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siteWARE:Chicago:Urbs in Horto

With Lia Rousset

siteWARE:Chicago was invited to the conference Feeding our Bodies of Knowledge organized by the Visual and Critical Studies department of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and held at the Jane Adams Hull House. The question, “What does locality mean?” led us from the library, down the Chicago River, across forest preserves in Palos Hills, and to Spence Farms three hours south of Chicago in search of three plants which have been attributed the name Chicago. Allium Tricoccum, native to the forest areas surrounding what is now Palos Hills, Allium Cernuum, native to the prairie and marsh lands surrounding Lake Michigan, and Allium Canedense, which is an invasive species abundant in both habitats have all been called Chicago. Attempting to trace the shifting use of the name, attribution, site and the availability of these plants, we found a dynamism of place.

For this event we offered a taste of place, a taste of these three plants. On the dishes, in the form of bricks, we stamped Chicago on one side and Checagou on the other. These two names, one European the other an approximation of Miami Indian, allude to differing priorities. The Miami Indians used the name to communicate the location of an early spring green vital to the food cycle as a source of vitamin C. By choosing the form of a brick, used as a plate, we reference historic Chicago bricks. We aim to explore place making through the social and the built.

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