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Cultivation Field – Call for Papers and Proposals

Cultivation FieldPostgraduate Symposium – 28th September 2011

Exhibition – 28th September to 6th October 2011

University of Reading

The premise for this Symposium and accompanying Exhibition is that cultivation is leading to new art practices deserving of critical inquiry and articulation. Whether in the garden or allotment, the soup kitchen or the road, on wasteland or the tower block, or wherever there are cracks in the system, cultivation provokes questions about human being’s relation to and encounter with the earth and its growth systems and operations. The purpose of this Symposium and Exhibition is to encourage discursive exchange and productive encounter between art practitioners and researchers within the cultivation field.

Artists and research students are invited to submit 250 word abstracts for the Symposium and/or the Exhibition, accompanied by a short biography or CV. We are interested in proposals for paper presentations, performance (including culinary), film, intervention, sound, installation, or text works, that explore plant-based material, land use, growth, ecosystems, economy, taxonomy, environment, power and chaos in the field of cultivation.

Performances can be arranged in open-air locations on the campus. Individual presentations will be restricted to 20 minutes duration.

Deadline for submission is: 29 July 2011 at 17.00.

Submissions should be addressed to:

Cultivation Field
Department of Art,
University of Reading,
1 Earley Gate,
RG6 6AT.

Please include a S.A.E with correct postage if you wish material to be returned to you.

Or by email: cultivationfield@pgr.reading.ac.uk

Email submissions should be no more than 5MB, jpg, doc, docx, or pdf format, or with a link to the web address where work is hosted. Please include all technical requirements in your proposal.

The deadline for registration is: 23 September 2011.

To register for the Symposium please fill in the online form here.

Artist-made plant-based lunch and refreshments will be available.


Swing's Riot

It was the 9th December 2010; last week there had been widespread frost and snow. Reading had only experienced a light icy covering of snow, but frosty temperatures had been persistent all week. Ella Montt walked into the garden at MERL. She had arranged to meet Captain Swing there; he was waiting for her by the Allotment Plot. Ella walked over to Swing and began to discuss events that were unfolding in London that day. It was a day of protest by students, under 18’s and sympathizers, because the government was debating then voting on raising University tuition fees. Ella, who is also a student felt most concerned about the outcomes of the day. Her anger spilled over as she talked to Swing, who was most sympathetic. William Morris who had been sleeping in a pile of leaves under the Mulberry Tree awoke from his slumber at the sounds of conversation. He rolled over, rubbed his eyes, blinked and got up, shaking the damp leaves from his old coat, he asked if there was any news from nowhere, muttering something about a dung market.

Ella examined her vegetables growing on the Plot; the new seedling growth had slowed considerably, because of the freezing temperatures. She lifted the horticultural fleece and peered at the Brussel Sprouts discovering that the foliage was looking more encouraging than before, yet there were still no sprouts. Ella was pleased because the leafy tops of Sprouts can be eaten; they are tender and sweet. She took a small garden fork from her backpack and then dug a handful of Leeks with it. After cleaning some of the mud and roots from the leeks into the compost area, she packed the items back into her transportation device.Garlic 09/12/2010

William Morris and Swing had been talking together. They now turned to Ella and suggested to her that they travel to London to join in the student’s protest. Ella who had been on a local march the previous day was keen for more action. William Morris took from his coat a roll of beautifully designed and well-crafted wallpaper; he unrolled it. Ella remarked that Kant would probably like the wallpaper for his study. The three discussed for a few moments whether to go directly to the National Gallery to join the Slade Teach-in or if to teleport straight to Parliament Square. Choosing the latter they stepped onto the wallpaper and whoosh suddenly they were there!

Morris, who is a seasoned time traveller, was the first to get his bearings. They had arrived in the middle of a big crowd of young people who were surrounded by police in riot gear. Ella remarked, “Oh no, we are kettled!” Morris said, “kettled? What on earth do you mean? In my day a kettle was something that one filled with water and placed on the stove to heat up, eventually depending on the heat of the stove, it reaches boiling point, bubbles over and you can make tea”. Ella replied that was right, and said, “but in current terminology kettling is a restriction of protesters through police activity that normally leads to violence, because the people who are kettled are trapped often for hours, and prevented from leaving. It is never a good thing!” Swing’s face was reddening, as his agitation grew, he had just seen a policemen hit a student. Swing, who was barely audible under the sounds of students booing, said, “riot! I predict a riot!” Morris, who was much calmer, said, “it becomes a dung market, you know, the Houses of Parliament, it has good access to the river, they have to stop the games they are playing there, and the whole people becomes our parliament. Let us go to National Gallery and join the Teach-in with the art students, I hear they are writing a manifesto.” Agreed the three stepped on to the length of patterned wallpaper and then arrived in Room 43. Neither the Teach-in, nor the protests were over yet.

Ella Montt’s harvest for 09/12/2010: Leek Almera = 5oz = 140g.

Parsnips and Mint

25/11/2010 – Ella Montt headed from the University to the Allotment Plot at MERL by bike. Optimistic bright sunshine earlier in the morning had given way to a blanket of dull grey cloud and the temperature plummeted, making the bike ride far from exhilarating, as the sharpness of the cold hit the body in motion. Ella Montt extracted the garden fork and her fairtrade gardening gloves from the shed, then crossed the grass to the Allotment Plot. Observation of the Brassicas that are being steadily eaten by wildlife, prompted Ella to return to the shed to collect an amount of horticultural fleece that had been stored there since last winter. The fleece was stretched across the Brassicas and the newly sprouted Broadbeans, to aid the plants protection from the wildlife and elemental forces. Bricks that had been collected from the pile by the shed were situated to hold the fleece in position. Ella’s nose dripped in the cold.

Plot with Fleece

Ella started to dig some Parsnips with the fork, then she remarked to Captain Swing that all the Parsnips should perhaps be removed from the soil, because their foliage was dying down and the ground may soon become too frozen to dig if the snow that had been predicted, arrived in the course of the next week. Ella feeling slightly lot mental dug up the rest of the Parsnips that would be stored until needed for consumption. As the root vegetables were dug, Ella came across traveling rhizomatic root shoots runners from the Mint plants. Some Mint root shoots had been removed on a previous occasion and taken to Allotment 326 to propagate new Mint plants. Ella decided to leave the newly discovered rhizomes to show to Deleuze later, she left them to grow across the Allotment Plot. Each traveling Mint rhizome was punctuated regularly with tiny Mint seedlings with their own root systems developing joined to the main plant runner. Ella was fascinated by this, because it was a visual production that could be left as a mapping of plant intention, each potential new plant joined to the whole plant origin and would spread at the plant’s will, or if Ella intervened with her human objective and separated the Mint seedlings from the original plant, she could propagate more plants from their new root systems. Ella was still thinking about the Mint plant later. She hoped that both Deleuze and Guattari would be as pleased that this particular rhizome was growing through her Plot. Captain Swing commented that on an energetic level the Mint plants intention emphasized a connection between one Allotment Plot and another that Ella had already strengthened by transporting part of the plant’s rhizome from Allotment Plot at MERL to Allotment Plot 326.


Harvest on 25/11/2010: Parsnips Halblange White = 3lb 11oz = 1.7Kg, Leeks Almera = 5oz = 140g.

Shed and Plot 326

A Shed had been acquired from a recycling website; it sat for a while wrapped up at Plot 326. Concrete paving slabs were found through the same recycling source method. An area had been cleared at Plot 326 for the Shed near the Apple Tree (that was in need of drastic pruning). The concrete slabs were placed in position, time passed and then one day the Shed was erected. The Shed is modest in size at 4ft by 6ft and useful as a place of shelter at the exposed Allotment site.  The Shed is not water tight and needs to be made more so. It is hoped that wildlife as in unwanted will not deem to enter the Shed.

Recycled Shed 1

Bramble extraction is an on going process at Plot 326, this involves much digging, which will take much time and energy. Seeds that were planted are meanwhile germinating. Pieces of wire netting were accumulated and positioned around the planted area to try to deter land based wildlife from roaming freely in forging activity.

Plot 1Plot 2Plot 3

Recycled Shed 2

Autumn Harvest New Shoots

On the 28th October 2010 Ella Montt arrived at the Allotment Plot at MERL to find that the Cosmos plants had been frost bitten and were dead. The hardy Pot Marigold was still flowering. A frosty few days had given way to warmer weather again. There was a significant down turn in the amount of produce ready to be harvested from the Plot. The Brassicas remained small, the Chard and Kale’s production although not dead, had slowed to a minimum. What there was to be harvested would be limited to Carrots, Leeks and Parsnips for the next few weeks. It was realised that it would also need to be a gradual harvest to make the produce last through to December. The hungry gap will be coming early again and in the first months of the New Year, when the new growing seasons production will have barely started.  This fact will be relevant in the considered planning that needs to take place in deciding what to plant in the first months of the year and early Spring 2011. Although Ella Montt now has a second growing space at Allotment Plot 326, each Plot has to be managed for its own potential and it is unknown from season to season how productive each Plot will be. The garden at MERL is a more sheltered area; Plot 326 is on a more exposed field site on higher ground.

Harvest taken on 28/10/2010 was as follows: Parsnip Halblange White = 6oz = 160g; Carrot Amsterdam Forcing = 6oz = 160g; Leek Almera = 1oz = 20g; Rainbow Chard = 1oz = 20g; Kale Pentland Brig = 1oz = 20g. As the Carrots were removed more Pea Meteor were planted.

Leeks & Parsnips

It was a warm and windy day for the time of year on the 4th November 2010. At the Allotment Plot the ground seemed rather dry again. There had been no substantial rain. Ella Montt used a fork to dig some Parsnips and Carrots, then trimmed away the root vegetables leaves gathering the foliage to place in the brick composter. More Peas were planted in the space where the Carrots had been removed. The overwintering vegetables, the Onions, Broadbeans, some of the Garlic and Peas that had been planted in October were all starting to push their new green shoots up through the soil.

The days harvest was limited to: Parsnip Halblange White = 10oz = 280g; Carrot Amsterdam Forcing = 7oz = 200g; Leek Almera = 5oz = 140g.

Peas Meteor

11/11 at 11am year 2010 the casualties caused by war were remembered. The event of war affects not just the lives of humans, but also animals and environmental eco systems and this should never be forgotten. At times in war, humans have sometimes used whatever land or space they can to grow food to feed themselves, but depending on the nature of conflict this is not always possible. The destruction of the lives of people and the environment can be too great and too dangerous.

The weather on this day of remembrance seemed to echo the misery, darkness and suffering that war can create.  It was a dark day, rough with rain and gales. Ella Montt only spent a short time at the Allotment Plot in MERL’s garden, she quickly harvested Carrots and Parsnips, planted more Peas Meteor in the open space that the Carrots had left and then sort shelter.

Harvest for the day: Parsnip Halblange White = 1lb 1oz = 480g; Carrot Amsterdam Forcing = 1lb 10oz = 740g; Leek Almera = 6oz = 160g.

Today, on the 18/11/2010 at the Allotment Plot at MERL, the weather conditions were unsettled, a mixture of cloud, brief glimpses of blue sky with sunshine followed by short light rain showers driven by a brisk breeze. There was not freezing fog that started the week nor the more prolonged rain of yesterday.

The first row of Garlic is already growing well, some of the spiked shoots have already grown to about 6 inches. The new shoots from the Onions are not as advanced as the Garlic. The Broadbeans and Peas will both need to strive for survival against predators. The predators have stripped some of the Brassicas in the last week. Harvesting commenced with the removal of the last of the Carrots followed by the action of finishing planting the line of Peas. Leeks and Parsnips will need to be the staple crop enduring the next few weeks.

The Harvest: Parsnip Halblange White = 1lb 10oz = 740g; Carrot Amsterdam Forcing 1lb 1oz = 480g; Leek Almera = 6oz = 160g.

Garlic ShootsBroadbeans two

Overnight Frost

On the morning of 21st October 2010, an overnight frost had killed the Bean and Squash plants at Allotment Plot at MERL, leaving the remaining Squash Green Hokkadio vulnerable to elemental forces. The Squash seemed to be intact and was harvested, it had not met its maximum growth capacity because it had grown to late in the season, but it was not to be abandoned to decompose on the Plot.

The Bamboo canes that were still standing in pyramid formations, were stripped of their frost bitten Climbing Bean residue, dismantled and deposited in the shed. The Bean plant residue was roughly cut up and laid in the brick compost area. Ella Montt decided to raise the height of the bricks by one layer so that they would accommodate more compost. Yellowed leaves from the Mulberry tree next to the Plot were gathered from the ground where they had fallen, placed into the compost area covering the Bean plants residue and left to mulch down.

Allotment Plot CompostAllotment Plot Autumn

The next action was that of harvesting, because there had been a frost Ella Montt deemed it appropriate that the first Parsnips would be dug. In the space that the Carrot harvest generated more Pea Meteor were planted. The harvest consisted of: Squash Green Hokkadio = 1lb 1oz = 480g; Mixed Herbs = Chives, Mint, Sage and Marjarom = 2oz = 40g; Leek Almera = 2oz = 40g ; Parsnip Halblange White = 6oz = 180g; Carrot Amsterdam Forcing 8oz = 240g.

Carrots Leeks and Parsnips 1Carrots Leeks and Parsnips

Later that same day, 21/10/2010, a journey to Allotment Plot 326 happened. Ella Montt commenced digging again in an effort to clear more soil, attempting to banish more roots of the Bramble plants. As daylight started to fade Ella Montt’s digging reached the other side of the plot. Contemplating the Plot, Ella Montt has decided in order to try to thwart the Brambles, land based wildlife and other persistent plants, who are not particularly welcome in the overall scheme of the Plot, that it will be necessary to dig the perimeter of the Plot in preparation for fencing. Whilst bio diversity is encouraged in organic growing, certain creatures become over zealous when Plants of their liking start to grow. This fact has already been noted on the Plot at MERL when the Brassicas have suffered Pigeon attack. The act of fencing in of Plot 326, will be an attempt to try to deter hungry wildlife from foraging and allow the planted vegetation a chance to grow to harvesting potential. Given time constraints, Ella Montt expects it will be some weeks before fencing commences. Ella Montt would like to emphasis the fact that fencing the Plot in is not based on Speciesism and that wildlife will coexist on and around the Plot with the Plot, the act of fencing is merely an attempt to stop the wildlife eating everything that Ella Montt attempts to grow. The wildlife have their own strategies for survival and will no doubt find a way to breach the fence if they are so inclined.

Ella Montt planted another row of Spinach Giant Winter, then Garlic (1) Elephant = 3 cloves, Garlic (2) Dukat = 17 cloves, Garlic (3) Sprint = 32 cloves, Garlic (4) Thermidrome 16 cloves, followed by 1 row of Broad Beans Supersimonia and 1 row of Broad Beans Super Aquadule.

Allotment Plot Overwinter 1Allotment Plot Overwinter 2

Planting to Overwinter

At Ella Montt’s Allotment Plot at MERL on the 15th October 2010 it was a perfect Autumn day, the leaves were gently falling from the trees in the garden (and along the foot/cycle path journey route). The Mulberry tree leaves, next to the Allotment Plot, had mostly turned to yellow. The Cosmos Cosmea‘s pink petals seemed like patches of faded summer colour amongst the Autumn rusting hues. It has not rained significantly in so many days, the soil looked dry, but moisture exists below the surface. More flower seeds were collected. Ella Montt harvested the Climbing Beans that were ready to be picked and removed some more of the plants that had finished producing. Carrots were dug. The Beetroot never grew to their potential. Digging with a garden fork commenced to redefine some of the Plots edges and also to dig in lightly some of the Fenugreek as a green manure. Any unwanted plant residue from the Plot was added to the brick lined compost area.

Cosmos CosmeaNext to the Cosmos Cosmea

In the spaces that had opened up on the Plot Ella Montt planted an amount of seeds to overwinter. Next to the recently germinated Carrots which are close to the compost area four types of Garlic were planted; 2 cloves x Elephant Garlic (1), followed by 8 cloves x Dukat Garlic (2), then 16 cloves x Sprint Garlic (3) and then 14 cloves x Thermidrome Garlic (4). Next two rows of Onions Swift were planted, 2 x 13 = 26 sets. Broad Bean (1) Supersimonia x 16 beans were planted near to the Brassicas and then an adjacent row of Broadbean (2) Super Aquadulce x 16 beans. Where the Carrots had been dug Pea Meteor were planted in a concentrated amount (50 approximately), as the rest of the carrots are dug more Peas will be planted.

Planting GarlicPlanting Elephant Garlic Clove

The days harvest: Lettuce Marvel of the Four Seasons = 2oz = 60g; Carrots Amsterdam Forcing = 1lb 2oz = 500g; Climbing Beans = 3oz = 80g; Runner Beans Blue Lake 7oz = 200g; Runner Beans Painted Lady = 7oz = 200g.

Battle of the Rhizome at 326 (Part 1)

On the 13th of October at Allotment Plot 326 Battle of the Rhizome (Part 1) was concluded (temporarily) by earth being repositioned, two rows of Spinach Giant Winter seed and 500g of Onion Sets Swift being planted to over winter. The Battle of the Rhizome will be on going for an unidentified period of time, perhaps there will be no simple conclusion.

The plant known as Brambles (Blackberries) inhabits Allotment Plot 326. It is deeply rooted and travels randomly whence it will grow creating its own rhizomatic action, alongside the tendrils of Bindweed and that of Buttercup. There are many other plants on Allotment Plot 326 (described as weeds) that distribute their seeds where ever the flow of air, water or animal takes them to. Many plants know as weeds assist not only with biodiversity but also have properties that can be of great use if known.

In order to battle with the Brambles on the Allotment Plot tools are needed to weaken the plants spirit. How, if all life on earth is dependent on plant life can an individual seek to disrupt the growth of a plant individual? The answer of this disruption or breaking of one rhizome is to form another. Bramble free space is needed to plant vegetables. The removal of a Bramble plant can take some considerable effort. This effort is more of an interruption in the Bramble plants growth, because any part of the plant that has not been removed can re-grow from a tiny shoot concealed in the soil. An on going action over the course of some days (extended to weeks or years periodically), will happen when Ella Montt will dig over and over again into the soil, to battle with deep roots hidden in the subterranean depths.

Digging will resume soon in order to prepare space for Garlic cloves, the battle continues. A pile of broken roots from the disrupted plant life is slowly growing.


Compost at the Plot

On the 7th October 2010 at Allotment Plot at MERL in the Autumn sunshine, it was time to harvest and remove the Sweetcorn form the Plot. The corn ears were collected and the canes were cut leaving the roots in the soil to decompose. The Sunflowers seed heads were cut off and saved then plants cut down. Other seeds were collected from the Borage, Pot Marigold and Mint (the seeds were later laid out to dry in Ella Montt’s studio). The Dwarf Beans Royalty were removed from the Plot. One pyramid of Bamboo canes was disconnected from the others and removed from the Plot, the pyramid had supported Blauhide and Blue Lake Climbing Beans; these were cut down. The vacated areas of the Plot were gently forked over, leaving the roots of the cut down plants intact so that they will return any possible nutrients to the soil. The earth was easy to manipulate. The plant remainders that had been removed were left to one side of the Plot.

Allotment 7/10/10allotment167

Bricks were collected in a wheelbarrow from a pile across the garden. The bricks were arranged in a rectangular form of a raised bed where the Sweetcorn had previously been growing. The discarded Sweetcorn, Sunflower and Climbing Bean Plants were chopped up and placed into the raised bed to decompose back to the soil. Compost was also collected from across the garden and a thin layer was applied to the plant mixture in the raised bed. This raised bed will now act as a compost facility on the Plot. Any plant removed from the Plot will be composted there.

Bricks for the Plot

The harvest for the day was as follows: 14 ears of Sweetcorn = 1lb 5oz = 600g; Courgette Soleil F1 = 2oz = 60g; Climbing Beans Blauhide = 3oz = 80g and Blue Lake = 3oz = 80g; Runner Beans Painted Lady = 110z = 340g.

Bricks on Plot

Energetic Force Field

16/09/2010 in the garden at MERL at the Allotment Plot, Ella Montt harvested a small Squash that had unfortunately been attacked by something with teeth. Glistening trails were detected as the evidence of slug and snail activity, this kind of activity has been thankfully minimal, presumably because of the dry weather conditions this growing year. The Sweetcorn need to accelerate their growth in order to be edible if not their destiny will be compost material. Cosmos Cosmea pink will continue to flower for the next few weeks, the white Cosmos’s life force has faded as has the Sunflowers, the latter is concentrating its energetic capacity in seed generation. The Leeks are growing, but slender, beans continue to be prolific and reach for the sky. It was decided that two small Soleil F1 Courgettes would be left to survive another week on the Plot to maximize their growth, will they be attacked or will their energetic force field hold and not be penetrated, only time will tell. The temperature of the days and nights are dropping, the evenings are getting darker, the angle of the sun is shifting, Autumn is on its way. Green Manure seeds Phacelia Tanacetifolia were scattered on the Plot (to be dug in before flowering, some flowers can be left to attract biodiversity). SweetcornCosmea 2

Harvesting commenced: Tomatoes = 1lb4oz = 560g; Kale Pentland Brig 1oz = 40g; Squash Green Hokkadio = 4oz = 100g; Dwarf Bean Royalty = 1oz = 40g; Runner Beans = 12oz = 340g; Climbing French Beans Blue Lake = 12oz = 340g and Blauhide 2oz = 50g.

The complication of Fine Art Practice Based PhD research should not be under estimated.

Slender Leeks