A field: to seed, or not to seed
To seed, or not to seed. The initial presumption of this issue is not absolute. Abraham Joshua Heschel challenged the insufficient Shakespearean dichotomy: “To be, or not to be is not the question, the vital question is how to be, and how not to be.”1 The existence of a designer is determined by the purpose or need to create, but also by the act of placing. And by doing so, the placement must acknowledge the existence of other selves beyond humanity. If architecture acquires its meaning when set in a specific context, then the dilemma is not around its existence but around how it is existing. Around how it is seeding its situation.
The vital question becomes: How do human interventions alter a context, or the field in which objects are placed? And whether these ground alterations impact the material substrate and atmosphere; or have anthropological and mythological implications for the site. It is also necessary to understand the field’s multiplicity, to recognize diverse operations in the act of seeding. Having brought to light, in this issue, the various meanings of the word seed, should we stop or keep on seeding? Should we celebrate design as an instrument for ameliorating the landscape, or should we instead blame it for its degradation? What alternatives and what agencies does the designer have when stepping into a field?
This issue of P!, through twelve original pieces, explores and debates the action of seeding and the complexities that surround it. In this collection of writings, the authors expand beyond the initial editorial question, to seed, or not to seed, and inevitably question the how of this operation. It is mostly a reflection on whether placing a seed – metaphysically or literally – gives ground to a community or generates displacement because it was wrongly seeded. It delves into the layers, down to the core, of the soil’s memory. It examines how we foster the ground, and the political implications of the act, looking at destructive events under a new light, and speculating on the importance of undoing the act of seeding.
The connecting thread in this issue is the transition from a partisan standpoint – in which the design object acts for, and in, itself – to one that addresses a macro vision. A perspective that pledges “to rethink the human – and the Architect – not from the perspective of its mastery of the Creation as we used to, but from the perspective of its finitude and its possible extinction.”2 With that same impetus, this issue aims to contribute to a list of thinkers that look into the ephemerality and multiplicity of the field, and to the importance of extending power to an active beyond-human vision of the landscape. And yet, the questions remain open-ended, and infinite.
How to seed, or how not to seed; how to unseed, or how not to reseed; how to transseed, or how not to supraseed. Those are the (initial) questions, and the issue – and this issue –.
- Abraham Joshua Heschel and Susannah Heschel, Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1999), 264. ↩︎
- “and the Architect” is an alteration of the original quote by the editors of this issue. See Achille Mbembe, Decolonizing Knowledge and the Question of the Archive (Johannesburg: University of the Witwatersrand, 2015), 25. ↩︎