Week 44: Spontaneous Vegetation

Hi Everyone,

This Tuesday is another event in a year-long series of weekly conversations and exhibits in 2010 shedding light on examples of Plausible Artworlds.

This week we’ll be talking with urban forager, seed archivist and inner-city homesteader Nance Klehm, founder of a project called Spontaneous Vegetation.


Nance engages in what — in art-critical parlance — might be called “expanded farming”, the way some talk about “expanded cinema.” She is interested in things edible, how to grow them, and particularly how to find them when they conveniently and spontaneously just grow themselves; how to compost them, can them, preserve them — and how to mutualize her bio-instigation skills with others. Nance lives and farms in the middle of Little Village, a densely packed, diverse urban neighborhood in the heart of Chicago. Her house and land are daily practice in permaculture and urban living. But following some recent urban-foraging in Tucson, Arizona, she just happens to be in Philadelphia for this year’s edition of the World Toilet Summit, so she’ll be attending the potluck live at Basekamp, straight from the festival grounds.

Nance runs workshops in greywater conversion, water-harvesting earthworks design and installation, community greenwaste-to-fertility systems, horticultural systems design and green waste composting – including vermicomposting and humanmanure (hence the festival). Since 2006, she has been leading urban-foraging walks — Situationist-inspired deambulations through the spontaneous and cultivated vegetation of the urbanscape, where walkers learn to identify plants, hear their botanical histories and stories of their use by animals and humans, sharing anecdotes of specific experiences with plants. We have talked extensively about integrating artworlds into lifeworlds — but perhaps hastily assuming that those lifeworlds were human constructs or at least inattentive to the more extensive and diverse biodynamics of those worlds. Urbanforaging seems to apply the logic of the free and open software movement to the realm of vegetation and the edible in general.