodied in the world of Swann and À la recherche du temps perdu, more generally. Swann lived in an aggressively culturally chauvinist, colonial and imperial world where control, devaluation, often the effective obliteration of the planet’s indigenous communities was the norm when not the oeuvre. Without mentioning colonial economics and cultural politics, À la recherche du temps perdu normalized and sometimes glorified the imperial project on which much of the social changes of Cambray and the new wealth of Swann’s stockbroker family were bankrolled. While Proust outlined a kind of autonomous sexuality, defined by desire and empowered by class and a rigid masculinity, erotic diversity was effectively side-lined when not suppressed. And the transformation of France’s agricultural landscapes and communities lead to a fetishized experience of nature often divorced from ecological and other labour and economic relationships. Thus the waning peasant class, centred on traditional knowledge rooted in manual labour, was considered backward in comparison to the rapacious tastes of the new urban bourgeoisie. From today’s vantage point of deterioration of the biosphere, forms of globalization intensifying social inequities, and a resurgence of indigenous governments and renewed assertion of language, culture, land ownership, Swann’s relatively elite world is receding and becoming less credible.



galley drafts of the 1913 edition of Swann's Way

The galley drafts for the first edition, in 1913, of À la recherche du temps perdu: Du côté de chez Swann

Today the architectures of Proust’s early twentieth century memory is worth exploring as part of the process of decolonizing the narratives of forgetting, remembrance, knowledge, landscape, sexuality, and individuality. Today’s investigations, spanning research, visual art and interventions in public space, becomes devices for exploring the differences in experience, legacies, wealth, and opportunities for Western European communities that were not colonized, such as around metropolitan Geneva, and societies and cultures that are still experiencing neocolonial inequities on a daily basis as with the Salish and other indigenous populations in the rapidly urbanizing south-western corner of Pacific Canada.

 1913 first edition A LA RECHERCHE cover - graphic rifting (pink)

Our goal in this 2014-2016 project based at Utopiana, Geneva, is to imagine and propose the re-establishment of wild and traditional fruit trees in some of the public space of Geneva, Romandie, and the Pay du Gex, in Europe, and on the edge of the Salish Sea. To complete this work, we explore the divergent experiences of traditional knowledge, forgetting, and remembrance for uncolonised Western Europe and for postcolonial British Columbia unsorted the contradictory legacies of the colonized and the colonist.


So while there is much to ‘unlearn’ from Proust’s world, there were whispers in À la recherche du temps perdu of what new relationships are coming alive today with clues in the text remaking what we know as the ‘individual’, the ‘community’, ‘remembrance’, ‘nature’, and ‘desire’. Re-structuring these underlying modernist relationships through art interventions in public space to reassert knowledge, cultures, and most importantly ecosystems and human material relationships is the underlying project in responding to Utopiana’s call for the 2015 thematic residence, La Bête et l’adversité, and in our work, À la recherche de certaines récoltes presque perdu: Decolonising permaculture: The greatest adversity comes from forgetting.


Our exploration of La Bête et l’adversité is that ‘The Beast’ in nature also includes human memory. There are perils with the human brain, the typical Homo sapiens ‘hard-wiring’, in what we forget and remember, what our cultures guide us to recall. This ‘beast’ is as natural as nature and as constructed as any other aspect of human culture and community. So at times, we honour the pioneering reflexivity in Proust’s ‘Remembrance’ and moreover rift on it in exploring the new ways, new art, and new interventions in public space, for which the seven volume planted some of the seeds for the uncertain but very fecund present.


*Proust, Marcel. 1956. Swann’s Way. (C. K. Scott Moncrieff trans.). New York: Random House. page 611.

1913 first edition A LA RECHERCHE cover - graphic rifting (monochrome)


Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram

The most important collaborative works of castle grünenfelder ingram are posted at the new site, www.castlegrü

The site here represents Brochu-Ingram’s studies and personal works, some of which are developed further in the castle grünenfelder ingram collaborative process with examples of these versions posted at

Unless labelled otherwise, works posted at this site, are produced solely by Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram.

2015 May 8 Camassia quamash Mt Maxwell ER

Camassia quamash just outside of the lower side of the largest of the upper exclosures, Mount Maxwell Ecological Reserve, Salt Spring Island 2015 May 8

initial proposal: À la recherche de certaines récoltes presque perdu: Decolonising permaculture: The greatest adversity comes from forgetting

PDF copy available: castle & ingram 2014 proposal Utopiana Geneva

castle & ingram

Julian Castle

Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram BFA MSc PhD

side stream environmental design


February 12, 2014

Proposal for a transdisciplinary residency from

August through October 2015 at

Utopiana, Geneva for Nature, adversity, etc.



proposal title 


  • synopsis                                                               2
  • introduction                                                        4
  • problem statement                                            5
  • themes                                                                  5
  • theoretical influences                                        6
  • duration of proposed residency                       7
  • artistic product                                                    7
  • media                                                                     8
  • languages                                                              9
  • community engagement                                    9
  • biographies                                                           9
  • internet documentation of

‘side stream’ work by Castle & Ingram               11

  • vitae: Gordon Brent Ingram
  • vitae: Julian Castle


proposal title


This proposal for a 2015 residency at Utopiana centres on aesthetic responses to both the increasing disappearance of heritage food crops, especially perennials such as tree crops, and the confluence of more expansive notions of ‘decolonisation’ and decolonial aesthetics as played out in contemporary garden interventions as works of contemporary public art.


Two different spaces, territories, and kinds of crop disappearance would be explored:

  1. the disappearance of some traditional crops and crop varieties of the Geneva, Vaud, other parts of francophone, ‘Romandy’ Switzerland along with the Pay du Gex and
  2. the traditional food plants of the Salish, the indigenous communities around an area with a similar climate and landform to Geneva, of the Strait of Georgia of Pacific Canada including the cities of Vancouver and Victoria.


This residency would focus on field research, semi-structure interviews, and assembling graphic documentation (mainly photographic, video, and in situ work and cultivation in the Utopiana garden) of these disappearing crops, their food uses, various disappearance (‘genetic erosion’) factors, and conservation responses especially,

  1. heritage orchards and gardens,
  2. ‘field gene banks’ often maintained by scientific and corporate bodies, community gardens,
  3. laboratories and in vitro storage,
  4. archives on a particular crop or agricultural community, and
  5. more contemporary forms of aesthetic-based public interventions such as ‘guerrilla gardening’ and related viticulture and tree crop planting, urban design, permaculture, and various collective projects such as the Los Angeles-based ‘Fallen Fruit’.


Artistic production for 2015 in Geneva would focus on interrogating, playing with, and diverging from Proustian notions of loss and alternatives to nostalgia as “temps perdu” morphing into “de certaines récoltes presque perdu” The timing of the residency would coincide with the time of year to plant a few perennial trees and bushes in the Utopiana garden in Geneva: in early autumn. The product of this 2015 residence would centre on documentation of a range of individuals and organizations in the Geneva region already concerned about “de certaines récoltes presque perdu” and mashing that imagery with comparable digital material of traditional Salish food plants (many of these species in the same gene pools as those around Geneva) around Vancouver and Victoria. There would be five venues of artistic production offered in Geneva and at La maison at avenue des Eidguenots 21, 1203 Genève:


  1. a website similar to a related project on green roofs ( with postings of text, photographs, video clips, and drawings;


  1. an archival component to the web-site that links information on these interventions Utopiana with relevant material and interventions involving the Geneva region and related artistic interventions;


  1. organization of an event series of an evening or afternoon every two weeks related to the projects involving the screening of videos and on-site, studio and gardening demonstrations and related performances, events, and talks;


  1. proposal and organization of the transfer of such ‘disappearing crops’ (from the Geneva region) into the garden of Utopiana (as per space availability and the interest of the organization) with respective discussions constituting art practices that would be documented and presented as part of production; and


  1. a proposed intervention into the public space of Geneva with a series of relatively professional designs (made in subsequent months to the residency), something of a whimsical piece of utopian fantasy, involving re-insertion of some disappearing, local crops with possibilities of the proposal material being exhibited in a gallery or community space in Geneva.



camas, Camassia spp., Belly-Rising-Up, 24 April, 2005 by Gordon Brent Ingram

This tuberous, onion-like vegetable provides a unique sugar, that is used slowly, and was a staple for the Salish and is often used as a symbol of cultural and dietary renewal. Thousands of hectares of camas were maintained in fields well into the early 20th Century.




This proposed residency explores the confluence of,


  1. the growing aesthetic movements engaged with, gardens and interventions in gardens as contemporary public art;


  1. heritage food crops being displaced from landscapes, fields, and gardens and the wide range of conservation efforts from cultural to scientific (including a full range of organizational formations in the Geneva region from United Nations, NGOs, corporate, local government, grassroots movements, and cultural institutions; and


  1. decolonial aesthetics as they play out in Switzerland as a European country that was not a colonial force, but exists within a postcolonial matrix (and that sometimes forgets its highly cosmopolitan position within an only vaguely postcolonial continent).


The device that will activate these explorations is insertion and contrasting with the status of traditional Salish food plants of the region around Vancouver and Victoria in Pacific Canada[1]. This mountainous area is on an inland sea is at 49 degrees latitude and has roughly the climate of the Utopiana region at 47 degrees latitude though the weather of Vancouver and Victoria span a wider ranges similar to those of Nantes, Paris, and Geneva. And both regions have become expensive resorts oriented to the wealthy with agricultural production increasingly squeezed by suburbanization, hobby farms and ‘villas’, and rising labour costs. Both regions have a problematic situation around immigration of agricultural labour and retention of knowledge about traditional farming and crops.


In contrast to the similarities in climate and agricultural economics, the situation around disappearing food plants is diametrically different with traditional crops in the Geneva region being well-known (and better celebrated) and a raft of traditional Salish crops, increasingly erased since the colonial period in the 19th Century, are the verge of disappearance. And what is particularly ironic about the difference between the two regions is that many of the Salish food plants are ‘Eurasian’ in origin, established in Pacific Canada over the last 5,000 years, are in the same gene pools as those in the Geneva area (and could be planted there). Thus, Switzerland that has seen so much wealth from Amerindian crops, such as chocolate, has effectively no access to Salish onions, root crops, crab-apples, clovers that produce potato-like tubers, and numerous berries. And the plant knowledge around disappearing Geneva crops is in French, which as a language remains viable, whereas many of the Salish dialects are spoken by less then one hundred individuals with much plant knowledge found in the remaining word strings.



problem statement

While gardens and ‘permaculture’ are increasingly employed as respective sites and practices in contemporary site-based art, aesthetic interventions to remember and present information on disappearing crops (and rural cultures) and scientific responses to ‘genetic erosion’ have been largely neglected by artists. While there is a huge body of discussion on ‘permaculture’ practices in food production, gardens and urban design, critical examinations of disappearing crop knowledge, as culture, has been rarely contemporized. So the underlying response in this proposal for this series on ‘adversity’, that the greatest adversity is in forgetting with remembering the history of a site, community, or crop a kind of contemporary practice, has been poorly explored. Similarly, there are few discussions and critical examinations of the aesthetic practices and

theory around gardens and public art that have acknowledged decolonial aesthetics and

efforts to fully acknowledge local histories, the privileging of certain (agri)cultures and crops, and persisting social inequities.




In our work at Utopiana, we would be exploring the following themes and aesthetic tropes:


  1. the greatest kind of adversity is in forgetting (a recurrent theme in Canadian culture that warrants some contemporization by Canadians outside of Canada);


  1. alternatives to nostalgia and notions of “lost time” in the vein of the modernist impulses explored by Proust;


  1. insertion of a crop in a community garden as a kind of public art practice;


  1. the colonial legacies in horticulture;


  1. the flow of Amerindian crops to Europe but the now lack of flow of Salish food crops to Europe because of concerns for more pests and invasive species;


  1. the ‘Eurasian’ nature of many of the gene-pools of Salish food plants and their relevance to (and lack of presence in) regions such as around Geneva; and


  1. the diverging relevance of decolonial aesthetics for regions such as Geneva and the Strait of Georgia areas of Pacific Canada.



Lomatium nudicaule, below Belly-Rising-Up, Vancouver Island, 21 June, 2004 by Gordon Brent Ingram

This is one of the most medicinal and sacred species for the Salish and the Lomatium genus only occurs in western North America. The leaves are also eaten as a vegetable.



theoretical influences

The following are the other works in this mixed genre to which we will be referencing in this proposed residency:


  1. the recent re-examinations of 1970s landart as with the 2012 survey,

Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles[2];


  1. various artists over the years who have worked with gardens and planting forests and gardens such as New York-based Alan Sonfist[3] and Canadian site-based artist, Ron Benner’s with his numerous garden works such as his 2008 Gardens of a Colonial Present / Jardins d’un Present Colonial[4];


  1. recent works by individuals and collectives such as Los Angeles-based, Fallen Fruit, that plant food crops as part of site-based interventions[5] and Canadian and Cree artist Duane Linklater’s blueberry garden[6]; and


a raft of theoretical and practice-related issues raised about so-called ‘permaculture’ gardens in the 2011 discussion of the UK-based collective, The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination with Lars Kwakkenbos and its 2009 pamphlet, 13 Attitudes,[7] along with the 2010 essay on ‘tending’ as an art practice by Kelly and Gibson[8].



duration of proposed residency

The optimal three month period for this residency is July through September of 2015 so that there would be an opportunity to plant some local food crop perennials in the Utopiana garden in late September as the optimal time to install such perennial, horticultural material in the Geneva area.


artistic product

The three months at Utopiana in mid-2015, would allow castle & ingram to complete the following work by December 2015.


  1. a web site installation documenting these interventions at Utopiana

We could complete a simple web site similar to a related project on green roofs ( with postings of text, photographs, video clips, and drawings, probably only relying on simple public software such as WordPress.


  1. an archive of digital material and links to garden interventions as contemporary art

There would be an archival component to the web-site that links information on these interventions Utopiana with relevant material and interventions involving the Geneva region and related artistic interventions.


  1. a related arts series with at least five live events

We would want to organize of an event series of an evening or afternoon every two weeks related to the projects involving the screening of videos and on-site, studio and gardening demonstrations and related performances, events, and talks — offered in French and English.


  1. insertion of some disappearing crops into the Utopiana garden as art practice

We will make modest proposals for the transfer and re-establishment of such ‘disappearing crops’ (from the Geneva region) into the garden of Utopiana (as per space availability and the interest of the organization) with such discussions constituting art practices that would be documented and presented as part of production. The heritage plants from south-western Canada would not be proposed for Geneva without extensive protocol and agreements related to quarantines and acknowledgement of unresolved ownership of Salish crops. This absence in Geneva of the Salish crops, that would thrive in the region (perhaps thrive excessively and problematically) would be the source of reflection and discussion throughout this residence.


  1. proposal for an urban design intervention in Geneva involving heritage crops

An intervention into the public space of Geneva would be proposed with a series of relatively professional designs, something of a whimsical piece of utopian fantasy, involving re-insertion of some disappearing, local crops that could be subsequent exhibited in a gallery or community space in Geneva.



castle & ingram, as part of side stream environmental design, have vitae with numerous examples of work with and exhibiting with the following media:


  1. photography and montage (posted on-line with the possibility of a subsequent exhibition);


  1. video clips (posted on-line with the possibility of a subsequent exhibition);


  1. graphic text and drawings (posted on-line with the possibility of a subsequent exhibition);


  1. text (posted on-line with the possibility of a subsequent exhibition); and


  1. urban design drawings and designs (posted on-line with the possibility of a subsequent exhibition).




Both Castle and Ingram are bilingual and Ingram has worked extensively in French including in Geneva and the Pay du Gex.


Nearly all of the text will be in English and French with interviews in French or English.


Some of the interviews may involve Salish dialects especially SENCOTEN from southern Vancouver Island and Halkomelem the indigenous language of the City of Vancouver and adjacent communities.



community engagement

For such a brief time in Geneva, over a summer, the community engagement of

castle & ingram would centre on somewhat whimsical and under-stated ‘field research’. The focus would be on making contact with various relevant networks and individuals in and around Geneva and proposing and undertaking site visits and interviews with related photographic and video documentation.


The second mode of community engagement would be in organizing at least five evening and afternoon events and workshops as “A la recherche de certaines récoltes presque perdu” `cabarets’ and salons.


A third form of community engagement would be in working with the Utopiana organization to possibly consider reinserting more ‘disappearing crops’ into the Utopian garden and in adjacent open space.


A fourth form of community engagement would be in a sardonic, parting proposal to introduce some of these crops into a higher profile, public open space in central Geneva. This proposal would be largely conceptual but ideas such as these can leave a mark on the local consciousness morphing into more practical possibilities.


Work on genetic erosion and disappearing heritage crops can often be dire and didactic.

Our approaches, in reaching out to individuals and organizations in Geneva, and adjacent

regions would be relatively sardonic.



Castle and Ingram currently contribute to a fifteen year old, Vancouver-based environmental planning and design collaborative, side stream environmental design. The group is often concerned with public art within urban public space and involves over a score of artists and designers roughly half of which are of indigenous North American heritages and

engaged in contemporising regional traditions. Of the side stream collaborative group, only castle & ingram have interest in working in Geneva at this time.

Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram

Brent is Métis, the large indigenous demographic group in Canada at a half million people, with his family having deep roots in northern British Columbia, the Yukon and northern Quebec. Ingram’s francophone Métis heritage has been relatively cosmopolitan in its links and work spanning the building a infrastructure and work in education institutions. He grew up in a Salish community on Vancouver Island near Victoria, British Columbia where he was exposed daily to indigenous land use, horticulture, and other cultural expression. And his multilingual family spoke Métis and more standard, French dialects along with Chinook a now largely extinct intercultural language. Early on, Brochu-Ingram was also introduced to West Coast Canadian iterations of Fluxus, the Image Bank and General Idea network on the West Coast associated with FILE Magazine, Robert Smithson, and Allan Sekula. He studied environmental design, earned a BFA in Photography at the San Francisco Art Institute focused on new portrayals of landscapes and completed a PhD, on the cusp of landscape architecture and site-based art, at the University of California Berkeley College of Environmental Design. Part of those studies were based in Rome with extensive work in the Geneva region. Ingram has produced over ten group and solo shows including at Royal Institute of British Architecture in London and Storefront Art and Architecture in New York. He is the author of over one hundred publications, including on loss and re-establishment of heritage crops and gardens and has public art and ecological design taught studios at campuses of the University of California, at the University of British Columbia, American University of Sharjah, and George Mason University just outside of Washington DC. Brochu-Ingram has been the recipient of over ten awards and project grants.

Julian Guthrie Castle

Julian Castle, a dual Canadian and UK citizen, is a Vancouver-based archivist, cultural theorist, videographer, photographer, gardener, and public artist with over ten years of experience in the contemporary arts. He studied computer science at Dalhousie University and shifted over to digital media in the 1990s. He has over a decade of professional video camera experience and two decades of achievements around studying and archiving zines, comics and booklets. He is well experienced in semi-structured interviews the kind that are currently in vogue for artistic research. His personal research interests have been in zoomorphic and anthropomorphic comic and other graphic depictions. In the last decade, he has become involved with site-based and environmental art participating in one exhibition, that he largely installed, and working on the field research and proposal phases of a number of projects centred in public space.



internet documentation of the work of Castle & Ingram

Most of the recent castle & ingram projects, have been part of an environmental design and public art collective, side stream environmental design. This work is documented at a number of Ingram’s web-sites: with a site map for a series of linked project spaces & archives; documenting most of the exhibited material; documenting project sites and contexts for the work along with project-based sites including, on a long-term project on ecologies of image, text, and public open space in Rome and on the cultures of green roofs.

Crab-apple, Malus spp., Belly-Rising-Up, Vancouver Island, 24 April, 2005 by Gordon Brent Ingram

This kind of crab-apple was heavily tended and prized by the Salish and is in the same Eurasian gene-pool as apple and pear in Europe. A photograph of its fruit is on the cover page.

[1] Ingram provides an introduction to some of these tradition Salish food plants at, that can just best accessed at the beginning of his site, .

[2] Philipp Kaiser and Miwon Kwon (curators). 2013. Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974. Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in collaboration with Haus der Kunst, Munich.




[4] Ron Benner. 2008. Gardens of a Colonial Present / Jardins d’un Present Colonial. London, Ontario: London Museum.


[5] and




[7];; and


[8] Caleb Kelly & Ross Gibson 2010 Contemporary Art & The Noise of TENDING. Interference: A Journal of Audio Culture.




Acknowledging the SENĆOŦEN & HUL’Q’UMI’NUM’ languages in the territory of the main studio of castle grünenfelder ingram, at KEXMIN field station near the south-eastern shore of Salt Spring Island


Our collaborative group acknowledges that much of our work is being conducted in the northern territories of the Saanich or W̱SÁNEĆ First Nations and the Salt Spring Island lands of the Cowichan Tribes, the Shhweenustham ‘u tu Quw’utsun Hwulmuhw. None of these territories on the Gulf Islands have been ceded through treaties.

proper spelling of Saanich peoples

In the efforts of researchers, designers, and artists of contribute to the decolonisation of memory, plant knowledge, experiences of landscapes, and aspirations for permaculture and kinds of sustainable food production, corrections to names and language usage become crucial. This is particularly the case for regions such as Pacific Canada. In the case of the main studio of castle grünenfelder ingram, at KEXMIN field station near the south-eastern shore of Salt Spring Island, two Salish languages overlap, SENĆOŦEN (of the indigenous communities of ‘Saanich‘)[1] and HUL’Q’UMI’NUM’ (of the Cowichan and a number of other communities on the Gulf Islands and on the east coast of Vancouver Island).[2]

proper spelling of Sencoten

Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram grew up with English, SENĆOŦEN (spoken by neighbours and school friends), Chinook (spoken by his father), and residual French and has witnessed the heroic efforts to revive SENĆOŦEN.[3] But the prospects for re-establishing practical usage of SENĆOŦEN and HUL’Q’UMI’NUM’ are stark.


These graphics are homages to SENĆOŦEN:  the name of the Saanich peoples in SENĆOŦEN, the name of the language itself, and followed by the SENĆOŦEN spelling Tsawout a community that are increasingly asserting their presence at and ownership of the South End of Salt Spring Island.

proper spelling of Tsawout