Magazine article Artforum International

Futurefarmers

Magazine article Artforum International

Futurefarmers

Article excerpt

The recent survey showcased more than 160 items belonging to twenty-one projects produced since 1995, including objects, drawings, artists' books, and video documentation of performance-interventions such as This Is Not a Trojan Horse. A sturdy bare table was on hand, too. Over the course of the show, curators and writers--"partners in thought"--were invited to meet the artists in the gallery, where the invitees selected items on view to place on the table as discussion prompts. These talks will eventually form the basis for a catalogue. Plowing their work under in this way to mulch new endeavors is central to Futurefarmers' practice, as is dynamic exchange with experts of all stripes: from the Italian farmers to the residents of a North Philadelphia neighborhood notorious for brownfield pollution who brought soil samples to be tested in a self-sustaining laboratory-cum-soup kitchen (Soil Kitchen, 2011) to the shoe-repair guys--one in each of New York's five boroughs--whose shops became conceptual focal points for a nine-day series of lectures, tours of the cobblers' shops, and workshops at the Guggenheim, all inspired by the figure of Simon the Shoemaker, interlocutor of Socrates (Shoemaker's Dialogues: Soul Sermons, 2011). What may be the group's best-known piece, Victory Gardens, 2007-2009, was developed with the City of San Francisco to foster a network of community and home gardeners, dispensing free seeds, supplies, and educational support via a specially designed (and carbon-neutral) "Garden Trike"--which was itself parked jauntily beside the gallery desk.

The exhibition was visually full, and conceptually somewhat vexed. In addition to books, video on monitors, posters, banners, and drawings (plus the trike), there were twelve low platforms set out in a grid, crisp and white but otherwise suggestive of shipping pallets. Artifacts from the seventeen focal projects were arranged on these. Franceschini was a celebrated Web designer before she started Futurefarmers, and longtime collaborator Michael Swaine recently completed an MA in design. As makers of objects, they favor wood, canvas, cotton, and other organic materials (often upcycled), accented with molded plastic in Day-Glo hues; their clean-lined yet boxy shapes skew toward geek-chic. …

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