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It would be easy, upon first glance, to mistake it for a gazebo. Which it is, sort of. Wikipedia on gazebos: “Roofed and open on all sides; they provide shade, shelter, ornamental features in a landscape, and a place to rest.” Or this 1871 quotation from the Oxford English Dictionary: “Dwelling-houses…present lofty walls without windows towards the street except here and there a single latticed gazebo.” For lattice, in this case, the continuous diamonds of a chain-link fence vined with tomatoes and peppers. Swinging inside, one observes the historic villa next door whiz by in pieces. Human movement inside the tent triggers a cascade of catcalls, R&B, bump and grind. Something about the pollinator feels urban, in disjunction with the decidedly pastoral, rareified setting where the tent is sited. And yet she also fits in, she is a sort of gazebo.
Like bees attracted by lavender planted around the tent, humans feel invited to enter, or I did, especially on exceptionally hot days or at dusk, when deer come to graze whatever they can of the expansive manicured lawn. And yet a human swinging within her chain link skirts may feel unexpectedly accosted, objectified by the loud desire of this towering female gardener. Her sculpted metallic torso glistens in the sun except for those times a human performer climbs the ladder and dons the overalls, stroking herself slowly, her striped skirt, with trowel and rake.
A desiring subject, she is more permeable than previous dress tents created by Pao and Lasser. There’s none of the discomfort viewers might have experienced when entering through the small slit in Ms. Homeland Security’s skirts. The Pollinator is wide open. She invites you inside. And yet she’s also more stationary; it’s impossible to imagine this tent fitting snugly into a bag, or being assembled in a couple of hours.
In photographs shot from above, the scene is decidedly more dreamy, dislocated—like something out of a fairytale. The pollinator as witch’s house, deep in the forest, where heroines search out dangerous potions or children are lured only to be eaten. The figure of the witch has long stood in for all sorts of persecuted feminine knowledge, from midwifery to herbal medicine. Silvia Federici argues compellingly that witch hunts of the late middle ages must be understood as inextricable from the transition to capitalism. As communal land was enclosed and destroyed, so too was reproductive labor—and many burned as witches were those who resisted destruction of the commons, who led rebellions and uprisings. The pollinator as witch’s house as the vision of shared land, shared food, collective resources.
I keep thinking about the recent occupations in Oakland, where Robin, Adrienne and I all live. The plaza, the farm, the library. The covert urban gardens that spring up in abandoned lots. If 2011 taught us anything it’s that fences also long to be torn down. That the world could be otherwise, that everybody could have access to shade, shelter, ornamental features in a landscape, and a place to rest. Shared land, shared food, collective resources. That desire. I keep thinking about the tension between permeability and portability. The ability to move quickly, but also to hold ground, long enough to grow. The attraction of bodies moving together in the street. That pollination.
By Stephanie Young
“Mi primera intervención con mosaico fue en mi “lugar en el mundo”: la Calle Lanín, en la que viví durante...