On October 2018 I started a residence in the green service of Ergon. Why? Because I was researching the ressources of my neighbourhood. I once picked a yellow fruit from a bush in the street that ressembled a small apple and smelled really good. Later on I met a team of green workers and asked them wether it was edible. And I though they had a privileged position to know about the neighbourhood, since they spent their time actually shaping its appeareance, taking care of "its commons", and just being out there all day long. So I asked to be their intern for a day. I worked with them for one day, then two. It was pleasant for them to have someone external Showing interest for their work, and they were happy to reply to my questions. I finally asked them if I could be of some help as designer - and went with a proposal to their management team : trying to help connect better the green workers and the inhabitants from one neighbourhood.
I became their first artist in residence (for the duration of my graduation period). I ended my residence with an exhibition set up in the neighbourhood and a series of actions that Ergon could implement.

my first day as intern with the green workers

not only I tried their work...we exchanged!

how different employees perceived my work

Now : waiting and working for Ergon to implement a real artist in residence at their company, and in order to keep contact and continue my research, I am working part time as one of their gardener. I see this new position as a working residency. It brings challenges in order to keep being creative, observing and enthusiast while dealing with physicall tiredness and being treated the same way as the other workers (although I have a bit of priviledge status, I can still take picture and ask questions). I am less of an outsider, get use to the institute and loose a bit my external, free thinker, radical point of view. On the other hand, I know the work from the inside, and get a better glimpse of the challenges and potentials that awaits me in my project. And I builded new links with my colleague and my boss (still using food!). I am learning a lot about work and labour environement. And also very much about plants, which are fascinating!! I use my free time to communicate impressions or anecdote from my work as gardener through instagram and a series of linocuts and prints.

The concept :

Have you ever walked in a park in Eindhoven, during the fall? You will see bright green grass kept neat and tidy by any of the numerous green workers employed by the city. Even with bright safety uniforms, they still remain unnoticed, and their work relatively  unknown. The workers follow and apply very specific regulations concerning the upkeep of public space such as squaring curves, measuring plants, and cleaning the leaves, weeds and fruits from the street … These rules create a physical distance between nature itself, a sort of psychorigid control that is unsustainable and seeps into the relationship between city dwellers and nature itself. There is also the psychological distance between manual city laborers and the citizens themselves. Building a bridge and reframing the context elevates the status of both the work, the worker and the inhabitants, and creates sense of neighbourhood by integrating agency and responsibility.

The goal :
Changing the position of the "green workers" into "Buurttuiniers": neighbourhood gardeners who can make use of their local expertise to help inhabitants relate to their immediate green environment, take pleasure from it and agree on a more sustainable maintenance plan.

photo by Dané Vonk

photo by Dané Vonk

photo by Dané Vonk

How to trigger inhabitants curiosity for public green ?

with giving the voice to the gardeners"

with giving them information about the current management

and with letting them express their ideal maintenance

with food from the bushes

with flowers :)

with showing them "the beautiful plants I have to kill"

with showing nature properties thanks to another angle

with illustrating the work of the gardeners

© 2018, Cécile Espinasse