Eve Mosher is an artist and interventionist living and working in New York City. Her works use investigations of the landscape as starting points for audience exploration of urban issues. Her public works raise issues of involvement in the environment, public/private space use, history of place, cultural and social issues and our own understanding of the urban ecosystem. We talked with her a little about the design and the public's response to her work.
as a public art practice that seeks to create interactions and interventions that allow people to explore and connect with their urban environment.
Your projects are large-scale and community-integrated -- how does approaching projects of this type make your visions more successfully realized?
I think the scale is less important than the integration of the project with both its environment and the people who participate. I am inspired by experiential learning and feel that as an artist I have the ability to create interesting methods for investigation, engagement and education.
Seeding the City -- a public community engagement project that could provide a significant source of additional green space to urban environments, via the collective minor efforts of many; what is your vision for this project?
You just stated it :) - the goals of the project were to engage a more diverse and broad audience than that which might self-select to learn and engage in remediation projects. I wanted to introduce the fact that the green movement is both affordable and doable even for those of us who rent or have only small or shared spaces. It was also about sharing tools and knowledge and encouraging others to pass those on in their own community. And finally about creating a shared sense of space that means many of us working together in private spaces can create a new sense of public space and public improvement of space and place.
What type of response has this project had so far?
It was much harder to get the project going and sustain than I had anticipated. I think the message of having a small self-sustaining bit of greenery on your roof didn't come across. The minute "green roof" was mentioned many people worried about infrastructure, access etc. What was more successful was the "planting" workshop that I did with the New Museum's StreetFest. Here people could see that the modules were small, lightweight and really easy to create and sustain. I was working on more of those kinds of community workshops but found that taking that on was unsustainable as an individual artist. I would still love to find an organization interested in taking over that role and continuing to grow the project.
(Intra)Structure is another urban greening initiative/project of yours. tell me about this project, and how others can participate.
(Intra)Structure was a collaboration with my friend and jewelry designer, Renata Mann. We were both interested in fibers and plants. I was particularly interested in exploring both the connection between personal and urban scale and the idea of shared public private space. The project manifested as hemp "lines" which are growing epiphytes (spanish moss) and come in a variety of scales. Some were small and had magnets in the ends which allowed them to be made into longer pieces. We envisioned people being able to hang the plants in short or long pieces in the apartment (or between their apartment and their neighbors) and then taking a small piece off and wearing it. Kind of an exploration of how we can physically interact with our space. We were also interested in putting longer pieces between buildings as a way for neighbors to share responsibility for growing the plants - again a breakdown of private spaces as joined public space.
Tell me a bit about your background (education, practice, etc) and if it was influential in conceptualizing and/or shaping these projects.
My undergrad degree was in architecture, I followed that with a master's in sculpture which focused on installations that explored the built and natural environment. So it is all a pretty direct line. For many years I had a studio practice, but at the beginning of 2006 a number of different influences pushed me to wanting to explore a larger scale, publicly-activated practice. The first project, HighWaterLine in 2007 really solidified my interest in working in that manner - wanting to create interactive projects in the urban environment. I am really interested in urban design and studies and understanding how people shape their landscape.
How important is the design component of your work?
This is always a difficult balance. Ultimately the aesthetics will take the upper hand, but there is a compromise between practicality, reaching the environmental goals and those aesthetics. I also consistently work on a super tight budget, so that has a pretty deep impact on what I create. I have often dreamed about creating works with much larger (or unlimited) budgets and how those might manifest - but I'm not there yet!
Do you consider your work activism? environmentalism? both? more?
I shy away from any of those categories, just because I think my work defies some of the boundaries imposed by assuming any of those labels. Some of my work is activist in nature, some of the work has an environmental bent. But there are also projects that focus more on urban history or decorative explorations or urban design.
Your HighWaterLine project received a good deal of attention, and rolled-over into classrooms. tell me about the project, how it came about, and it's success.
HWL was the first project that I undertook in the public. It came from a space of trying to grasp the enormity of climate change and finding that so much of the rhetoric around climate change was incomprehensible - the timelines too long, the scale too global. I really wanted to know what it really meant on a local scale and I wanted to find a way to visually represent/record what climate change could mean for NYC. I took one aspect - increased flooding from a change in storm patterns, and used that as the point from which I would draw the line. That data was more recognizable (there are photos, records and memories of floods occurring to the ten foot line, the increased flooding would happen on a timeline that would play out over our lifetimes or those of our children).
I think many of those aspects are what made it so easy to represent in the media. It also probably helped that I was out drawing the line for six months. I was interested in drawing attention to myself in order that people would talk to me about the project - I wasn't out seeking to lecture anyone, I wanted to engage in conversations.
The result of the project was also that I had collected a number of stories from people along the way, and I also had a chance to witness the communities at risk. It was very successful, and I am glad about that since I put in a lot of energy planning and executing the project, and the fact that it is still continuing is really important to me. After I completed the project in NYC there was interest having me recreate it other places. I feel strongly that while it was important for me to do the project in NYC (I live here) in other communities it would be more valuable for people who live in the communities to enact the project. It gives other people the chance to learn about their community in a deeper way and have conversations with their neighborhood. It also engages the participants in that role of experiential learning which I think then allows them to go on and teach others.
And your most recent (re-visited) project, ‘Insert ___ Here 2011’ creates an infrastructure that bridges actual and virtual space in order to help communities make positive change. i love seeing technology being used as a tool for positive impact – where did you get the idea for the approach to this project
The original project (2008) was to occur in The Hague. I wanted to create a project that didn't require that I fly abroad to make the project happen, I also knew I would be going into a community that was both more savvy than I about their city and its situation in the face of climate change and they have a wide adoption of things like smart phone technology. So the original project was conceived that people would post the signs, each sign would have a unique url. They would photograph the sign with the suggested change and then I had designers and illustrators interested in drawing the change. Then subsequent viewers would see the sign in place and be able to load the image of the change from the unique url. So providing a glimpse into what the space "could be."
When I started working on the project with 350.org we knew we couldn't do the illustrations (we just didn't have a team of people to work on it) but the idea of it being taken on globally meant that we could think about other ways to connect people. We wanted anyone in the world working on green roof solutions to be able to talk with other groups - share resources and experiences. Mapping the interventions and being able to tag and categorize them was kind of obvious (I love how pervasive technology has become) we also realized that it could be a way to engage local communities around a project - the yellow sign becomes a beacon and the community thinks, "yeh, I would love to see that empty lot turned into a community garden" and they could go online and access the petition that the organizer was using to collect signatures to get the lot given to the community.
Funny enough, I am taking "A Year Off From Art" - I love the projects that I have done over the past few years and I love that they continue to grow and be re-created and re-adopted, but I did find that I was spending a lot of my time trying to sustain older projects and not getting a chance to create new works. So I decided not to commit to any deadlines this year. I am using it as a time to read, research and think about new projects. I have decided that I can carry around a sketchbook but not really finalize any projects or do any proposals. So its an art sabbatical I guess. So far (even one month in) it has been great. Its really hard to turn down some of the amazing opportunities that have come up, but I also feel refreshed and feel like I have space in my brain to just think about things and explore.
Joshua Kogan from Localflux as guest writer for Celsias .Pictures also from Joshua