“…after the suburbs”

a direct repost from the class blog

The title of this exhibit, “…After the Suburbs” really asks us to contemplate what will come, well, after. While many works are statements on suburbia itself—Travis Shaffer’s windowless facades and Shiela Pree Bright’s photo with blossoming bradford pears on a suburban street—it seems the core of the show’s question is answered by James Griffioen’s Feral Houses and Pandra Williams’ moss chair. Both Pandra and Karen Tauches (curator) explained this re-naturalization as a way nature is taking back over in some corners of our urban environment. In fact, Pandra contends that the world we’ve built is very high maintenance, and if we don’t watch it, if we don’t keep our chairs in climate controlled living rooms, nature will start to grow on them, actually bringing life to these inanimate man-made objects. I suppose it is just nature’s way.

moss chair ferns urban decay

It just takes a little lawn-mowing negligence to see the risk your property has succumbing to the wildness of invasive plants, which brings us to the urban decay pictured in parts of Detroit by James Griffioen. I love that he calls the houses “feral,” for they are, they’re wild things now and belong in the wild. Poison ivy waits to tickle your knees and snakes haunt the dark corners near the house. Inside, if there still is even an “inside,” squirrels and rats are storing nuts and raccoons are making nests.

So what does this say about where the suburban age is going and what it might look like in the future? In some instances we have people who are actually encouraging the re-naturalization of their suburban property—Karen mentioned a fellow in California, but right here in Atlanta, Duane Marcus and his wife have upset suburbia by farming on their property: Funny Farm. While I don’t think the suburbs and their bradford pears are going anywhere soon, i do think the movement to bring more nature into the urban environment is making significant inroads. Whether it’s folks tilling in their front lawns, organizations like Trees Atlanta making sure we have things growing along our sidewalks, or projects like NYC’s Highline (pictured) which creates a highly orchestrated meeting of nature, urban decay, and the city. Still, isn’t even this recreation just another attempt to control?


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