The Lawn (Re)Disturbance Laboratory is an ongoing art-science experiment now in its fourth season. A project of the NEXT EPOCH SEED LIBRARY, it involves re-wilding interventions in institutional and residential lawns from seeds lying dormant in the soil. From plant-guided sculptures and community science workshops to unconventional approaches to data collection and presentation, the project offers multiple entry points through which to consider lawn habitats and their impacts on the communities—human and nonhuman—who live in and among them.
You can read more about the project in this City Lab article: “Uncovering the Seeds of a Post-Lawn Future” and in this Media + Environment” journal article: “The Next Epoch Seed Library’s Lawn Lab“. You can find a short video about the project at the bottom of this page. Follow along on social media with at #lawnredisturbancelaboratory and #lawnlabgreenwood.
Scroll down for more information about current 2021 project locations, and options for getting involved!
Launched on Earth Day with the youth workshop “Tearing up Turf with Lawn Lab” (in collaboration with Sunset Spark) this series of three (re)disturbance sculptures is sited in the lawn near the front gates of The Green-Wood Cemetery‘s 25th Street entrance.
Visiting the cemetery? Download our fieldwork observation sheet (English, Español), and share your observations with us by emailing photos and worksheets to firstname.lastname@example.org or tag #lawnlabgreenwood on social media. We’ll also be sharing observations on iNaturalist. Feel free to do the same! You can also find more learning resources on the Green-Wood education page.
This iteration of the Lawn (Re)Disturbance Laboratory is presented in dialogue with the Rethinking Urban Grasslands project underway at Green-Wood, a study aimed at developing sustainable management of large-scale urban grasslands. Our focused, highly visible sculptural interventions highlight three approaches to collaborating with wild and weedy plants in the “unlawning” process: Plot One will remain un-mowed all season, and Plot Two will be mowed three times. In Plot Three, all turf is being removed by hand in a workshop process, then the bare soil with be left to rewild from the soil seed bank (the seeds lying dormant in the soil).×
This iteration of Lawn Lab is presented in collaboration with NATURE Lab and the Sanctuary for Independent Media on Mohican land in what now is Troy, New York. Established in March 2020, this ongoing installation has grown into an “experimental unlawning” site, slated to have ten plots by the end of May, 2021. This site also includes wild sunflower plants that are part of a civic science collaboration with the Land Institute, and the 2020 Salmon Creek Farm Seed Mix (#scfseedmix). At this site, Lawn Lab intervenes in a feral lawn that is recovering from being a parking lot, and still has asphalt embedded underneath it in many locations. It is located on a vibrant block in North Central Troy which is also home to Collard City Growers and NATURE Lab’s environmental education building, with its People’s Health Clinic and Water Justice Lab.
A 2021 Plot Guide is now available for this site, as is an observation worksheet for onsite fieldwork. On May 6th and 7th 2021, two new plots were established in small workshops, themed around evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) and caregiving among and between plants and humans. Some documentation here.
Last fall there was an audio tour available for this site, which has now been translated into an experimental audio/video tour (original audio tour page is here). This info sheet was also provided for orientation at the site.
This (re)disturbance plot is hosted by Radix Center, an organization focused ecological literacy and environmental stewardship in Albany’s South End. The single plot is located on a small patch of lawn amongst the many other activities taking place on the 1/2 acre site, which used to be a gas station parking lot. While the pandemic prevented our educational programming during the 2020 season, we’re looking forward to working with the center in 2021.×
Wheaton College hosted three Lawn (Re)Disturbance Laboratory Plots during the 2019 growing season, in tandem with the exhibition Into the Weeds: Art and the Natural World. We created a plot disturbance manual so that curator Elizabeth Hoy, working with art and biology students and interns, could do the disturbances ahead of the fall exhibition. The three plots were spread around campus and each ended up being inhabited by different plant populations, from pokeweed (Phytolacca Americana) to broadleaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata). One particularly vigorous patch was mowed down by groundskeepers part way through the run of the show, always a possibility when collaborating with wild and weedy plants in a highly manicured setting. Images below are from the gallery exhibition that accompanied the plots, and the seed collecting workshop NESL held during exhibition’s opening weekend.
Located on the lawns of Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, this iteration of the Lawn (Re)Disturbance Laboratory involved two plots reset to bare soil and given several months to rewild from the soil seed bank. The installation was created to accompany the exhibition New World Water, and also included an exhibition handout with a map of the plot locations and information about the project.
The pilot season of the Lawn (Re)Disturbance Laboratory took place across residential and institutional lawns in Troy and Cohoes, New York. Six plots were hosted by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (where Ellie is a Phd student) in partnership with the Arts Department and the Landscape Operations team. Two plots were facilitated by Community Miracles in Action in Cohoes, and hosted in the yard of a convenience store and a local church. The remaining four plots were facilitated by the Sanctuary for Independent Media’s NATURE Lab in North Central Troy and hosted on their green space and in local residents yards. Several plots were established in workshop settings, and group fieldwork was carried out across the season, followed by fall wrap up and herbarium specimen making workshops.