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Nils Norman
The Great Edible Lawn
Central Park, New York

1997


Nils Norman
Underground Agrarians
1997


Nils Norman
The Newsstand Lets Kiosk

  

The Great Edible Lawn is Norman's conversion of the Great Lawn of New York's Central Park into something useful for tenant-gardeners. It almost certainly will not happen at that site, but something like it could happen in other public parks of the city.

His Underground Agrarians project outlines the convergence in one or two building lots of sustainable, self-reliant technologies for urban gardening, human-waste composting and wastes recycling. Such projects are already underway in ecology-concious neighborhoods around the world. The question is less, "can this be done?" than "can poor people be organized to do this?" This work could better inspire action, I think, if it did not have its little HO-scale vignette of some locals in a protest with a graffiti-covered van.

The Tompkins Square Park Monument to Civil Disobedience consists chiefly of an elaborate treehouse with a with a lookout tower and a platform suspended between three trees. It could easily be built, physically. But it could almost certainly never be allowed, politically. Not in a public park. But remove the title and relocate it to a private site, and you have an entirely executable structure. The chief obstacle to such construction is getting the permit.

Norman's most likely construction requires the least space, the least permission: it's the vegetation-roofed, solar-panel- powered, community-organized information booth and newsstand. To build this requires only some community organization -- according to Norman's plan, in Stuyvesant Town, the middle-class housing development on Manhattan's East Side between 14th and 34th streets -- and one or two good lawyers.

The works are precise, though none of the precision is esthetically necessary. It is just meant to create an air of realism. These models, with their descriptive texts that include details of financing and administration, could become reality. But they require forms of social organization, finance capital and the representation of the work entirely outside of the art context.

Nils Norman at
America Fine Arts, 22 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10013
Feb. 26 - Mar. 22 1997

PETER FEND is New York artist.