Counter-Monument to 100 Million Identical Blades of Grass
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“True, the weed produces no lilies, no battleships, no Sermons on the Mount… Eventually the weed gets the upper hand. Eventually things fall back into a state of China.”
– Henry Miller
During the First and Second World Wars, pressed by financial scarcity, the United States and England—but also Australia, Germany and Canada—launched massive campaigns aimed at fostering culture in every plot of land available in the territory. Working in families or in groups, citizens began to till tens of thousands of private gardens, play grounds, school grounds, and municipal parks, which they transformed into Victory Gardens. These gardens would end up providing up to half of the food resources for these countries in war time.
When the fighting ended this history was practically forgotten. The victory gardens were filled back in, covered with suburban lawns and football pitches. The war returns today in a different form. It is waged by those fighting in the name of cultural diversity (in the true sense of the word), but also diversity in ways of being, working, and thinking; by those intent on putting knowledge-sharing into practice, preserving and untangling common resources from private enterprise, and exercising collective action. These are other ways of speaking, today, of communism.
Some seventy years after the fact, the Canadian Conservative government announced it would fund a towering Memorial to the Victims of Communism, to be raised next to the Supreme Court of Canada, in Ottawa. In response to this announcement, the collective Les Entrepreneurs du commun issued an invitation to artists to think of a counter-monument, a memorial to the victims of liberty (Monument aux victimes de la liberté). This project aims to question the narrow use of the term “communism” promoted by the Conservative government, as well as the very idea of the memorial and its forms.
The accusations made by capitalist regimes against so-called communist regimes—which were, in reality, totalitarian regimes—is replayed in the announced Memorial to the Victims of Communism. In the uniformly spaced partitions of its concrete walls, but also in the perfect green of the lawn surrounding them, this memorial (along with so many others) drives home the values of order, fixity, and perpetual growth that are, in the West, synonymous with liberty and, in the East, with totalitarianism. In this memorial as elsewhere, the liberty of capitalism is the liberty to produce, ad infinitum, identical blades of grass whose splendor can be matched only by their most exquisite vulnerability.
Inspired by the quickly buried history of the Victory Gardens, Contre-monument à 100 millions de brins d’herbes identiques is not a memorial to victims, but an ode to a form of liberty that is effective, dispersed, plural and rhizomatic. A vegetal counter-monument capable of tracing other social and economic relationships, in contrast to capitalist models, whose legacy would be an annihilated common good. To the 100 million imprints symbolizing the “victims of communism” in the proposed Memorial, which will themselves be echoed by the 100 million impeccable blades of grass, I propose 1000 seeds that are wild, idiosyncratic and free.
Call for contributions
I am currently collecting seeds from organizations and individuals from across the world who are fighting against the imposition of “free enterprise” as the sole model for organizing society: groups fighting for the preservation and sharing of seeds, for the defense of peasants’ rights, or against GMOs; instigators of permaculture projects, community gardens, and green lanes; advocates of seed-bombing, dumpster-diving, or garden-squatting, etc.
Interested or curious individuals are encouraged to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org