AMERICAN LAWN: SURFACE OF EVERYDAY LIFE

Exhibition

Montreal, Canada

1998

This multi-media exhibition is a meditation on the complex culture of the lawn. The exhibition portrays the lawn as a benign platform of controlled domestic growth and as a sinister surface of repressed horror. The lawn is presented as anything but natural. It is revealed as an engineered product, patented, and subjected to laws of industry and genetic science. The representational function of the lawn is deciphered: in federal and institutional landscape the lawn is used to symbolize collective solidarity; in corporate culture it is used to represent power and control; in domestic culture it is a battleground between the democratic image of uniformity and the right to self-expression guaranteed by the First Amendment. The exhibition traces the lawn from its British antecedents, through the development of the American suburb, to the present day eco-politics of the “freedom lawn.” Historic and contemporary materials, both artistic and scientific, from high and low culture are juxtaposed to demonstrate that there is more to that simple carpet of grass than meets the eye. Included are stereographic photos of unneighborly lot lines between properties, an inventory of lawn blemishes, a chronology of cleated turf shoes, a selection of grass species and species of Astroturf, and archival news footage of political activity involving the lawn.

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