[-empyre-] Hi from the EPA | Urban weeds guide to mapping the present!

Christopher Kennedy artiscycle at gmail.com
Wed Oct 18 05:15:48 AEDT 2017

Dearest empyre,

Greetings from the urban weeds garden at the Environmental Performance
Agency <http://www.environmentalperformanceagency.com/> (EPA)! And thanks
to Margaretha and Ellie for the introductions!

Right now I'm sitting next to a sea of mugwort - its a bit chilly, so I'm
wearing a big red scarf and laying on a giant camping mat that was once
home to a colony of sac spiders.

[image: Inline image 1]

I wanted to continue with Ellie's thread about vegetal agency and "urban
commons". As an EPA agent, its been an incredible 6 months of witnessing
the growth and evolution of our 1900 sq. ft living lot in Crown Heights,
Brooklyn. As a partial response to the dismantling of the US EPA, we've
been creating space and finding ways to relate, talk and listen to over 50
species of spontaneous urban plants (aka weeds) and a complex network of
human and interspecies lifewebs. Right now there is a forest of mugwort and
horseweed hugging the walls, pepperweed absorbing some of the heavy metals
in an area we call the dessert, and weedy islands swallowing the asphalt -
mixed with aster and fleabane, with wild grasses and wormwood, and other
multispecies friends. To be somewhat vulnerable - its also been a
challenging experience to encounter the changes on our block -- developers
are looming, people experience homelessness are being swept to other parts
of the city, a once vibrant car repair sidewalk economy is disappearing,
and lots like ours are being transformed into highrise condos and
entertainment complexes. As a white queer man, I often feel complicit in
these transformations; powerless against rampant forces of capital and the
endless flux of cocktail bars and coffee shops that are also hair salons.

Yet the weeds at the EPA have helped me learn that "resistance" is
happening all around us. And sometimes its merely a matter of honing what
John Cage describes as our "powers of observation" so that we can see all
the mushrooms in our lives -- a Tsingian potential of finding possibility
in the contamination of disaster capitalism. Ellie and I think about this
as a kind of "weedy resistance", developing an ability to overcome our
plant blindness - literally and metaphorically. To see the in-between
networks already fighting homogenous systems of power, literally cracking
the asphalt and the patriarchy; troubling notions of so-called "beautiful"
or "biodiverse" landscapes. The weeds at the EPA have also taught me that
we need to center movement in our practices, to remember we all have
bodies, and that we are already more than human (see Scott Gilbert's "we
are all lichens now"). For in fact our "bodies already consist of four
times as many microorganisms...than human cells, our own DNA." (B.A.
Huseby) We are basically just giant mushroom sacs walking around -- aliens

This is all to say -- I would like to offer a score on behalf of the weeds
-- a voice for them, an invitation for movement and reflection. They have
so much to say... and at the EPA were developing all kinds of ways to
translate between the human and non-human entanglements all around us.

Feel free to adapt and translate, to try out and share with the list or a
friend. And throughout the week I'll try and give y'all more glimpses of
our garden and to be a liaison for the weeds here in NYC:

*Urban weeds guide to mapping the present: Mentors in cracking the
patriarchy / collaborators in decolonizing land*
*Co-developed by EPA agent Catherine Grau

Part 1: Choose one urban weed to approach. Using pen and paper write down
the following exploration. Speak in the voice of the weed. Let your
observations, imagination, and ruminations unfold as narrative. You can let
one or several of these questions guide you:


   Who is this weed? - Introduce yourself!


   Describe the 360 degrees and below the surface surrounding. What does it
   feel like? (you can choose to ‘see’ through other senses, such as
   temperature, texture, sounds, color, or smell) Are there any obstacles you
   have to deal with?

   Who is your community? (are you part of a larger whole that is not
   represented here?)

   How did you get here? (explore the movement of weeds, and how their use
   of space questions our understanding of space, borders, and ownership)

Part 2: Let the urban weed give you an immediate embodied action score. You
can draw from their mode of movement to get you started, or you can follow
something that came up in the writing. Here are a few examples, but try to
hear specifically what the weed has to tell you, it might lead you in a
different direction:


   Follow a stranger as a seed stuck to their shoe / let them carry you for
   a few blocks / when the seed (you) drops from the shoe to a destination -
   try to stand still in that space for 5-10min and consider: how does this
   space ask you to adapt or challenge you?

   Let the wind drift you until you find a place of opening to the earth
   (ground). Make a list and dismiss (scratch out) everything you think you
   may need in order to feel a sense of radical belonging here.

   Move through the earth below as a rhizome. Come up in a place that feels
   neglected. Take a physical action that shows care for that place.

(Don’t be startled if the weed continues to talk to you - even when you are
no longer in their physical presence, even days after you finished this
exercise. Just listen to the many things they have to say)

Lots of love,

Christopher Lee Kennedy <http://christopherleekennedy.com/>
(201) 981-1576
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