Getting those windows open was interesting
Although it is kind of the wrong time of year to start growing meadow seeds, July is a fantastic time to see meadow plants thriving. That is if you find them by a river and not in the parched brown open fields we are seeing currently.
I find myself noticing wild flowers and diverse grasslands everywhere I go at the moment, noting what is flowering now and how quickly these types of plants mature. Wild flowers and herbs tend to be opportunists and seem to be doing well in the current climate. With lots of perennial plants dying back from drought, the little shallow rooted flowers, good at growing in nutrient poor soil, are making the most of it.
It has been a couple of weeks, the meadow has still not been sown, however installation day is tomorrow!
I have been round in circles about whether this will work, if the time is long enough for seeds to germinate and grow big enough, if the hassle of taking it all apart again at the end is worth it, what I will do if it doesn’t work.
It felt like a lot of time when I first planned this but waiting for tutors to decide it is ok to take over such a big space, risk assess, get permission from the estates department in the university, has all taken a long time. So now it really is only just about enough time. I have researched and thought out scenarios of lots of different ways of doing this. It was going to be about 2/3 of the room to start with and is now going to be wall to wall meadow. Hopefully.
The plan is:
To lay waterproof plastic membrane, I got a roll of 4 metre wide membrane, 24m long, that has covered the floor in 2 pieces. It overlaps by about 1m and is glued together with silicone sealant and gaffa taped. Good old gaffa.
I then plan to lay thick natural wool felt woven with jute. It will act as a biodegradable mulch mat for the seeds to root into. It will also act as capillary matting keeping the soil damp by holding water like a sponge and wicking water across the space to feed even amounts of water to the plants.
I will then put down a thin layer of top soil and sow meadow seeds mixed with compost and sand.
I am also planning to buy about 100 wild flower plug plants to have some taller flowering plants.
It should look like young plants and short grass with a few plants poking up hopefully going to flower.
There would be an easier way to go about creating a meadow which would be to buy meadow turf or ‘meadowmat’ as it is often known as. However I cannot afford to buy that much meadow turf. I have thought about buying cheap turf and sowing into that but I would most likely get a room of monoculture grass. That would completely miss the point of what I am trying to achieve which is something that feels like a living wild ecosystem with interesting species to see and experience.
We so often concrete over or turf over landscapes, trying to get control of nature, keep it tidy, make it easy to ‘maintain’. This obsession with erasing nature from our environments, that often involves toxic chemicals, is having devastating effects on our ecosystems. Thinking about land and sustainability in this way has made me consider hard the potential waste from this project. I don’t want to dig up a load of land and bring it in then have to lift it all back up again and take it back or dump it somewhere. The energy that involves is not worth it. Not on this scale.
The scale is important. I want the installation to have an impact. I want people to have an experience, to remember seeing that living, breathing, green, landscape. To think about land, access to it, our relationship to it, our control over it.
The capillary matting I am laying down (which I plan to cut into 1m x 1.4m pieces) will mean if the seeds root enough I will be able to roll up the pieces and plant out as meadow turf. The felt acts as a mulch killing off most weeds underneath to give the meadow seeds a chance to establish. The thing that usually causes meadows to fail is the plants that move in that are vigorous and invasive, like grass.
I hope to link with community growing projects after the end of the exhibition to establish wild flower and bee friendly spaces where there is wasted ground.
If it works I will have 70 square metres of meadow turf to do something with!
As part of my final major project for an MA in Art, Health & Wellbeing I have come up with a bonkers plan to grow a meadow indoors, in a gallery space.
This blog is going to document the project, hopefully the success! but possibly the failure, we shall see.
The idea behind the plan comes from an interest and general investigation into people’s connection to place, access to land, and ideas around health and wellbeing and connection (or disconnection) to nature.
My current research is involving working on a participatory project called ‘Fire, Earth, Art’ with people who have long term mental health issues, getting outdoors, communing around a fire, making drawing charcoal, paint from natural earth pigments, paper from plants and wood block carving. The project aims to connect people more deeply with their local landscape and natural resources and build community connections.
I recently exhibited at West Wharf Gallery in Cardiff as part of the MA. I showed some drawings I had made from my local landscape in the Forest of Dean made from ochre pigments I had collected and processed, and charcoal we had made on the fire Earth Art sessions. In thinking about the white sterile gallery space and how to convey a sense of my recent processes, connecting people to land and nature, I decided to bring a piece of land into the Gallery space.
I exhibited the bit of land along with a photo etching of all the legal documents, leases, agreements and ownership deeds that go with that particular piece of land. I aimed for people to experience the living breathing ecosystem in front of them, made brighter and more alive in such a white, sterile environment, and think about how we have lost connections to land and place and the strange relationship we have with it now, attaching rules, regulations and ownership.
I felt it worked well. I loved the experience of seeing it in the gallery environment… and so the Gallery K4 meadow project has been born.
I am studying on the MA Art, Health & Wellbeing at The University of South Wales, I am also the Printmaking technical instructor. As MA students completing our course in September we have access to the studio/gallery spaces over the summer period. All the studio spaces become the gallery as often happens in art school and so I have identified this unique opportunity to create an installation over a couple of months in a space that is large and just happens to have massive windows in the ceiling, making a very convenient greenhouse.
The plan is to fill the entire floor space with a living, growing piece of land.