Below is an article written by Emily Cook for the International Association a Paper Artists and Papermakers.
Seeded and Wrapped
For the past two months I’ve been travelling from my home in Toronto to my former home in Ottawa to complete a collaborative project with fellow artist Emily Comeau. We decided that we wanted to wrap a structure in seeded papers and see if we could make a living, growing sculpture. As these things often happen, we got the go ahead at the wrong time of year so compromises had to be made. We decided to accept the challenge as we saw the project as a trial run. The Awesome Foundation (Ottawa chapter) gave us a grant and asked us to start immediately.
This would have been very difficult without the aid of my family as neither of us had a car and we needed to transport large quantities of 9 ft saplings and various vines. These were found by culling some of the overgrown fields of family friends. We decided to create a type of huge book structure based on the concept of a tunnel book. We made a series of arches that created a life size book. Each arch was made of branches and covered in seeded flax and hemp paper filled with seeds that do well with a late planting, notably beans radishes and greens. Emily Comeau also made little houses that made were cyanotyped with images of plant growth.
The first weekend after some trial and error we erected one arch and covered it in paper I had made in Toronto and transported wet to Ottawa. By the time I was wrapping the paper around our armature the seeds were sprouting which looked beautiful, though we were worried that it might mean they wouldn’t survive. At 7pm the structure was up and we were out of paper. I had hoped that the predicted rain would stay away until the next morning so that our paper would have time to dry before being rained on but I woke up to torrents of rain in the middle of the night. The rain continued for most of the next day. I expected all the paper would be sitting in a heap at the bottom of the structure. Instead all but one sheet were perfectly intact. The paper was, moreover, beautifully pocked by the rain. I was thrilled and a little stunned. Flax and hemp are incredible fibres.
The next weekend we put up three more arches and the following weekend we printed page numbers on the arches and put up our little houses. Then we waited. Each weekend a little more paper had fallen under the pounding of the rain and a few more plants had grown. It’s still up, though it has needed reinforcement and repair twice but as the thoughts behind the piece were about transformation, deterioration and collaboration between human building and natural growth, we were happy to rebuild.
We will build new versions of the project next spring in Toronto and Montreal. This time we will use living willow branches to allow the structure itself to grow and change. The willow will take root and grow and plants will emerge from the seeded paper. We will be able to grow and harvest food from the seeds and train the vines up the structure. As we move through the season we will replace the paper with seeded paper appropriate to the season. The goal is to create an experiment that involves collaboration between the environment, the artists and the community involved.
We are grateful to the Awesome Foundation and the Ottawa Arts Court for giving us the opportunity to produce our experimental and temporary sculpture in Ottawa. We are also grateful to Jeff Ngan who made video and photo documentation of the installation.
Emily Cook: www.emilycook.ca
Emily Comeau: www.wordpress.emilycomeau.com
Jeff Ngan: http://equivocality.com/photography/project.