SM{ART} // Futurefarmers: Cultivating your consciousness.

Formed in 1995 San Francisco by Amy Franceschini, Futurefarmers' emphasis has been on channeling funds and technological resources from big design projects with such clients as MTV, NASA and Lucasfilm into self-generated works with deeper meaning.

"Through collaboration, we {Futurefarmers} explore the relationship of concept and creative process between interdisciplinary artists...aligned through an open practice of making work that is relevant to the time and space surrounding us."

Common themes that run through Futurefarmers art work revolve around new media and its place in our society (both positive and negative) working with notions of community, sustainable environments and the conflicting rituals of humans and nature. "The name [Futurefarmers] is a product of my childhood," Franceschini says, explaining the influences of her father, a corporate farmer and owner of a pesticide company, and her mother, a New Age type devoted to the notion of organic farming.

The art work of Futurefarmers is part transpiration and part photosynthesis; giving off from themselves a certain amount depending on current environmental conditions and putting together simple substances to form a more complex product.

In the Neighborhood Beautication Act {NBA} #1 (2003) an ugly hexagon shaped brick structure, vestige of a bench removed by the city of Zilverhof, Gent, Belgium because of the bench's malicious and disruptive behavior of drawing people to talk loudly and drink around it, became a new table and bench.


The table was specially designed to cover the existing hexagon structure that formely supported the previous bench. It was painted with chalkboard paint-chalk and eraser were supplied. The bench became a favorite spot and icon of the neighborhood. It was (and probably still is being) used as a picnic area, meeting point, massage table, stage, general gathering spot, and outdoor accounting office as one woman was found doing her taxes on the table.

Holding Patterns (1999) addressed environmental problems suffered by wetlands and migratory birds as a result of population growth and economic expansion and measured the annual migratory patterns of birds that frequent the wetlands alongside the daily migratory patterns of the human commute. This was illustrated via 5 networked, kinetic chandeliers/bulbs reflecting the daily flow of commuter traffic via the 5 major modes of transportation in and out of San Francisco city limits: airplanes, sub-terrainian trains, highways, above ground trains and ferries.


Each bulb housed a robotic bird. Coordinated behaviors networked through micoprocessors controlled the movement and glow, and sound of each pod and bird in relation to the live data gathered from the respective mode of transportation. At high times of traffic, all bulbs would retreat to the ceiling of the gallery, darken and sound would reflect this condition. At low points of traffic, the bulbs would lower towards the ground, expand allowing the birds to fly and sound would reflect this condition.

Victory Gardens (2007+) is one of my favorite public projects of Futurefarmers and no doubt an ode to Eleanor Roosevelt's own victory garden during World War II. Along with Garden for the Environment, Futurefarmers helps San Franciscans transition their backyard, front yard, window boxes, rooftops and unused land into food production areas. Delivery men and women bicycle starter kits containing small plots, seeds, fertilizer, "how-to" guide, and more to participants' homes.


I could go on and on...and I think I will.

Bingo:Field of Thoughts, 2006
{From their official website}
75 inserts were printed with random configurations of the 75 lowest GNP countries. 37 players were invited to a March 26, 2006 test game. Each player was asked to represent one of the 75 featured countries by bringing an obscure or interesting bit of information and to bring an item of food or drink from their assigned country. The night was a combination of collaborative geography, potluck and gambling. The range of food included East Timorian wraps, Somalian milk tea, and Gaza Strip Sweet Potato cookies. The evening served as a testing ground to see whether the bingo platform would work to raise money needed to bring artists to speak in San Francisco, offer workshops, and hold discussions.


So. The following questions may be floating around in your brain right now.
"What are they exactly, Belin? Are they an art group? Designers? Social activists? CHOOSE, dammit!"

To that I say, all of the above! The fact that they defy any category and instead act as a multi-disciplinary collective - showing the potential in marrying art, design and community activism - gives Futurefarmers its sustainability and relevance. Huzzah!

For more information:
Futurefarmers offical website
Futurefarmers artist in residency program: AIR

Amy Franceschini, founder of Futurefarmers, other projects:
Atlas Magazine

by Belin Liu
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1 Comment Has Been Posted

Design actually can help

It's so nice when 'design' can get it's head out of its snooty behind and do something that makes people think and makes a real difference in day-to-day life. I strive for that in my own work, so it's inspiring to read about people like Amy Franceschini, who is making it a priority in her own, high profile work as well. Thanks Belin!

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