Instrumentality as a material practice is interested in the ways that operating tools engaged with the landscape medium can generate the conditions for recreation and industry.  For field research this project is undertaking two studies of wildly different scales- the operation of earthmovers and backhoes for constructing a strip mall next to  the suburban office headquarters at the Northrop Grunman facility on highway 29 near Charlottesville, Virginia, and pruning a hedge with a pair of Felco pruning shears. The method here is one of collage; aligning and overlaying a photo series, with some transparency, and color focus on the major operable parts that seems to be forming spaces, altering the material, changing the behavior of adjacent humans- in short, making landscape. These images are then overlaid with a layer of data- dimensions and lists- which are more typically reserved for the spatial orthographic drawings such as plan and section.  The intent is to lend some specificity and immediacy to the operation of the tools visibly at work. Backhoe excavation at the Northrop Grunman facility:

the operating backhoe adjacent to the city sidewalk and the cars of highway 29 creates a moment of interest, and pehaps perceived danger on the road. Here the backhoe is being used to excavate a trench for a sewer pipe. It is then used to lower segments of the precast pipe into place with a cable attached to the articulated arm, while workers shuffle around its bucket shovel to guide the pipe segment. Cars and people pass only a few feet away; admittedly many more cars than people while an ailanthus tree sprouts in the forground, protected from trampling by the guardrail. The powerful, graceful movements of the triple-articulated arm of the backhoe works steadily to excavate the land it rests on; the views it frames, the raidii it creates, and the interaction moments with people, machines, and material work to generate landscape while excavating for building footers or utility pipes. The process of the backhoe excavating and dropping its payload into an earthmover not only changes the actual ground in the fore, it frames and activates the background and the atmosphere, releases dust and earth into the air and heaping piles of dirt around the exchange point; the specific arcs and lines created by the operating tools are the objects that work to create this provisional landscape.

Felco pruners on carpinus carolinia:

Michael pruning a carpinus caroliniana- ironwood. the pruners are the most extreme tip of the entire tool- the human body that ducks in and out of the vegetation choosing the right limbs to prune, pushing the others aside

most of the radii and power are provided by the human body; the pruners add a cutting edge, leverage, and one additional radius

the pruner, the tree, and the person are all in total motion when pruning is taking place; though the scale is much small, the involvement is total

These instances of instrumentality as a material practice are representative examples meant to examine activities operating at different economic, expertise, and spatial scales:  the operation of backhoes and construction of commercial research facilities are typically considered industrial operations, whereas the use of felco pruners are usually a maintenance or recreational activity.  The working of these tools lends an immediacy and agency to the inhabitants of the landscape- it is a form of actualized potential.  The confrontation between material and tool creates views, establishes safety zones, demarcates areas for working and walking, and generates new habitats and materials.

conclusion:  Two facts germane to a working theory of landscape instrumentalism immediately spring to the fore through this study- 1) the engagement of machines, tools, and implements can create and generate landscape; framing views, making micro-topographies, habitats, new forms, and 2) the disparate scales must immediately be grappled with.  Our representational technique seemed interesting when dealing with a large landscape in general stasis, but when the landscape was a single tree canopy and small scale tool moving all over the place the effect is nauseating.

Can environmental remediation operations generate the conditions for industry and recreation along the canal?

The water hyacinth, native to the estuary, has bloomed in the Riachuelo before to such an extent that industrial shipping operations were shut down in 1905 and 1967; the hyacinth grows at an incredible rate, provides habitat, and is a hyperaccumulator of heavy metals that frequently result from industrial operations, such as cadmium

To start the project; a speculation on the potentiality of the canalized portion of the Riachuelo in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  The project proposes that the environmental remediation operations necessitated by the federal court “Mendoza” decision of 2008.  The operations are to intended to be carried out by the river basin authority, ACUMAR.

This speculation proposes the humble water hyacinth and the rumbling dredge to generate a series of ephemeral landscapes in the canal and at the mouth of the river.  The intent is to use the speculation as a method for bringing up the right questions.

The operations would happen at various scales- picking hyacinth, operating a dredger, conveyor belt systems, sedimentation- over decades.  The plan set would necessarily be secondary to continual maintenance and construction processes.

year 2011

year 2013- the first move is to inhabit the canal, create a processing center for the dredge spoils, and open access to the new public-industrial landscape with a pedestrian bridge (in red);the canal surface has been taken over by water hyacinth and navigation channels for the harvest boats and dredgers are maintained; a sediment processing platform is created at the mouth of the Riachuelo

year 2060- a poldering construction system, using the demolition debris from infrastructural projects in the city, allows for the establishment of new sediment catchment basins near the dredge spoils processing platform; the continued collection and composting of hyacinth, processing dredge spoils, and sedimentation from the Rio de la Plata estuary begin to create new landforms within polder boundaries created from construction rubble

year 2100- the manufactured soils created from the spoiled industrial residue of the canal combines with the rich biome of the estuary to create a new urban nursery for reforesting the city; new public-industrial landscapes are created through continual remediation, recreation, and industrial operation along the canal

View of the Canal from La Boca neighborhood- the water hyacinth overtaking the Riachuelo Canal, generating a new public landscape.

View looking toward the Rio de la Plata- the new poldered lands are organized along a main spine; the spine is a bundle of functions, moving manufactured soil, people, and also separating the public landscape from the petrochemical dock; constructed spurs run between the poldered lands, subject to the flood; the adjacent polders are near eye level and protected from the salin waters of the Rio de la Plata.

looking back toward the city from the Rio de la Plata- newly constructed lands provide space for an urban nursery that reforests the city; sports fields, boating areas, and birding also begin.

This brings up several key questions useful to the current thesis regarding the material practice of instrumentality (a list in the thick of the editing process):

1. How would people (workers and recreational users) access the canal?

2. What instruments are needed to tend, harvest, transport, and compost the hyacinth?

3. What are the instruments used in dredging?  a) How frequently are they operating?  b) how is the loading and unloading best achieved?  c)  what is the best way to stockpile the volume?  d) how is the contaminated sediment treated and what are the necessary instruments in this process?

4) What are the space and machine requirements needed to produce manufactured soil?

(have a pithy, insightful question that I should really be addressing?  Feel free to post it!)