WE THE WEEDS is a series of botanical arts projects by visual artist Kaitlin Pomerantz and botanist Zya S. Levy. WE THE WEEDS projects explore the relationship between humans and nature, and highlight the presence of the natural world within built space. WE THE WEEDS projects look specifically at the ways in which "vacant" urban spaces play host to complex and valuable ecosystems, often overlooked in urban planning and development.
WE THE WEEDS has been hosted and supported by the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, the Center for Emerging Visual Artists, Asian Arts Initiative, Hidden City, Practice Space Gallery, Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, the Penn Center for Urban Research, and more. Various projects featured here, or see wetheweeds.tumblr.com for more.
a WE THE WEEDS PROJECT
lead residency artist Zya S. Levy, with Kaitlin Pomerantz
Woven invasive vine installation (mile-a-minute, oriental bittersweet, kudzu, Japanese stilt grass, wisteria)
Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education
This woven installation was the physical result of a year-long interaction with the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education through their Land Lab Residency. WE THE WEEDS' Zya Levy and Kaitlin Pomerantz lead a series of interactive workshops, tours, and weaving sessions, to create this final woven installation that examines man's role in determining what is "invasive" or not; and begs us to consider which is more "organized" impulses of man or nature?
Screen-printed botanical labels by Kaitlin Pomerantz
WE THE WEEDS' first adventure consisted of identifying as many local urban plants as possible, and creating botanical labels that would allow passersby to do the same. Kaitlin Pomerantz created this first batch of labels during her residency at Second State Press, Philadelphia. She and Zya Levy's ethnobotanical walking tours emerged from the public's interest in learning more about this stunning array of wild plants that reside in our dankest urban zones.
2-block Mural Treatment on the 5200 block of Warren Street in West Philadelphia
created by Kaitlin Pomerantz/WE THE WEEDS and the students of Shoemaker Mastery Charter School
Participatory sculpture installation featuring built garden bed under a catwalk
Kaitlin Pomerantz and Zya S. Levy/WE THE WEEDS
with help from Gregory Charnock, Sarah Finestone
From Press Release:
Urban dwellers may consider themselves far from the throes of nature’s whims and schemes, but could it be that as we bike, walk and traverse the concrete streets, we are enacting the regenerative will of a variety of highly-adaptive, resilient, and opportunistic plant species? Might it be that lodged in the grips of our sneakers and the cuffs of our pants, are the seeds of Philadelphia’s abundant wild urban flora, using us as their dispersive vectors?
Following an experiment wherein Charles Darwin cultivated 80 plants from a ball of mud stuck to a wounded French partridge’s leg, British botanist Sir Edward Salisbury (1886-1978) famously grew an entire garden from the botanical debris collected in his trouser cuffs. WE THE WEEDS team Kaitlin Pomerantz and Zya Levy invite the citizens of Philadelphia to join the investigation by stepping up onto the catwalk of our gallery nursery, shaking out your shoes, and noticing what grows. Let us see if we are indeed “peripatetic censor mechanisms, scattering seeds as we walk about” that Salisbury claimed us to be.
For more: practicegallery.org
Ethnobotanical walking tours lead by WE THE WEEDS' Zya S. Levy and Kaitlin Pomerantz. Tours highlight medicinal and edible plant uses, and cultural and historical lore surrounding wild urban plants. Select tour locations include the Reading Viaduct (for Practice Space Gallery), Fort Mifflin (for Hidden City Philadelphia), and East Kensington (for Pile of Bricks Gallery).
WE THE WEEDS offers sensory plant experiences, including botanical cocktails conceived of and prepared by botanist Zya S. Levy. WE THE WEEDS botanical cocktail events have been sponsored by Asian Arts Initiative, Practice Space Gallery, the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, Center for Emerging Visual Artists, Mary Mattingly's Wetland, and more.
For more, see:
Limited edition full color pamphlet
Kaitlin Pomerantz and Zya S. Levy/WE THE WEEDS with Aislinn Pentecost-Farren
Graphic design by Mary Rothlisberger
Sponsored by Philadelphia Mural Arts and Shari Hersh's Restored Spaces Initiative
This pamphlet features collected botanical wisdom from residents of the Conestoga Shoemaker neighborhood of West Philadelphia. Favorite plants are featured with historical illustrations, community uses, lore and suggested recipes, as well as illustrations by local school children. This book celebrates and archives the rich botanical history and knowledge of this particular urban Philadelphia community.
Public presentation and workshop
hosted by Temporary Services and Philadelphia Mural Arts Program
at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
In this workshop, WE THE WEEDS' Kaitlin Pomerantz and Zya Levy introduced stick morphology using a home-made dichotomous key chart. A discussion of natural cycles at play, even in the winter months, even in urban space, ensued. Students learned to identify sticks of eight common Philadelphia trees.