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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

March 2007 Issue

Garden Snake
In San Francisco, landscape architects and artists collaborate to rescue a neighborhood park from urban blight.

By Zahid Sardar

Garden Snake San Francisco Chronicle

New art parks in the Mission District and other parts of San Francisco represent a quiet kind of activism against urban rot brought on by illegal drug dealing and other crimes. Activism and art have never been far apart, if you look at religious and political history. More recently, art in the United States and abroad has been swept into a new movement that engages another kind of omnipresence—corporate hegemony.

Avant-garde Danish group SuperFlex, in residence at Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, California, is driving home the idea that its arcane experiments—biogas-collecting balloons in Tanzania and Thailand; blacked-out no-name labels, tongue-in-cheek ad films, and other branding materials for a new energy drink in Brazil—are art.

Perhaps. But by trying to make their interactive art projects viable businesses that local growers and farmers can adopt, SuperFlex is pitting itself against powerful international corporations that usurp resources to the detriment of locals.

In a similar sense, the revitalized 24th and York Street Minipark in San Francisco symbolizes a retaking of public land usurped by nefarious businesses.

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