The title is a play on an abstract painting movement from the late 50s and early 60s.
I intend to use a private vacant block in order to create a visually stunning field of sunflowers. These fields of golden yellow are juxtaposed against the city building, or a factory wall, or even urban streetscapes.
Local schools, businesses, community groups, which are in closest proximity to the sites will help care for the 'field', from soil preparation to the cultivation of the seeds.
The audience will see this artwork from its birth to its death…and then its eventual renewal again.
The site is in Alfred St, Kensington, close to the Melbourne CBD. It is adjacent to the Tullamarine freeway and the Broadmeadows railway line underneath. It is currently vacant and devoid of buildings but for a small victorian stable. It was originally the site of a Spring factory
STAGE 1 : IDENTIFY AND LOCK IN SITES
The site at Alfred St is locked in. Thanks to the generosity of HWD Australia, who are lending the site for peppercorn rent.
STAGE 2 : BRING IN EXPERTISE
Rob Christie of Nuseed is giving technical advice on optimum positions regarding sunlight, and the best method for preparing the soil and seeding.
STAGE 3 : SEEK COLLABORATORS
It will be important to find groups of people (Field group), who are familiar with the sites and are keen to participate in the process of growing and maintaining a field of sunflowers. Anyone is welcome to join in..!
STAGE 4 : START PREPARING THE GROUND
The preparation stage will require heavy machinery and operators, an experienced seeder, the ‘Field group’, and myself. We will also be germinating some seeds for testing prior to planting.
STAGE 5 : PLANTING
This stage will require groups of local volunteers to plant seedlings and water in.
STAGE 6 : MAINTENANCE
The Field Group will maintain the crop and ensure it is watered, and pest free. We will try to do this with rain runoff (tanks), and removal of bugs by hand. Supplemented by sprays if required.
STAGE 7 : HARVEST
The harvest will involve the farmer, the Field Group and myself. The seeds will be stored until ready to be sorted and packaged. This stage could be combined with stage 8.
STAGE 8 : DISTRIBUTION
Seeds will be sorted and packaged so they can be distributed to various communities. The land will be restored to a fallow condition.
STAGE 9. EXHIBITION
All documentation will be collated and formed into an exhibition to be shown at a space to be confirmed. Seeds may be available at this venue.
ROBERT SMITHSON -
Has been a major influence in my work for a long time. His idea to take art into the landscape and landscape into the gallery was radical in its time but also started a relationship that many artist have followed since. I was given the book at the end of my tenure in a Landscape Architecture firm.
RICHARD LONG –
I always liked his appreciation of patterns in nature and his attempts to replicate the dichotomy between the seemingly random aspects and the repetitive parts that make the aesthetic. His foray into natural environments and the consequential interventionist rearrangements were both clever and evocative.
LAND ART – Movement born in the 60’s to try to move conceptual art into the natural or urban terrain.
Is a label given to artists who work in the natural environment and create works of art that somehow relate to the space outside a city. The landscape is usually the source of the materials used in the works and the works themselves are often site specific. The term is originally derived from writings of Robert Smithson.
Roasalind Krauss- Wrote an article in 1979 called The Expanded Field that sought to clarify the varying amalgams of architecture, landscape and sculpture. In her writing she used the term earthworks. She suggested that the underpinnings of this movement lay the groundwork for post modernism.
Giles Tiberghein – In 1995 he Takes the premis of Krausses paradigm a little further and investigates the minimalist influences of minialist artists including Carl Andre, Donald Judd and Sol le Witt. He reinforces a post modernist angle and points to the importance of theory and conceptual practice within the art. He saw the earthworks as a means by which one could question the “elite” nature of the gallery space.
VAGUE TERRAIN – Architect, Ignasi de Solà-Morales coined the term terrain vague in an essay in 1995to describe such places: obsolete or dysfunctional sites that punctuate the otherwise cohesive, definable organization of the cityscape.
SOCIALLY ENGAGED ART – CLARE BISHOP-
Clare Bishop wites about art that seeks to employ aesthtic devices in a way that creates a socially interactive situation. There are a number of artists who in recent times have sought to work with communities or local organizations in a collaborative way that sometimes involves participation ranging from practical support to overt political action. In a way it is about changing the audience from passive viewers to participants.
The Site for Fieldwork .
This view is looking West towards the Tullamarine freeway. The broadmeadows trainline is underneath the freeway. The vegetation is self seeded and established over several years.
This is a concept mock up of the final result.
22 October : Had a great meeting yesterday with Melbourne City Council Parks and Gardens and Urban Landscapes. They are going to fund a study by Melbourne Uni Dept of resource management to test the phytoextraction abilities of Sunflowers. That is the ability of sunflowers to 'cleanse' the soil of heavy metals.
Handed in Thesis yesterday. A great feeling to have finally completed the written version of this project. Might have to reprint when the project is completed along with all the addtional documentation.
Been raining so much we have to postpone seeding until next week. Was going to be this Friday but ground is too sodden. Can't complain though. As they say, "its good for the farmers !" Should be nicely saturated for the germination phase.
Dr Stephen Livesley, Senior Lecturer Department of Resource Management and Geography at Melbourne University and research student Jess are conducting soil tests during the project to see if sunflowers can extract pollutants from the ground. The tests are funded by Melbourne City Council.
( Eamonn Fennessy I Team Leader Parks Planning I Urban Landscapes)
Nuseed Australia donated the seeds. Ausigold 4 as reccommended by Rob Christie for this job ! Around the border of the field we put in some ornamentals from Keith White at Copsley Ornamentals.
David Lonsdale and his Seeder rig sow the field in a day ! Super quick and would have been quicker if not for the semi submerged obstacles of brick and concrete that knocked the seeder tynes around. A different type of paddock in the city !
Seeding time ! The field had dried enough to make a tide row of furrows. Rob Christie (Nuseed) controlling the rate and David Lonsdale driving, we were done by 3pm. Now for the rain. Bring it on.....please !!
Had 48 hours of rain last week and the results are now on show in these four photos. Most shoots are 60 -80 mm high. The seeding is mostly well arranged with occassional clusters. We will thin these out and take out any weeds in the first working bee on the 30th November.
Adam Mohammed from AMSSA has found some willing workers to become the "Field Team" for the duration of the project. Looking forward to BBQ with them in a few weeks.
Adam Saleh Mohammed
More good rain over the last 3 days and the plants are thriving. In some places up to 30cm high already. Interesting to note some areas of soil work better than others where plants are more inhibited.
We are having the first working bee this Saturday and will be fertilising with Urea generously provided by Shane Dellavedova, from DELLAVEDOVA FERTILISER SERVICES, and transplanting some clusters into the more sparse areas to make the field more uniform.
Good on you little fella. keeping the plants free of nasties...
Thanks Shane Dellavedova for your generous contribution
Plants are starting to gain height with the extra moisture in the soil.
The different soil quality is evident with differing plant sizes and spacing. Some plants are thriving whilst others are struggling. It may also be that in the lower areas the ground is harder for roots to penetrate.
Evidence of th site's former use as a spring factory. This one I found and placed artfully in the foreground for a highly contrived photo.
The first working bee today with the crew from AMSSA mosque in Boundary Rd. The mosque is conveniently situated next door and Adam Mohammed has kindly organised for some of the community to get on the tools and do some work in the field. A few of the guys are gardners or ex farmers so immediately jumped into sorting out a system. We fertilised the field by hand spreading some urea accross the whole area.
There was a strip that was missed by the seeder completely so we transplanted some of the younger plants to try and fill the gap.
The hard yakka was capped with a bbq under the mosque in the shade of the building. Pretty happy with the first effort with about 25 men turning up to care for the field.
The photos show some areas pegged out by Stephen and Sarah from Burnley campus, Melbourn University. They are testing the sunflowers response to various types of fertiliser. Results will be posted down the track. Also, hung 3 of these signs to notify any passing traffic as to why a field of sunflowers has appeared in their backyard !
Tent is for a couple of homeless guys that have been living on the site.
Site is looking a little worse for wear. Have not had any rain for a while and gaps are becoming more evident.
16th January 2014
Some early blooms are starting to show. Most of these are the hybrid we planted around the edges of the field. We didnt anticipate the shorter growing times for these sunflowers. They may well have expired by the time the rest of the field blooms.
Rob has rescued the field from oblivion in the face of an extended dry spell. Big thanks to HWD for the water to keep these thirsty plants alive.