Through projects that reveal the ways in which local politics are affected by globalization, artist and designer Amy Franceschini articulates perceived conflicts between humans and nature, creating formats for exchange and production that question and challenge the social, cultural and environmental systems that surround her. The founder of the international artists’ collective Futurefarmers, Franceschini is also co-founder of Free Soil, an international collective of artists, activists, researchers, and gardeners who work together to propose alternatives to the social, political and environmental organization of space. In 2010 she co-authored (with Daniel Tucker) the book Farm Together Now: A portrait of people, places and ideas for a new food movement for Chronicle Books. Franceschini received her BFA from San Francisco State University and her MFA from Stanford University. She is currently a visiting artist at California College of the Arts and Stanford University’s join M.A./M.F.A. program.
by Casey Carroll
Amy Franceschini began her presentation in the spirit of collaboration; a spirit which has marked much of her career. “Hypes and gripes” opened the discussion. Attendants went around the room responding to Franceschini’s request to: “Say one thing that you’re excited about,” and then “say one thing that frustrates you.” As each person was offered a mini spotlight, commonality culminated and a group formed. We were asked to be participants, not bystanders, in the next two hours that we shared this space with Franceschini, and that made for a room that felt alive.
Even though Franceschini doesn’t call herself an activist, (she prefers “pollinator”) there sure was a lot of action in her lecture. Action in the art she discussed, action in the way she spoke, action in the purpose of her practice. Franceschini introduced the audience to her artistic inspirations offering a glimpse into the roots of her creative endeavors but moved quickly into the meat of her presentation—a discussion of her own impressive list of artistic accomplishments. Her collaborative projects with Futurefarmers—a group of practitioners aligned to “cultivate consciousness”—took the main stage.
The Victory Gardens (2009) project was highlighted. Victory Gardens was a two-year pilot program with a mission to support the transition of urban backyard, front yard, window boxes, rooftops and other unused land into food production areas. And although she cruised through various other artistic projects, only mentioning a handful of others for the sake of time, Franceschini did go into greater depth discussing her two latest projects. The first being: This is Not a Trojan Horse (2010)—a large, human-powered, wooden horse designed by Futurefarmers with architect Lode Vranken. The horse was built in Abruzzo, Italy, and emerged as a vehicle for social and material exchange at a pivotal moment in this region. The second: Futurefarmers’ 2011 project—The Shoemakers Dialogues—a nine-day “urban thinkery” centered around a shoemaker’s atelier installed in the Guggenheim Museum’s Rotunda in New York.
Her presentation concluded with an intriguing conversation regarding her current collaborative research project with Michael Swaine inspired by Charles and Ray Eames’s film, Powers of Ten (1977). For this work, Franceschini asks: What are the edges of understanding? Where is there still mystery? And how are researchers moving towards these “unknown” territories?
As the presentation came to a close, the profound simplicity of these questions lingered in the minds of all those who attended. How, if we work together, can we push these edges further?