Golden Gate Park Project
by Adam Robbert
Below you will find a brief description of an OOO-related art initiative that may be of interest to readers of this blog. We are in the granting writing/proposal phase of a project some associates and I intend to curate over the next 12-24 months. We are looking for artists and writers that may want to participate. The project is centered around San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park – it helps if you are in and around the Bay Area since the park is the central theme, but anyone with interest is more than welcome to inquire about participating as the project unfolds. You can contact me at email@example.com if you have any questions – or leads for funding! A website is also in the works. Watch this space. Here is a description of the project:
Golden Gate Park plays a significant role as a commons within the San Francisco-Bay Area, and the planet at large. Our proposal is to create an interface with Golden Park that reveals the “distributed” character of a 21st century commons. Far from existing in a single geographic location, a 21st century commons is a distributed entity – existing not just in a single space or time, but within a variety of physical, technological, and political networks. With the participation of artists working in diverse mediums, the location and agency of the park, as a commons, is called into question.
By drawing out the global network of relationships that constitute the park’s distinctive character, the artist is able to reveal the park’s multiple, distributed nature. On the one hand, the park exists locally, situated between the San Francisco cityscape and the Pacific ocean. On the other hand, the park is a wildly distributed entity, drawing in flora, fauna, materials, tourists, and capital from around the world. What does this mean for our notion of “commons”? If the park’s construction, maintenance, and biodiversity is made possible by global networks of trade, technical skill, and scientific knowledge, what does this mean for our notions of “natural”? The artist is in a unique position to explore these ideas, and to create new understandings of the commons in the 21st century.
Philosophically, this initiative is inspired by the growing awareness that, through industrial processes, the distinctions between the “social” and “natural” are becoming increasingly blurred. By appealing to the emerging philosophical movement known as “object-oriented ontology” (“OOO”), this project aims to explore the notion of distributed agency, as it manifests in the composition of Golden Gate Park – an entity that requires not just human labor and blossoming flowers to exist (unique “objects” in their own right), but also a wide array of other objects such as seed banks, shipping ports, GPS satellites, websites, soil, and concrete. In other words, Golden Gate Park does not just consist in an organic ecosystem of timber, chlorophyll, and aphids but also, to borrow Jane Bennett’s phrase, is situated within a “political ecology of things” which also include multiple ecologies of media, technology, information, and human behaviors and practices.
Our goal is to create an interface in which individual artists are enabled to produce an ongoing, documented engagement with the park. The documentation of the artists’ work would exist on three levels: in visual media such as film, in published form as an accompany mixed media book, and as a gallery exhibit, here in San Francisco. Our intent is to curate the show with artists that would want to have their work displayed in each of these three venues: online, in the gallery, and in the book. By emphasizing multiple mediums and methods, existing both as physical objects such as a painting or installation, as well as online in a distributed network of online activity, the approach taken mirrors the distributed nature of the park itself.