project synopsis & site map

bosque section - presqueperdu Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram (small)

The 2014 – 2016 studies, designs and interventions that comprise À la recherche de certaines récoltes presque perdu: Decolonising permaculture: The greatest adversity comes from forgetting are in response to Utopiana’s call for the thematic residency, La Bête et l’adversité. We explore one ‘beast’ in nature: human memory and the ways that biology, culture and our individual developments mediate what we know of landscapes and how we interact and sometimes transform public spaces. In this context, we explore divergent experiences of the postcolonial world: the Geneva region that was not colonized and has had an uneven relationship with the imperial and modernist projects and the still decolonising Salish Sea region of the South Coast of Pacific Canada and adjacent Puget Sound in the United States of America.

edible chokecherry, Prunus virginiana, fruit (‘drupe’) (2016 August 11 above Fulford Harbour just 50 metres west of the historic stone Catholic Church, Salt Spring Island photo by Alex Grunenfelder & Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram)

indefinite decolonial matrix - presqueperdu - Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram

Within these landscapes, we explore and imagine reinserting dwindling populations of wild and traditional tree crops, in the gene pools of

apple and pear,

plum and cherry,

raspberry and blackberry, and

blueberry and cranberry.

For other Canadians having very mixed feelings about next week’s 150th anniversary of the modern Canadian state (including its massive repressive apparatuses), perhaps we need an alternative symbol. This is the only native tree that is in every province and territory: chokecherry, Prunus virginiana. It was known in nearly every indigenous language was the first fruit after the glaciers receded, has medicinal bark (for the original cherry cough lozenge), and produced the preferred poles for teepees. (2017 May 7, Ruckle Provincial Park, Salt Spring Island photo by Alex Grunenfelder & Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram)

Tree fruit in this project also becomes a focus for exploring ecological and cultural legacies and ‘gifts’ within ecosystems with renewed interest in philosophies of gratitude so central to indigenous cultures in the Western Hemisphere. The divergent indigenous cultures of these gene pools, that span both the Geneva and the Vancouver-Seattle regions across Europe, Asia, and north-western North America are reconnoitered. In this way, we critique and begin to decolonise popular and sometimes trite notions of ‘permaculture’, a set of principles and practices for diverse and more sustainable agro-ecosystems by re-centring the roles of traditional knowledge and learning from and respecting local gene pools (and associated human populations).

timeline - presqueperdu Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram (small)

Initiating our investigations of forgetting, memory and remembrance as an often irascible beast within nature (and human lives), the contributions of Proust, and in particular his now waning modernist notions of the individual, landscape, and desire codified in À la recherche de certaines récoltes presque perdu comprise a key source for understanding the legacies of the colonial projects within Europe and in margins such as Pacific Canada. In understanding this broader loss of memory and ecosystem under modernism and individuals, we construct another aspect of the emerging movement of decolonial aesthetic specifically departing from and ‘rifting’ with Proustian nostalgia. A century ago, Proust’s modernist aesthetics largely obscured labour, ecology, and political economy from experiences of landscapes, agriculture, and indigenous and traditional communities. Today, contemporary aesthetics are back to more fully appreciating cultural legacies in nature as well as the crucial role of traditional knowledge and communities and material relationships more generally.

trellis - presqueperdu Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram (small)

Our endgame, in À la recherche de certaines récoltes presque perdu: Decolonising permaculture: The greatest adversity comes from forgetting, is to propose and begin to demonstrate some interventions in public space that re-establish small groves of these often declining tree crops. As beneficiaries of the tree planting legacies of artists Joseph Beuys and Alan Sonfist, we argue that agriculture and horticulture embody practices central to the collaborative and community-based impulses in contemporary art. In this work, we are also strongly influenced by the relational aesthetics proposed over a decade ago, that are more concerned with social learning than production of static art objects, and more recent forms of radical materialism centred on cultural cognition of threats to the biosphere and human life support and that in turn challenge to intensifying social inequities.

2015 Oct 14 site planning Alex - Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram (small)

Just as important as generating a beneficial ecological impact through nurturing traditional local gene pools, habitats and communities, we make ‘installations’ and archives with what we can find from recycled paper and ink to digital photographs, videos and text made with old computers and mobile telephones and reworked versions of software and apps. So in a time of new forms of impoverishment for artists, our approach is aggressive in the mixing of discarded and repurposed media taking inspiration from the minimalism and disregard for polish of the Arte Povera movement of Italy in the 1970s.

fruit agriculture culture

This site only holds the work of Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram. Collaborative work completed in this project is posted at www.castlegrunenfelderingram.space/perdu.

permaculture impermanent culture

In using this site, the categories listed on the left, seen after further scrolling, link to particular aspects of project development and specific works. Each of these categories represents a longer-term project that we hope to explore more fully in coming years.

Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram of castle grünenfelder ingram

decolonial public art

Canada Council logo

A portion of the total travel costs of Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram has been paid by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Canada Council logo

fruit (a month from being ripe) of crabapple trees, Malus fusca, in a grove with a very long history of harvesting and stewardship (and now vulnerable to sea level rise) at the Cowichan village, Xwaaqw’um, Burgoyne Bay, Salt Spring Island 2016 August 11 & 12 * photograph taken jointly by Alex Grünenfelder & Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram, KEXMIN field station

2015 Sept urban bosques - Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram (small)

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)