2007 iLAB Residents

About iLAB


The City From a Plants Perspective: Mapping NYC as Native Flora

is a collaboration between Choreographer Lise Brenner, Curator of Native Plants Ulrich Lorimer (at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden), and Landscape Architect and Visual Artist Katrina Simon. The residency was held during July – October, 2007, in NYC.INITIAL CONCEPT:
Plants, landscapes and people exist as and within physical structures that all move, all the time. So, botany, design, and choreography should have points at which investigative methods, classification systems, and ideal outcomes will intersect, and possibly even strengthen one another.

What we do must both draw on and be useful for all 3 disciplines


  • Where are New York City native plant communities actually located?
  • What are their characteristics and how are they integrated into the urban landscape?
  • How does putting native plants at the center of my focus alter my perception of the city, especially ’empty’ lots and waste areas? What does it do to my mental map of New York?
  • How do plants move?
  • How do plant communities move?
  • How is tracking native plants also movement and choreographic research?
  • Map making is a creative process that we are all engaged in on a daily basis
  • How can choreography be understood as a form of map making?
  • How is data collection integral to art making?
  • What does making art bring to data collection?
  • What is a map?
  • How can the combination of our disciplines be used to get people out in the city, enjoying and perhaps coming to value the natural resources on offer?

ACTIVITIES UNDERTAKEN (roughly in chronological order):

  • Identify native plant communities in New York City to find two distinctive sites
  • Share bibliographies (see Resource List)
  • Make site visits (see photos)
  • Create a shared classification system, based on 7 qualities of human movement utilized in ballet technique (see Project Documentation)
  • When collective shift or sudden realization occurs, capture it in writing and incorporate into Matrix
  • Matrix stayed open-ended; modelling how collaborative activity can expand ideas and practices
  • Capture images hinting at ideas being discussed while on site (see photos)
  • Plan interactive public events, facilitating active experimentation with data collection, creative map making, and looking at the landscape from a variety of perspectives
  • Public events = experiment with collective data collection as both a deductive and creative activity (see photos, especially participant’s notebooks)
  • Reflection and discussion

FLOYD BENNETT FIELD, Sunday, September 30, 2007, 12-5pm; Floyd Benett Field / Ryan’s Visitor Center, Brooklyn, NY.

  • Floyd Bennett Field, eastern side – dune habitat
  • Floyd Bennett Field, western side – runway and beach

CONEY ISLAND, Friday, October 5, 2007, 5pm; Coney Island / Nathan’s, Brooklyn, NY.

Plants, Movement, and Landscape 1 
Starting from the reality of walking around an urban landscape, looking for native plants, my questions were very basic: what do we actually do? What do I actually experience? What is interesting about it? … ideas about mapping started from there. Lise Brenner

The idea that plants can move around, even hundreds of miles away, is quite alien to some people. It is a process that occurs on a time scale much larger than our lifetime and is therefore hard to grasp immediately. I have a lot of faith and hope in our local ecosystems and their ability to restore themselves to equilibrium. Uli Lorimer

I found concentrating on movement in its many aspects a rich way to consider the potential and inherent resilience of the plant world. Katrina Simon

Plants, Movement, and Landscape 2 (Time) 
…apparently simple idea of ‘movement’ …shed light on the relationships of kinetic movement on several different planes of thinking and on varied time scales… It gave me a sense of how layered and ingenious ecological processes are, and how contingent Katrina Simon

I realized that what I was interested in was ‘found choreography’… landscape as the locus for research into movement: quality, juxtaposition… the differences between ecological/biological/human/built/natural etc timeframes… For me this is all fundamental to the craft (and discussion) of choreography and dancing. Lise Brenner

Plants, Movement, and Landscape 3 (Succession, Dispersal)
…plant succession and disturbance and the impact of human activities… dovetails nicely with landscape architecture, particularly when discussing urban planning and land use. We must be able to find a sustainable balance between natural space and urban/societal progression…Katrina Simon

In the public events, we started with the plants, and the habitat, which is how we ourselves started; it was our point of reference. Our goal was to encourage people to see more, or differently, and the plants gave a focus and a reason for doing that. Lise Brenner

Plants, Movement, and Landscape 4 (Disturbance)
…habitats as sites of movement research… an exercise in abstract art-making, grounded in AND MADE POSSIBLE BY having the plants as concrete points of reference. Uli’s teaching about dispersal, disturbance, etc. provided a series of patterns through which all the random observations (about wind in the grass, how the milkweed pod explodes, which plants are native, which are introduced, etc) could be arranged. It helped the walkers to differentiate, and then to start choosing how they wanted to see a place… the first step to mapping, and to creative seeing … Lise Brenner

…when open but a few more eyes to the natural splendour which exists at the edges of our city, then those enlightened people can begin to value such spaces. The more people value natural areas, wherever and as they are, the closer we can come to the equilibrium I spoke of earlier between urban and natural environments. Uli Lorimer

Project Bibliography – Download as PDF

Project Documentation- Download as PDFs
Matrix Version 1
Matrix Version 2
Matrix Version 3 – Condensed
Matrix Version 4 – Floyd Bennett Pictorial

NYNYNY at Flux Factory Overview

Floyd Bennett

Floyd Bennett Book 1
Floyd Bennett Book 2
Vegetation Map, Floyd Bennett Field

Coney Island

Coney Island Book
Coney Island Handout

Lise Brenner, Choreographer, NYC
Ulrich Lorimer, Curator, Native Plants, Brooklyn Botanical Garden, NYC
Katrina Simon, Landscape architect and visual artist, Sydney, Australia

Collaborator Bios:
Lise Brenner is a choreographer whose recent work has been motivated by the desire to understand what makes a given place unique. Recent works include The Great Migration (Theatr Felinfach, Wales, 2003); RADIODANCE (Radio Patapoe and De Appel, Amsterdam, 2004) a collaboration with sound artist Colin McLean and designer/architect Marion Traenkle; Peter Stuyvesant’s Ghost (New York, 2006, archived at http://www.free103point9.org/psg.php) a series of events and walking tours involving sound artists from the US and abroad, public pay phones, NY Audubon and the Wildlife Conservation Society; and MASS (New York, 2007) in collaboration with opera composer Eddy Ficklin. Formerly on the ballet faculty of Alfredo Corvino’s Dance Circle Studio (New York), she teaches ballet, contemporary technique, and composition in the Netherlands, Germany, Wales and the US. Her first academic article is due to be published in the U.K.-based performance theory journal “Parallax” in late 2007.

Ulrich Lorimer is Curator of Native Flora at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. A graduate of the University of Delaware Plant Science Department, he has nurtured a lifelong passion for the outdoors, native woodlands and their plant communities. He teaches at the garden on soil and pest management as well as on native and invasive plants.

Katrina Simon has a background in both architecture and landscape architecture and is currently Senior Lecturer in Landscape Architecture at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. She has received numerous design awards for ideas competitions and collaborative urban design projects, and has published articles on design research, design criticism and cemetery history and theory. Her research includes an ongoing exhibition practice which explores cartographic representation of landscape, in particular the relationships between three dimensional form and two dimensional representation, most often explored through objects and 2d works in series which range in scale from 1:500 000 000 to 1:1. This work also explores the actual performance of making map projections and markings, and tries to cultivate an appreciation for subtlety and difference in landscape experience and representation.

Lise Brenner, Choreographer
Email: brennerl@hotmail.com

Jennifer Monson, Artistic Director, iLAND, Inc.
Phone: (917) 860-8239
Email: info@ilandart.org

iLAB 2007 is supported in part by the Robison Foundation.