[-empyre-] In Reply

Margaret J Rhee mrhee at uoregon.edu
Sat May 21 05:48:44 AEST 2016

For some reason, the emails have not been sent to me, and there is a 
delay on when it is sent through the listserve. Thank you Margaretha for 
kindly forwarding. My letter is below.


Dear Margaretha,

Thank you for your message and questions. Encountering you and your work 
has been much light and inspiration for me in thinking about social 
change, nature/culture, what it means to be human. I am working with a 
few students in environmental studies and shared with them your work, 
they loved hearing about your projects, and were transformed. I think 
for them, and many others, your work offers reimagining of the 
nature/culture divides in transformative ways. I am so moved by your 
interventions and how permaculture is grounded in socially engaged 

I feel struck by your project Guerrilla Grafters, which fosters a 
culture care, by way of the trees, fruit, and marginalized population 
access to fruit. In doing so, I feel you remake the cityscapes into a 
collaboratory/collective space which is political in many ways.

In your project Bloom Justice, I am so moved by your collaboration of 
Hayes Valley Farm and underserved youth in San Francisco.

Some questions for now:

How do you imagine the city, as remapped and connected by way of nature?

Can you tell me a bit more, about how nature became central to your 
social art practice?

Are there any limitations to working with nature in social practice?

Can you share a bit more on hands? When I think of your inspiring work, 
I am thinking about hands grappling with seeds and dirt, hands grafting, 
and hands offering others fruit to share. This may be a strange 
question, but can you talk about hands, and the work hands do in your 
projects of social engagement? Why may it be important for participants 
and artist/activists to use their hands for movement building/social 

In regards to your first post, I wonder if you can elaborate on what you 
mention of the politics of grief as connected to your work? I am also 
thinking about San Francisco specifically, and how the city itself is 
grieving due to the tech boom and gentrification.

I know these are a lot of questions, so please feel free not to answer, 
or to elaborate on what you may like? So much richness just learning 
about your projects, and greatly appreciate all your questions.

In answer to your question on design, I have been very inspired by 
design, and much of the tangible computing work with poetry machines is 
inspired by design, but certainly I have a aversion to much of the 
production of, or mass market of design. Another dichotomy of 
design/art? I think this also speaks to the differences between social 
practice/art and uneasy relationship with capital and institution.

I will have more to write shortly. In particular, I feel your comments 
on Miracle by Helen Hall, and your work in the city of San Francisco 
have nodal points of discussion. Thank you so much for your work and 



Dear Margaret,

Thank you so much for sharing this work! To me both of these projects, 
though very different, share commonalities in their design. The design 
of both allows for focused yet multiple expressions that can unfold over 
time and also take on a life of their own such as with the story 
Miracle. Here, as I understand it, not only is the video it's own piece, 
but Helen Hall is able to use it for advocacy and to generate new 
exchanges between researchers, incarcerated folks, and their families 
and communities....

Perhaps for starters I am curious what your creative process is like, 
and if you ever conceive of yourself as a designer of sorts and yes how 
you encounter and work through issues of power in your creative process. 
I'm also wondering how you might link your process to feminist 
pedagogical processes and research. Do you locate a certain way of 
working that in itself is resistant to cooptation?

Perhaps most pressingly, I'm curious where you locate the aesthetic in 
your social practice, and if this is ever in any kind of tension with 
the political or ethical concerns of the work... This of course could 
easily dovetail with your initial requests to engage in institutional 
critique, which I share.

That's a lot of questions! Please feel free to answer what inspires you 
the most.

Kind regards,
Margaretha Haughwout
Margaret Rhee, Ph.D.

Visiting Assistant Professor
Women's and Gender Studies
University of Oregon

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