Monoculture, Polyculture, Permaculture, Hyperculture
A first step away from monoculture is the move to polyculture; and then onwards to the broader
permaculture (a contraction of both “permanent agriculture” and “permanent culture”).
Hyperculture goes further, as it captures the unity of agriculture and the information interface.
Satellite information networks today drive the creation of landscape. But those same satellites
guide us to view the landscape as well; to see, interpret and understand the earth itself as an
interface. We seek to operate on this dual role of the earth as interface.
In “precision farming,” GPS now guides tractors to plow and seed fields, instrumentalizing the
earth remotely and resulting in a monoculture of cornfields over thousands of acres throughout
Iowa and into several other midwestern states. This industrialized agriculture is at the expense
of so much. To begin with the ecological fallout, consider vast water usage; erosion of topsoil;
and the introduction of chemical pesticides and petrochemical fertilizers into the water table and
eventually major water bodies such as the Mississippi. It also costs us all nutritionally, as food
products and food subsidies go to the placement of corn in everything we consume – even, as
Michael Pollan has pointed out, what our cars consume.
In his Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan gets to the root of corn production through a visit to the farm
owned by George Naylor, in Greene Coutny, Iowa. For our project, we have done the same,
albeit virtually. We have chosen and “bought” a plot that is currently for sale in Greene County;
and used it to present a snapshot of what could be.
Using the same digital tools that produce straight rows of corn, we create an overlay of imagery
organized by polyculture. These images change appearance at different “zoom”s, when viewed
from above using Google Earth. At altitude +20 km, an image of a chimerical plant appears – not
a logo, but a figment composed of multiple species: wild garlic, winter rye, vetch and corn.
Zooming in closer to +2 km, each 40-acre parcel breaks into a more abstract pattern of
diversely planted rows. Closer still, the rows are tagged with information and a photo of the
crops. The Google Earth interface and earth interface unite at this moment, as satellites both
direct and mediate food production.
Project Date: 2009
Project Team: Rael San Fratello Architects: Virginia San Fratello, Ga-Ga: Jordan Geiger