Weedy Nomad is a movement-based storytelling project that explores neighborhoods in transition through plant-body encounters. We invite activists, artists and publics to share their experiences of development and gentrification through guided walks and movement scores that look particularly at marginalized urban ecosystems and spontaneous plants (aka weeds) found in “vacant lots,” sidewalk cracks, treepits, and highway medians. These in-between spaces and weedy species survive on and along borders. They use these spaces as containers, as homes, and as crossings that resist the built environment and model climate survival strategies. In looking at these under-recognized lifeforms, we are able to move in new ways, understand shifting ecologies, and highlight indigenous and underrecognized histories and stories.
Weedy Nomad emerged from a collaborative exhibition called Wilder City at Flux Factory in May 2018. The exhibition centered around creative responses to the Windmill Community Garden in Long Island City, offering artists an opportunity to engage with the garden and the surrounding community. As a site undergoing rapid change and gentrification, Weedy Nomad offered a space to share stories of a changing NYC, and to consider some of socio-ecological shifts underway.
Throughout the summer of 2018, we worked with three artists/activists/organizers, leading each participant on an unstructured walk through the streets of Long Island City. We directed our attention to marginal, weedy and feral landscapes because they offer a space to notice, embody and think differently about the politics of human disturbance, gentrification, and development. Spontaneous urban plants are on the front lines of adaptation, often the first organisms to resettle a recently disturbed site. Their presence is at once global and hyperlocal, offering a visual indicator of change, capitalist-enterprise, and yet ecological resistance.
The walks serve as a container for embodied experiences and conversation. To begin each walk we met with participants at the Windmill Garden and walked along the streets of LIC. We guided participants to particular sites of disturbance – evidence of weedy landscapes resisting and reclaiming the built environment. Through the shared experience of witnessing and interacting with these spaces, a conversation about neighborhood and ecological change unfolded.
What was particularly striking was the ways in which weedy plants became a model for critique and exploring the complexities of race, colonialism and capitalist enterprise. In the tradition of walking as both a practice and creative form we offer transcripts of each walk alongside documentation of the site.
Christopher Kennedy is an artist and educator who creates site-specific projects that examine conventional notions of ‘Nature’, interspecies agency, and biocultural collaboration. With a background in environmental engineering, Kennedy re-imagines field science techniques and new forms of storytelling to develop embodied research, installations, sculptures, and publications that aim to recontextualize social-ecological systems. Kennedy was born in Ocean County, New Jersey and lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He is currently a Guest Lecturer in Sustainable Systems at Parsons School of Design, New School University.
Thomas Choinacky crafts spatial experiences which intend to illuminate the constant transformation we, and our surroundings, are going through in our lives. As a queer, interdisciplinary artist Thomas has been creating new performance work in Philadelphia since 2007. He/They has been the grantee of 1812 Productions’ Jilline Ringle Solo Performance Program and has been awarded artist residencies at Kultuuritehas Polymer in Tallinn, Estonia and Elsewhere in Greensboro, NC. He/They is a founding member of Applied Mechanics, a radical, immersive theater collective.
His/Their own solo works include A USER’S MANUAL(2017),which has premiered in six cities across the US, THOMAS IS TITANIC(2012/2018),which was named Editor’s Pick by the Washington Post, and the epic MAGNITUDE(2013), a nine-hour durational work viewable through a peephole which premiered in Greensboro, NC. He/they is a core playwright with The Foundry @ PlayPenn.
Thomas thinks deeply about how audience members are a part of the performance. His work is site-specific where the audience’s perspective is an integral element of the production. His/Their work and teaching has been shared at Headlong Dance Theater, University of the Arts, Haverford College, Terminal 136, Microsoft HQ, Turner Broadcasting, Environmental Performance Agency, among others.