As we explored the living history of Acequias in the Rif, we collected plants that thrived along the networks of waterways and outcroppings in the area. Our studio time was focused on making impressions of these plants on the press provided by Green Olive Arts. Instead of making individual plates, we placed a piece of plexiglass atop the press bed, on which we inked directly before arranging plant material then paper.
A visit to an urban farm network just above the Oued Martil that flows through Tétouan showed there is still a functioning Acequia right in town! A system of ditches directs runoff through fields, but since the water comes out if the city it is not the cleanest. The farmers use the ditch water to grow fodder for the livestock..mostly alfalfa….and !! Livestock there is. We met chickens, sheep, goats and COWS. There was a small dairy tucked in the bushes in a rambling structure of corregated iron with Victorian cast iron details in the window. Other than the alfalfa, the animals ate a lot of dried bread. This re-cycling of what would otherwise be food waste was significant. Over tea one afternoon, our Moroccan companions were shocked to hear how westerners throw out 40% of our food. Such extravagance and waste! Certainly a foreign perspective for a community that produces what it consumes and directs any leftovers to other species to enjoy. Wafa laughed and said, ‘When we find a corner of bread on the corner, we will even lift up the crumbs to a ledge so that the birds may enjoy it!’
We were taken to this urban farm network by Anass the beekeeper. We crouched through a tunnel in the huge grasses that run rampant when unchecked to follow the ditch. The water ran across the top of a field stacked with veg, but the farmer opted to pipe in clean springwater to grow plants consumed by people. Herbs and medicines grew amidst vegetable plots, which skipped around to grow haphazardly in other places. A bit wild… integrating volunteers and native plants that were allowed to grow where they chose. Fruit trees dotted the plot, with figs fruiting at the time. Lettuce and parsley were going to seed with seeds being saved in a tarp strung up in the tree. A recently harvested field was just planted with young corn and being prepped for a new sowing of seed in the shoulder season. Purselane thrives as a nutrient dense groundcover that tamps out weeds. The glowing purple flowers of artichokes are foraged by the black and yellow African honeybee, and grow with a huge sage bush. As we left, the farmer started harvesting coriander, bunching them up as he readied them to go to market.
Invited to be a part of Neo Rio 2016: Pollinators, Plants & People, the Debris Project was integrated into a part of the installation called ADRIFT, which looked at the chemical impacts on pollinators. Neo Rio is an annual arts event hosted by LEAP (Land, Environment & Art of Place) at the Montoso campground in the Wild Rivers Recreation Area in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. LEAP provides opportunities to deepen our appreciation and understanding of and relationship to our environments and our human and non-human neighbors; to increase our commitment to protecting these places and relationships and fostering creative responses and expressions of them in contemporary art and culture.
ADRIFT was installed in the man-made structure of the campsite, which had a view of the Chevron Questa mine. Because mining releases substantial chemicals into watersheds, and chemical body burdens are intimately tied to plastic pollution, this setting was ideal to present the chemical impacts on our watersheds. Included in the installation were post industrial western landscapes of oil refineries in Commerce City & Sinclair Wyoming, as well as an aerial view of the DOW chemical plant in Texas. DEBRIS tiles were hung vertically as flags to withstand the strong winds that whip across the top of the Rio Grande gorge. The images were representations of native pollinating water insects created with Oceans First in Boulder, Colorado during a spring session earlier in the year. Weighting down the flags was a plastic toy dinosaur; a reminder that the source of endocrine disrupting chemicals is fossil fuels.
As part of the ¡Pollinate! series of events initiated by LEAP (Land, Experience & Art of Place), OCHO Art Space hosted a printmaking with plants workshop. We explored the marks made with native plants that support pollinators, working with forms made directly from the seeds and layering ghost prints to create rich textures in the final prints. It was a starting point for participants to weave into their creative practice by looking at the potential offered by material gathered in the field. Jan Simonsen Martenson from the New Mexico Native Plant Society joined us and brought a whole host of native seeds to incorporate into the work.
The workshop was attached to the exhibition, ¡Pollinate! Art Show: Small is Beautiful at OCHO, which led into the annual outdoor festival, NeoRio 2016: Plants, Pollen + Pollinators at the Montoso Campground, Wild Rivers, Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument.NeoRio features artist talks and site specific art installations on the rim of the gorge followed by an art-filled evening celebration of music, poetry and a locally sourced feast.