Outer Seed Shadow (OSS) is a series of public art interventions that materializes the union between plant and human interaction, using different plant species as representatives of social groups or individuals. OSS It is an investigation that can happen at different geographic levels—county, city, borough, neighborhood, district, block or building—.
The main component of the intervention is the creation of a garden based upon a series of video interviews in which plants are self-identified by specific subjects and then placed according to the interviewees’ real- life physical, political or emotional locations within their community. For several months the installation functions as a community garden hosting weekly workshops made in partnership with local groups and institutions. The outcome of OSS is an informed discussion generated from visitors and participants about local community interactions and the politics of the issues addressed in each specific garden.
Manhattan and its history of immigration served as the limiting boundary for the #01 of the series. Having over 50,000 visitors, OSS#01 drew people from NYC and beyond to experience what it has been at once a public art installation, community garden and educational center, designed to transform a barren plaza (Duarte Square in Soho) into an open green space for community discussion. OSS#01 started with a series of videotaped interviews with immigrants living in Manhattan in order to document their stories of migration and cultural adaptation. Each participant was then asked to select a plant native to their country of origin that is also found in the United States, which represents both the individual and his or her cultural heritage.
Made in conjuction with NYC Dept of Parks and Recreation, a Manhattan-shaped garden bed was built in May 2014 at Duarte Square. Located on the Avenue of the Americas, this small park—named after the Dominican Republican liberator—exists at the crossroads of neighborhoods with strong immigration histories. The plants selected by the interviewees were placed at the equivalent location of the person it represents under the guidance of the The Horticultural Society of New York (The Hort). Furthermore, The Hort’s Green Team, a program to help newly released prisoners transition back into their communities, provided maintenance, care and assistance to the garden and its public programming for the 7 months duration of the installation.
OSS#01 was created by the community and for the community—Free and open to the public, the garden was at the core of a series of programming that included workshops, lectures, and the signature “Open Garden” program, in which once a week there was a workshop made in partnership with different local immigrant and educational institutions like City Parks Foundation, The Blue School, SVA, Columbia University, Henry Street Sttlement-Abrons Arts Center or El Centro del Inmigrante, among others, who performed the care necessary to ensure the challenging survival of the plants. At the end of the project, the plants were given away to the public through an adoption process.
OSS#01 created awareness of the reality of today’s immigration in NYC and beyond using the garden and its creative potential as a ground for investigation, first among the immigrant community itself, and as the project progressed involving the public at large.