The mission of OSS (Outer Seed Shadow) is to create and support public green spaces with powerful educational capacities, incorporating public art, storytelling, urban farming, public programming and community building as materials to address systemic and structural issues of social inequity.
Landscapes are full of symbolism, defining places and also the people who inhabit them. As people adapt to the contexts in which they live—or are forced to live—their evolving identities create parallel internal landscapes loaded with meaning, which may well be reflected in public gardens to document and explore communally the cultural currents running beneath any community.
Under this premise, artist, educator and activist Juanli Carrión created OSS as a series of public interventions in the form of geopolitical gardens, materializing the union between plant and human interaction by using different plant species as representatives of social groups and individuals to illustrate unrecognized social ecosystems. Working hand in hand with community members, OSS gardens are conceived based on contextual research and exhaustive local outreach in the form of public events, meetings, and interviews, resulting in participatory designs whose layouts and component plants are determined and sited according to contributors’ real-life physical, political or emotional locations within their community.
Conceived as a living sculpture, each garden serves as a centerpiece to articulate public programming that further discusses the conflicts addressed in the gardens. The OSS gardens have commissioned and hosted a wide range of activities, including workshops in gardening, cooking and memory building; readings, lectures and panels with guest scholars, neighbors, stakeholders, and residents; and performances and concerts. Partnerships have been made with institutions and organizations including Henry Street Settlement, ASCEND Educational Fund, Columbia University, School of Visual Arts, MOBIA, Myrtle Avenue Partnership, Hudson Square BID, La Nau Cultural Center, Valencia Botanical Garden, High School for Environmental Sustainability, BRIC, El Centro del Inmigrante, The Horticultural Society of New York, The Blue School, City Parks Foundation, The Green Thumb, NYCHA and Fort Greene Park Conservancy, among others.
With a commitment to environmental and social justice, OSS began in 2014 with #01. Taking Manhattan and its immigration history as geopolitical parameters, OSS#01 was a public art installation, but also provided participants and visitors as a community garden and educational center. Made in collaboration with NYC Parks, its success in mediating social inequity prompted plans to create gardens specific to each of NYC’s five boroughs, which continued with OSS#02 in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park from May to October 2016. OSS has also begun a partnership with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to create an edible garden in collaboration with Marble Hill Houses residents to address community health and food access in public housing of the Northwest Bronx, which will open its doors in May 2017. Beyond New York, OSS gardens have been installed internationally with editions OSS#VLC and OSS#VMS in Spain and OSS#LM in Peru, addressing subjects such as refugee migration, cultural coexistence, colonialism, gentrification and education.