US (NY): Vertical farming displayed in art gallery

Are we really that different? is a fully functional urban farm installation that grows plants in an unusual and definitively inhospitable environment: Gagosian’s Chelsea gallery in New York City.

The installation—now on view as part of Social Works, a group exhibition curated by Antwaun Sargent—is a collaboration between artist Linda Goode Bryant and architect Elizabeth Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro. It draws from Goode Bryant’s work with New York City-based Project EATS (the nonprofit urban farming organization she established, which responds to food equity issues), as well as her years running JAM (Just Above Midtown), a gallery that focused on uplifting work by African American artists. 

Goode Bryant says she wanted to grow food within an infrastructure that is human-made—the structure of the gallery and the building itself. Beyond that, the installation is designed to “present the possibility of a symbiosis that’s parasitic.”

She operates several farms in New York, but the inspiration for this installation reaches back to her childhood. “I grew up in Ohio, where houses are often laced with vines,” she said. “If you don’t cut the vines, they destroy the wood, or the wood may destroy the vines. We get to observe over the course of the installation whether or not the plants will destroy the host.”

The 40-foot-tall installation comes to life in a long hallway inside the gallery, where a narrow structure housing plant plots hangs from the gallery’s skylight. Because the sprinkler system couldn’t be hacked for irrigation, the plants are hydrated with water and nutrients delivered through IV “life support” pouches on the interior of the floating box.

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