The Farm Fountain 5 is a continuation of research started in earlier Farm Fountain works by Ken Rinaldo and Amy Youngs. This was a more advanced ecosystem artwork that was to be strictly solar powered and based on the aquaponics project, we began in 2007 which was not solar. We have both worked with plants and created works looking to idealistic notions of symbiotic systems so, when given the chance to collaborate and expand on our ecosystem art experiments, we were thrilled to apply our ideas to a new location.
The idea for Farm Fountain, our original experiment in local, sustainable agriculture and recycling, began even earlier, as collaborative work created at Pilchuck Glass School in 2005. Almost immediately, we realized that a glass, hydroponic garden, while formally beautiful, was not so practical. It was quite fragile, the clear glass promoted algae growth, and the plants needed to have nutrients added into their water stream.
When we received the invitation from Cultivamos Cultura from Directors Marta de Menezes and Luis Graca, we were ecstatic to finally get the chance to see if we could create a completely solar-powered version of our Farm Fountain.
In Columbus Ohio where we live, putting this project outside, where the sunlight could sustainably provide this energy, would only work in the summer since our winter climate would kill the plants and fish. We needed a better climate and the Alentejo region of Portugal has it.
The location of the Cultivamos Cultura residency, in the sunny, never freezing agricultural area of Portugal was fortuitous, but even more so, was the particular focus this residency has on the challenging forms of eco-art and bio-art. We have discovered that working with living organisms and water inside galleries and museums it is difficult since plants tend to like the natural light which is not what traditional artworks call for and therefore not what art spaces are designed to supply.
In conclusion, we feel that we were able to create a work of functional edible art and a place to imagine the future of sustainable agricultural practices. We were able to confirm that indeed the sun, which powers all, was also able to integrate well with technological systems in the creation of this garden. The knowledge that the hotel cooks are now using our natural herbs as garnishes and ingredients in the sandwiches they were creating for hotel guests made this experience rewarding beyond words.
Still, as with much of our work, the piece created ideas for future modifications we would like to make. What we learned from our Solar Farm Fountain has certainly influenced the ecosystem artworks we are each currently developing.
With the lingering question about where to get sustainable fish food, Amy Youngs began working with worms as possible protein sources and later employed them as the fertilizing agents directly. This new process, called vermiponics, is still very much in development but has promise as a way to use food waste as the main system input, rather than fish food.
These were implemented in our home Farm Fountain systems we had in our green pantry.
Since then Amy Youngs has developed a new garden called the Machine for Living Interdependently and Ken Rinaldo has developed new grow vertical bags that also implement worms as fertilizer sources for plants in his Cascading Gardens project.
There is much exciting research to do and we continue to evolve our designs for local sustainable agricultural systems.
Nature Arte Hotel and Cultivamos Cultura Portugal Solar Farm Fountain in Collaboration with Amy Youngs 2009