In focus: The patch of grass on wheels.
The patch of grass on wheels is a piece of social sculpture and social architecture. Made in Sheffield in 2019.
Where does land end and object begin? This philosophical question is key to understanding our legal relation between land and object.
Land ownership and object ownership are different kinds of ownership. This isn’t necessarily because of their innate qualities: for example, the material they are made of.
It is because of the physical connection they have to other objects and this relationship. Land ownership follows a root-tree system that charts connections.
For example, a household object like a chair is defined as an object. But if the very same chair was attached to the wall then this wall would be chronologically connected to the earth because of its proxy. The chair would be by extension part of the ground underneath it. This would imply that it is owned by whoever owns the land. In this way, we can understand that ownership is essentially the logic of extension through causal connection.
This logic has many interesting legal side effects in many cases. For example, If you ever find yourself in debt, the bailiffs are knocking on your door, then you may not need to worry. That’s is if your objects are attached to the floor and walls. It means that people are legally restricted from taking them. They are understood as being owned by the homeowner at this point.
You could also argue that much of our hanging picture framing and artworks are a product of this logic. There is a division between building (owned by the landowner) and art object (owned by tenant), and this system has affected the contemporary art world.
This logic also encapsulates the division between architecture and art. Whereas architecture is connected to the land and operates within land’s legal logic, art is conceived as an object and operates within an object’s legal logic.
‘That's not a real building!’ Temporary architecture, in form and theory.
“legal and economic structures so deeply change people’s behavior” — Anne Pettifor.
Arr things that can be taken away with us still architecture? Critics of temporary architecture claim it's not real it’s not attached to the floor. These legal limits surrounding land influence contagion with the practice of architecture as a service.
Social contracts, space, and psyche:
The law does not exist only on paper. Rather leverages social contracts around us. The majority of these levers create an all-pervasive narrative, and often to the point that they have become socially invisible. Social contracts become embedded in social rituals. Within this social scaffold, it becomes very easy to mistake social behavior as a natural behavior. Rather than something that exists as a result of society's legal pre-conditioning.
However, legally rooted social constructs do go on to influence our relationships in ways that are much more abstract and far-reaching than most can pinpoint. They emerge through the vector of interaction and within society as part of wider social consensus, they aren’t enforced by any single individual. They then become part of our subconscious and eventually, through socialized normality, our laws are absorbed into our being: they become part of us. We act and think we are the creator of these laws. Finally, we act as defenders of these laws.
The social license of land.
These legal parameters inform our operations in business. Legal limitations mean action and techniques need to relate to the simple logic of extension. This influences the way we look at design problems.
Many problems that exist in society are excluded from the design process of architecture. Space making doesn’t exert a clear relation to built form.
Sadly this means the use-value of space is highly simplified and relates only to that which is owned. Our potential to affect and make space, shape our perceptions around it, and deliver services suffers from reductivism. Meaning that people don’t always consider the complete array of factors, possibilities, and proposals that are part of the package of design, and in architecture too.
Because of this precondition land ownership leads to the social reproduction of a certain set of clear social relations. Often these extend into personal life and they go on to define the domestic activity, and interactions because land ownership happens far beyond land ownership. Do we ask what is possible within traditional space? What are the cycles of social and economic interaction held?
Because of this, our logics surrounding the object and spatial relationships give us particular faucets for freedom or construct situations for entrapment. As well as this, our material aspects give us deterministic preconditions. Certain ways of living, land ownership define our ability to socially reproduce lifestyle.
As land ownership leads to the social reproduction of social relations, these factors begin to define the domestic activity that is possible within traditional space.
Land of Possibilities.
‘Patch of Grass’ explored this thin legal hairline between object and land. In this case, simply putting a patch of grass on wheels starts to make land an object. Or by extension to make an object land.
The key idea is that the word ‘Land’ doesn’t mean what we think it means. When we speak about the land we often think we are talking about physical earth and any structure that is related to this piece of earth, such as the trees and hedges, sheds, or otherwise. But what if a patch of land is put onto some wheels like an object? What happens to the basket of land rights with this? How does this clear boundary or geolocation relate to traditional conceptualizations of land?
In its broadest, arguably the entire world is moving at every second, and no land is static. So at what point do movement and land correspond?
So by putting a patch of grass on wheels, I inverted the logic of object and land. I wanted to do what mathematicians do. Rearranging an equation to see if it makes sense. To give proof that it doesn’t make sense: or by proving it to be wrong through QED. In this way, I explored the idea of land, building, and object relationships. And start to rethink the logic of the extension we use.
The patch of grass seems jovial and quite absurd. But at the root of it, the patch of grass explodes something inherently illogical about our concepts of land. In particular, it explores the connections and relations. By putting what is traditionally understood as ‘land’ on some wheels, we begin to realize that what we define as ‘land’ is actually not land at all, rather a hyper-object of ownership logics and social preconditions. A form of the virtual object in the psyche of multiple parties interacting with one another.
This brings us to the conclusion that all land is virtual. But within this knowledge, the connection between what is physical and what is virtual is also confusing. If the land is virtual then why are the limits of ownership physical? Or why is the root-tree system of logic still the system of logic we use? The logic of connection. So a patch of grass is an absurdity within an absurd construct.
But its piece of satirical architecture is simultaneously an object, and simultaneously land.
-It is an object, but it is also land. It falls under the ownership logic of objects but in its physical form, it is land.
-It is not an enclosure but it creates a space. It conceptualizes the dialogue at the heart of temporality and introduces a more honest understanding of space.
-Unpicking the interplay between base economic ownership and larger social parameters, we enable new forms to be built.
A patch of grass goes for a walk.
In promoting this change the patch of grass allowed discussions around new ideas in the land. One day we wheeled the patch of grass to the town hall. It provided a stage-like platform for land conversations outside of the hall. It also hosted several performances, these included protests, concerts, and ceremonies. But exposed the difficulties of engaging with the local authority of castle-gate.
The patch of grass also began a new dialogue around the new forms of virtual ownership. “Maybe one day every piece of grass will be on wheels” was a hint towards the complete virtualization of ownership. And the acknowledgment of the inherently shifting boundaries of a property, an object that might need to be conceptualized.
Society might also shift as ownership evolves. New ways of conceptualizing land become plausible. This could flip our idea of land,transform it into something more expansive. Something to that can be rearranged according to shifting realities and move beyond a landlord and rentier dynamic that emerges from feudalist concepts.
Land as a system of oppression.
To exemplify the extended impact of land models I created a Neo-Hogarthian print. The print is an accompaniment to the Patch of grass exhibition. The image showed a patch of grass in the center with two local politicians stamping on the grass as homeless people try to crawl out from underneath it. Showing how ownership of land also counterintuitively makes us hostile to those who do not own land. The thinking is that because we have a tree and root system, anything beyond this system must be ostracised.
In the prints background a new but empty Barratt home is depicted, the Estate agent is trying to sell the house to people who are crawling on the floor. In the foreground, two economists are fighting with a highly academic textbook in a clenched fist. A hot take on the things going on today as the property sector thrives on inequality, politicians continue to undermine the prevalent struggle and the unhoused struggle both in plain sight and hidden.
Virtual land ownership.
Ideas of liquid land were also explored. This means ownership and housing, and also a free form single relations towards transformative relationship where users and owners interrelate with land in a more liquid fashion: to put it another way the land ‘on wheels’ represented increased liquidity In land and housing ownership, something that could be pulled around with new potentiality transformative forms of ownership.
This wasmultifaceted. For example, the Patch of Grass was arguably one of the first pieces of land in the U.K to have an NFT issued about its ownership. As a piece of art exploring this topic in 2019. Since this, the relation between virtualization physical boundaries and digital have further become blurred.