THE TRANS-PLANTABLE LIVING ROOM

A living, growing stage providing a unique performance space to explore our relationship to gardening in an age of uncertainty.

The Trans-Plantable Living Room is a unique and exciting creative collaboration between an international team of performance makers: a network of farmers, gardeners and permaculture designers in three UK capital cities, together with oral history archivists, working to create local, gardening-based performances during late summer 2013 in 3 capital cities across the UK (Cardiff, Edinburgh and London).

Inspired by designer Tanja Beer’s Living Stage, Trans-Plantable Living Room is a growing, living stage providing a unique space for this performance, which will explore our relationship to gardening in the age of ecological uncertainty and our broader relationship to nature. The audience will be invited to plant a seedling, contributing to the space in their own personal way.

The creative process is a collaboration between an international group of artists and community groups. A network of Cardiff based gardeners, coordinated by Sam Holt of Riverside Community Allotments, will grow plants for the space. Meanwhile Green Stage will work with the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens  to run a series of workshops and interviews to unearth hidden stories about gardens and bring them to life. The workshops will explore historical tales of how different plants reached the UK; ecological accounts on the lives of insects, birds and soil microorganisms; and fictional stories of gardens, exploring the community relationship to gardening and food growing. The oral history interviews will investigate personal narratives about gardening in Cardiff: why people garden, how gardening practices have changed over time and what role they see local, small-scale food production taking in providing food in the current ecological climate. Stories, poetry and movement unearthed in workshops and interviews will inspire a performance created by Plantable Performance Research Collective (Megan Moe Beitiks, Bronwyn Preece and Lisa Woynarski) an international collective of performance makers who explore the interface between performance and ecology.  An immersive, interactive journey that will be performed as part of Edinburgh Fringe Festival on 23rd & 24th August and as part of the World Stage Design festival in Cardiff on 13th & 14th September 2013.

The process and performance will be documented and shared online via the People’s Collection Wales and a performance book (also available as an e-book) documenting the inspiration and process of the project. The performance, stage and book will be rooted in site-specific history, but will also incorporate transnational perspectives and speak to global communities of gardeners and artists.

These performances will be free and booking for the Cardiff performance is now open.

The project is supported by Artist’s Project Earth, World Stage Design 2013 and the Edes Foundation.

UPDATE APRIL 2014

As the first signs of spring appeared in mid-February of 2013, an international group of artists and gardeners began to hatch plans for a collaboration: to bring scenographer Tanja Beer’s design for an edible, community-grown living performance space to World Stage Design 2013 in Cardiff; for Meghan Moe Beitiks, Bronwyn Preece and Lisa Woynarski of Plantable Research Collective to activate the space with an immersive performance; and for Rosie Leach of Green Stage to find gardeners to grow plants for the space, and coordinate community engagement.

In Cardiff, Sam Holt, of Riverside Community Garden and Eggseed, came on board as Growing Coordinator, with support from Adamsdown Community Garden, the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, and Edible Landscaping to help shape the project and grow plants for the space.

As the spring burst forth, sowing of plants began, and Rosie interviewed 19 local gardeners.  The interviews explored what gardening means to people, their expericences of climae change and how gardeining patters have changed over time. Plantable then used the interviews as inspiration to create a trans-national video piece about growing in different locations and the audio score for the performance.

 

The Trans-Plantable Living RoomThe Trans-Plantable Living RoomOver the summer throughout weekly workdays and two inter-generational workshops the Living Room took shape. Second-hand furniture and crockery was adapted to create planters filled with colour, scent and flavour. Riverside volunteer, Mark Terrett led the creative adaptation of furniture and along with Growing Coordinator, Sam Holt and fellow volunteer Dipak Parekh, transformed a market cart into a portable planter which waspushed around the city by our marketing team, inviting the public to plant their own spinach.

In early September, Plantable arrived in Cardiff to devise and rehearse the performance at Riverside Community Garden and got to know the gardeners who they’d previously encountered as disembodied voices via the original interviews

 

On 12th September, the Living Room took up a two-day residence under a beautiful black walnut tree in Bute Park, behind the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, where the World Stage Design congress was in full swing.

 

Four performances by Plantable activated the space, and invited the audience to take a seat and enjoy a cup of freshly picked herbal tea. The performance was intended to activate the space, igniting its potential and embodying some of the inherent tensions in living room/garden, domestic/wild, indoor/outdoor, vibrant/inanimate while also attempting to break apart some of these binaries. Voices from the interviews provided a vibrant soundscape to the physical performance.

 

Once the audience had been welcomed into the Living Room, Plantable entered carrying wobbling tea cups planted with parsley. The wobbly cups spoke to the precariousness of the current ecological situation. The performers arrived in the space and lifted their tea cups to each other — and began to chew on the parsley. They then began to roam around savoured the delights of a living room filled with plants in every available nook, and watered the plants in the tea cups, coat rack and table. Their revelling drew attention to each distinct feature of the unusual space and engaged the audience in it. The performance culminated in the planting of tea bags when each audience member was given an empty biodegradable tea bag, and invited to fill it with soil and a spinach seed which they could then plant directly into their garden, taking a piece of the living room home with them.

 

A week later, we transferred to London, for another iteration of Living Room at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama for the Collisions festival of performance research. We sourced plants from nearby gardens and set-up an indoor living room, full of living plants and lowers, which also functioned as a bar and social space for the Collisions event.

Plantable adapted the performance to the new space, incorporating elements from Cardiff, with new elements: the focus turned onto the audience, picking them up and shifting them around, encouraging them with the plants by literally forcing them to switch places, hold them in their laps, bring them to their noses. Ast the piece ended, Plantable each exited the building as a way to bring the audience’s awareness back outdoors.

After the performance, in Cardiff the furniture and plants moved back to the community gardens, where they continue to host plenty of tea drinking and spark good conversation; while in London the plants were adopted by audience members.

For more about the project, check out this beautiful film by artist Rabab Ghazoul, photos by Nigel Pugh and our blog at www.transplantablelivingroom.wordpress.com.

 

The Trans-plantable Livng Room was supported by Artists Project Earth, World Stage Design, Our Food, and our crowdfunding contributors.

“We are ecstatic to receive support from APE: such an amazing and forward-thinking organisation! The support we have received from APE will go along way in making our dynamic, ground-breaking ecological garden performance project a resounding success. APE’s support will also enable us to form lasting international collaborations with communities of local growers and gardeners, engaging them in the arts and fostering creative solutions to climate change. Thank you!”

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