Work title: Farmland World (0000901800)
FARMLAND WORLD: Rural Renewal
The nature of farming is forever changed.
Farming is a practice that by it’s own nature unites humans, technology and animals in productive combinations. Hybrids and various mutant bio-mechanical mixtures—Caterpillar combines, John Deere tractors, etc.—began transforming the rural landscape of America beginning in the early 20th century by subjugating the pastoral ideal to the ingenuity of human invention. By 1954, tractors outnumbered horses and mules for the first time. Since then, the farm has continued as a complex exchange between humans, animals, machines and land to the point where delineations between these categories are permanently intertwined and indistinct.
Today, the overriding agri-business attitude towards solving the problem of the farm is to remove humans from the equation. The everyday life of the average American is almost completely disconnected from the land and animals that support them. Even farmers perform their duties primarily through automated mechanisms that remove them from the subject of their industry. The constructed distance between the human “us” and the animal “others” is increasing to the point that distinctions between machines and animals look blurry purely from distanced detachment. From our removed perspective, the extreme demand for cheap food production and the diversion of the pet economy distorts animals until they look more like utilitarian machines (bacon) or anthropomorphic projections to entertain and decorate (tea-cup terrier). As we relate to animals and machines similarly, where each begins to exhibit characteristics of the other, their converging trajectories point to an impending crisis at their collision.
While we sift through the broken branches of our ecological dependencies, the need to reconnect with our literal and figurative roots is exposed in revealing ways. Eco-anxiety and eco-guilt are psychological disorders defined as the persistent nagging concern for environmental issues. These conditions result from the inability to grasp our contribution to the natural world and the helplessness associated with our disconnection from it. A potential cure is to carry a piece of bark in your pocket as a visceral reminder. Further, in 2010, the hugely successful on-line virtual farm, Farmville, engaged over 73 million users. It mixed humans, animals, social networks, commerce and the rural landscape in one giant collective gaming phenomenon. The virtual game broke all gaming rules, but remarkably revealed the ability of the farm to encourage social bonds.
The overlaps and mutable identities of animals and machines through technology are not just sites for crisis and detachment; they can also be the locus of unprecedented opportunity. Farmland World is a chain of agro-tourist resorts sprinkled across the American Midwestern countryside. Part theme park and part working farm, guests arrive to the resort via train and stay as part of 1-day, 3-day or 5-day experience packages. Capitalizing on both recent governmental investments in high-speed rail infrastructure and the plentiful subsidies for farming, the network of resorts combine crowd-sourced farm labor with eco-tainment.
Farmland World is a human/machine/animal hybrid adventure-land. As our animal-machine identity blurs beyond imagination, so does our connection with the land on which we roam. Metal monsters move, shape and contour the land and drastically alter our relationship to space, time and ecology. With this ubiquitous condition as our new everyday reality, our perception of the pastoral and the sentimentality of farm life must change to engage the human participation that shapes our existence.
What are the techno-natural hybrids that will capture the wonder of today''s urbanites? Farmland World proposes a new condition, which repurposes the rural, where animatronic appliances explore the world''s largest free-range zoological garden. Can humans commune with machines, cohabitant with animals and cultivate the land in a mutually beneficial way? In Farmland World, Animal Farmatures create a majestic terrain of roaming beast, simultaneously cultivating farmland and entertaining in a rural-techno spectacle. The robotic performers extend the tradition of machines using and mimicking animals for moving, operating, branding and processing food crops while temporary farm excursionists work, sowing and harvesting fields, becoming part of the herd. Farmland World embraces this hybrid human-animal-machine relationship reinvigorating the rural landscape.
From the moment travelers arrive to the resort, they are instantly captivated by Farmland''s hyper-techno pastoral views. Commanded by the spectacle of the behemoth Farmhouse Bulb Hotel rising from the prairie with sights once reserved for the gods, the farm excursionists are completely enraptured by Farmerlust. After all, their curiousity was piqued when the self-imposed daily chores promised to distract them from the toil of their daily lives. As train-loads of itinerant fantasy farmers arrive, they are herded to the Grazing Coliseum to receive their complimentary overalls. From there, the adventure begins.