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(Übersetzung folgt) The district of Batán borders on the Casa del Campo park, the neighborhood is a mixture of appartment blocks for the not-so-rich, sports grounds, and still fairly big patches of wasteland. A winding road takes us – about 500 meters further – to the urban garden of Batán, one of the first in Madrid.

Irene, who founded the garden with her community

Things to do

Irene Prins was one among those first founders, then in 2012, in fact, she initiated the project. Our talk takes us from the need to create a place for oneself to the ramifications of the 15th of May Movement in 2011. Irene stuck notes to the walls and trees in the neighbourhood to find people willing to set up a garden space in the area. Over 30 came. “Before this revolutionary movement happened”, she said, “maybe the interest wouldn’t have been so great. But this idea of selfempowerment and taking on responsibilty for the places and communites we live in, was just too important”.

Batán No.1: The original location of the garden was some 50 meters distant. It is smaller and is now cultivated into a forest garden.

Soon afterwards, the Huerto de Batán began to connect to other urban gardens in the city, “there were maybe 4 or 5 of them” – and this was the beginnung of the “Red le los huertos communales en Madrid”. La Red, the network, now counts around 50 urban gardens in the municipality of Madrid. The work is done by volunteers, but the city occasionally supports the gardeners in gaining acess to some rescources like extra soil, organic fertilizers, and water. Yet in their very beginnings, Batán gardens were just a squat and the water was “siphoned off” a communal pipe.

The pond

As we sit in the sun with the distant noise of the A 18 motorway in our back, the conversation shifts from politics and communal issues to the permacultural design of the garden which is clearly organized in terrasses, and planted with a thoughtful mix of (still young) trees, supporting shrubs, herbs, occasional flowers and of course, a diversity of vegetables. There are also a pond and a beehive… too silent this latter one for this time of the year: “We’ll have to wait. Maybe there is still hope, there was so much honey there the last year and we left it all to the bees. But it is strange, not to see a single bee…”

Irene shows me around the plots that in some places spout bushy clews of “habas” (broad beans), there is  timid rhubarb, rosemary and salads. There is also grass, stone, wood, mulch made from twigs, and an irrigation system (saw no Spanish garden without one so far). The garden’s special point is to turn annual vegetables into perennial ones, something that can work quite well with cabbages for example. I get also introduced to a garden plant entirely new to me, the Siberian Pea. Hardy, sturdy and with a stem and branches, a pea bearing shrub… !!!

One last question (podcast of this will be available at some later point) touches our personal relationship to the plant life. Yes, there is , if not actual talk but ‘thinking’ to the plant and a sincere feeling of respect and gratitude. Irene holds that connecting to the earth also connects us better to our lives and fellow human beings, because “it is all about caring”, she says.
There is nothing to add… except some images and the following links.

 

 

 

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16. Marzo 2018

19:30 Visit to the Humus Film Fest, a brilliant idea! 16 short films in 4 categories about urban gardening: Experimental (missed but one half of the last one), comedy, documentary, fantastic.
Some glimpses here: pole dance with potted plant, hilarious GoT-adaption, Esta es Una Plaza selling veggies as drugs (won a prize!), french refugee gardener (best in the category of docus to my mind), rapping youngsters, compost zombies, lots of food… Alberto Peralta doing fabulous moderation (they also won the fantastio prize – dealing carrots – ), craft beer, running into Elena and Carolina of Radio Hortelana.

22:00 Walking home (sounds of helicopters and police cars.  Pondering about some evident links of (Spanish) popular music/movie culture to urban gardening… I think this is different in Germany. Also: a definite emphasis on action. Taking a mental note to ask Señor Peralta. Seeing this:

  

22:15 Editing new Madrid sound field composition for the performance next day.

1:00 Sleep

17. Marzo 2018

8:00 Coffee (3)
Weather check: devastating. It is raining and cold. I don’t know how many times I have been told now that Madrid people hide at home when there is rain outside.

10:00 Dressing while bouncing the new piece

11:00 Setting up the Oficina des las plantas sin hogar with Alberto Garcia and Rosalia. We use the plants from the cantina and the security office for decoration, it looks great!

View of the Open-Air Oficina

View of the Open-Air Oficina and Security Plant

A Senora tells Alberto about her plant.

Unpacking the Madrid version.

 12:00 Rain subsides. Sounds of a Demonstration in the nearby streets. Medialab is swarming with mothers, babies, media and video workshop participants. A lady wants to adopt the „security plant“. No es possible. But we get an interview about one of her favorite plants. Times passes with some more interviews. People are interested to adopt but most of them “forgot” to bring plants.

1:00 Start of performance, all goes well. A sparkling gem in the the new piece is a song about flowers sung by Romi Casiles’ grandma, Elvira Margarita Sturla. There’s beer and tortilla chips and a señora comes and donates two plants, a very grown-up „bad mother“ and an adolescent dieffenbachia (surprise?). She also wants to take „Dark Securita“ home, but I can only offer her a can of beer. A friendly guest, Fernando, consents to sing a melancholy song from Argentinia for Datscha Radio’s singing pool collection. Comida con mis ayudantes.

16:00 Knocked out by the two glasses of excellent wine received with my food and in need of a siesta. Watching a SF-movie about life after dead with Robert Redford instead.

18:00 Idle research in academic papers. Using keywords around „garden“, „dependency“, „permeation“ I come (next to „Species, Historicity, and Path Dependency“ across the psycholinguistc term of „garden-path-sentences“, its German equivalent being the „Holzwegeffekt“. Anyway, this is about misleading grammar structures and the different ways in which these can be interpreted and/or „parsed“ by the reader. I think of the straight paths in the gardens here in their combination with the frequently met labyrinths … Can we also understand/”parse” garden designs as a language… l i k e a language?

19:00 Sort the pics for this entry.

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(Übersetzung folgt) A place for study, information but also a treasure trove of ancient books on botany, this is the library of the Real Jardìn Botanico. Felix Alonso is the head of the library department – we already met when I stumbled into the offices on my very first visit to the garden – and we both enjoy our second encounter. As requested I had prepared some questions and the interview runs smoothly (in the process of editing).

 

Felix Alonso, head libarian of the RJM explains about his work

 

Sample Title :)

The beginnings of the book collections stored here lie in the 18th century, but since then the work of librarians has changed considerately – more so with the impact of the digital age. Apart from keeping pace with the mounting bulk of new publications (and sorting and cataloguing them), the library also engages in several activities with the public. One of them being the forthcoming exhibition about „Tulipan Ilustrado“, the Tulip in Illustration, on the 20th of March (until 20th of May).

Speaking of illustrations Felix proceeds to show me one of the more special books. The drawings are excellent (naturally!) and separated by tissue paper from each other. Pages are turned and the rustle of the tissue compels me to record the sound. Señor Alonso smiles. Maybe this seems strange to him, that something so utterly functional has qualities beyond that: audible ones. Then again, this might have been to moment for him to decide to let me walk me further into the aisles.

Of course this is the goddess Flora

 

Fantastic books if you love the green world!

 
 

Needless to say that I am overwhelmed by the abundance of botanical books in the shelves, some of them surely rare: Expedtion reports from the jungles of Bolivia, mushrooms in the Himalya, pittosporums in Galicia, Pilze in Mitteleuropa, books in Chinese, German, English, French, and and and. Yet, if my curiosity hadn’t driven me down the corridor on that first day I wouldn’t have known about the cabinet at the very end of the room, and so I ask.

„Yes, says Felix, I can show you at least one of the books, I only need to get the key.

The Fuchs Book

These treasures are stored in grey plastic boxes, and carefully wrapped in transparent foil. The book I am allowed to look at is one of the very few (maybe 50 worldwide) copies of Leonhard Fuchs, one of the „fathers“ of botanics, printed around 1542.
The index indicates the plant names in latin but also with their common German names. The drawings were first printed in their outlines and afterwards coloured by hand. I am stunned and feel an overwhelming gratitude for the existence of these botanists, maybe of botanists in general. And, of course, for the people that helped to manufacture books like this, woodcutters, painters, printers. Fuchs himself acknowledges their input by the inclusion of their portraits. Else? Look for yourself! And thank you, Señor Alonso!

 

After the talks a quick picture

 

As I leave the offices of the library, the Botanic garden sparkles in sunlight. Despite the still-too-low temperatures the plant make every effort to spring into leaf and flower… while the gardeners are working hard to prepare more beds.

Almond tree bonsai at the entrance of the library

 

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Eva Kurly and Oscar Dominguez at the Hospital de Plantas

(Übersetzung folgt) It’s less than a 20 minutes drive into the western part of Madrid and we reach the community of Pozuelo, famous for its singular „Hospital de Plantas“. As we get out of the car, the air feels different. Humid, a bit „foresty“ with a tinge of swamp. The rain falls softly on my face and onto Eva’s umbrella as we make our way to the entrance of Aula de Educación Ambiental (Húmera).

Eva Kurly had worked here for three years and arranged the interview.

Main office

The area is huge. We walk past greenhouses, wooden office buildings, plots and raised beds, and a geodetic dome used as a surround cinema. One of the educational directives of this place is the fostering of sustainable energies and waste upcycling. We pass a dew collector, solar panels (one in the shape of a giant sunflower, that alines its movement with the course of the sun) and a solar oven.

Smart solar energy plant

The fences hold plastic bottles cut out to hold plants of all sorts… due to the season most of them are „wild herbs“. Again much of the work invested into the huertos is done by volunteers and/or within the frame of education classes organized by the municipality.

The Hospital de Plantas is run by Oscar Domínguez, a biologist who teaches about plants and plant deceases at the university. There are regular opening hours once a week at Wednesday 10-2, when the citizens can come and bring their sick plants. A cupboard holds a microscope and various instruments to examine the patients and decide on the treatment.

Patients get a label

Once hospitalized, the length of stay  depends on the recovery process. For some plants, this can take up to a year, like in the case of a leafless, shriveled bonsai. Oscar put another case on the „Mesa de tratamiento“, a deplorable looking orchid in possession of none but one (broken) areal root. He points at some knobs in the centre of the plant. There is still hope, he says.

A classical patient

A snails sails across the table. It will be put out into the open

With such a long stay, I ask, how often does it happen that the owners won’t fetch their plants back?
Often, Oscar says. People just give up too easily. They are not used to care for plants in a sincere way.
Yet, if a person cannot take care of a plant, this shows that this person is also neglecting his or her own personality, or at least part of it.

Hospital watering can

Our conversation, facilitated by Eva’s translation, consequently drifts to the psychological impacts of plant ownership and care. Older people for example would often prefer plants that are easy to care for and grow rather slowly while young people love quick growth and plants that produce an abundance of colors both in leaves and flowers.

– The interview is presently in the process of editing and will be online in due time –

 

Oscar Dominguez, Hospital de Plantas

A second branch of Señor Dominguez’ research work is the construction of vertical gardens and the exploration of their micro climates. The one shown here is wainscoted with felt and allows a natural circulation of water, light and microorganisms within the unit.

We leave the „Classroom of Environmental Education“ of Pozuelo for a little walk in the nearby Casa De Campo. Once a hunting ground for the royals it is now Madrid’s biggest park covering more than 1,750 hectares. (I leave the touristic details aside here). There is anthother hospital in the vicinity: A hospital for night birds. There is not much hope to meet somebody there. Eva tells me she’s tried already several times. We are more than surprised that the door actually opens…
Yet, cheered too soon: No, no es possible! The staff is just at lunch and the birds are sleeping and must not be disturbed.

 
 

Stork’ nest Casa de Campo

Very wide awake instead are the storks that keep flying almost around our heads. Bundles of twigs hang from their beaks and indeed, Eva points out to a huge nest in the top of a nearby tree.
Two other features of the Casa des Campo: Swarms of green parrots that also nest here and pose (as in many other cities – also in Germany – ) a treat to the native birds, especially the common sparrow (which grows less and less common). Second, hoards of ghostly shaped trees, with hollow trunks and often reaching into the air with one last twisted branch. We put the recorder for the bird sounds into the fork of one branch and walk around… there is this „silky grey“ filter on my camera I try out.

Nest of the “evil” green Parrot

Ghost movie trees

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(Übersetzung folgt) La Casa de la miel has been in the hands of his family ever since the shop was founded in 1942, its owner, Pedro Pajuelo, says. We are standing in front of the counter, a black board next to the door shows the different kinds of honeys sold here, a shiny bin with a giant bee printed on it decorate the counter as well as an old-fashioned scale made from white enamel.


Two other men work here, one of them dusts the shelfs with the honey glasses with a feather mop, the other walks to and fro between the back rooms and the counter. An old lady enters and asks for a bag of bean seeds.

La Casa de la Miel does not only sell honeys from different regions of Spain, but also vegetable and flower seeds, teas, herbs, pimiento and other spices, cosmetics made from honey and pollen (the best quality is stored in a fridge in the corner). There are also little boxes with violet sweets in them in the color of violets! A speciality of Madrid, Pedro explains.

 

But of course, we talk about honey, its origins, how prices rise with the decrease in production because of the bee pests. If the bees die, we’ll have nothing to eat after no time, Pedro says, maybe five years, no more.

The conversation is in Spanish, I ask and Alberto assists with translation. 300 words in Spanish seem to equal 30 in English. I understand fragments and then, at times, I have no clue. Yet, this recording is for Datscha Radio Madrid, and almost a third of the world’s population speaks Spanish anyway :)

It is a rule with interviews that when the moment comes you think it is finished, the real info are preisgegeben. He hands us both a jar of honey com regalo, I present my flyers with the Adopt a Plant thing happening this Saturday and upon this information Pedro reveals himself as being a gardener too.
“Realmente me gustan las plantas. Come come…“
Alberto and I get invited to follow him to the store rooms in the back of the shops where huge barrels of honey sit on a tiled floor and a machine to knead the honey to a more fluid consistency dominates the room. We enter the patio of the house which belongs to the few still in their original architecture existing ones in Madrid: made of wood and stone but with a metal skeleton inside.

In the patio plants are lined up, lush green leaves, palm like. An „Indian plant“ was saved here from being thrown away. This is also the habitat of an ex-Christmas tree which seemingly thrives at his now home. And there is still another patio filled with Trandesceana, begonias and “bad mothers”. So there’s a secret gardener! Pedro explains that he likes to pick up the remnants or off shoots from neighbors plants falling into the yard. He gives them a new home and cares for them.

Then one of his shop attendants calls out about an important customer having just arrived, and we say goodbye and step out of the House of Honey into Atocha Street.

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(Übersetzung folgt) Another quick diary of these days in the wonderland of Datscha Radio preparations. You’ll find an introduction of the (steadily growing) team here.

12. March

9:00 Coffee & mails. Agreement to meet Señora Bellet of the Botanic Garden to talk about its history and activities.

10:45 Printing out flyers and posters for the „Adopta-una-Planta“ event.

Flyer für diesen Samstag, 17. März

12:45 Leaving the building I run into kta and Joaquien who are on their way to one of the labs to set up a plant&soil sensory system.

13:00 A cat guards the security entrance of the garden. I gain admittance… a consistent minor problem: The guard needs my social security number to fill in the admittance form. The usual solution: present my visa card. By now the guards know me quite well, while the sequence of my multiple visits and mailings has made me think of the Botanic Garden offices as a kafkaesque „castle“.

On entering the offices i notice that the amanita has changed place.

 

Señora Maria Pellet receives me in her office. She’s very friendly and even speaks German. But we agree to do the interview in English. Afterward we go to the Bonsai section and take a pic.

13:15 Catching up with kta and Joaquim. A soft frequency hum permeates the air, there are plants, an arduino, micro sensors measuring the moisture in the pots, a dead deco cabbage plant, a very healthy looking aloe and a pot of the „bad mother plant“. We agree that „Grünlilie“ (German common name) is a nice word for it. Interview.

16:30 Editing the interview (too big to upload here, you’ll find it soon in the archive)

17:30 Meeting Jesús in the offices to discuss how to program an info video onto the wall of the Medialab. He’s just taking his exams… parallel to all the work with Medialab and Datscha Radio!

18:00 Datscha Radio artist’s meeting at the cantina. Romi Casile has finally arrived from Argentina. Although she has to leave already on the 16th, she likes to participate. Apart from working with sound objects, her grandmother knows how to sing songs about flowers and gardens. This is interesting!

18:45 The beer is a bit too expensive for a longer stay so we move upstairs to my „living room“. Maite, coordinator of IN-SONORA comes. Alberto and kta work on the translation of the jingle text into Spanish while I do a quick talk with Romi in my room.

19:15 We have a lot of fun speaking the jingle text. The artists and Maite talk me into recording it in Spanish. They say it sounds charming (but maybe it is just funny?)

We have an exchange about listening practices, art and society, the role of artists, money issues in artist lives and again about the importance of listening.
The most inspiring evening closes with a sip of duty free whiskey.

21:15
Rough editing of the recordings. Playing with some acoustic sketches :)

23:30 Relaxing with another rose plant website…

13. March

10:00 (!) Meeting up with Alberto as a translator to visit the „House of Honey“ in the Atocha street. Interview. Pedro warms up to our questions and in the end we get shown even the store rooms, the honey „mixing machine“ (of course it is not mixed but pure), and finally, as the talk turns to plants, the flowers and trees, Pedro himself rescues from offshoots or leaves falling „from the sky“ —

More of this in the next blog entry…

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Atomic gardens, plant radio, argentinian flower songs: we are preparing for the Esta Es Una Plaza on the 23rd!: Alberto, kta, Maite e Romi.

(Übersetzung folgt) For more than two weeks we have met, talked, spent time with each other, exchanged ideas, mails and sounds. I am happy, grateful and proud to say that Datscha Radio Madrid is making fast progress on all levels! I’d like to introduce the artists of the team and “the plan” here; the jingle is on it’s way too:)

Gabi Schaffner
Sound and Radio artist. Artistic director Datscha Radio www.datscharadio.de; www.rawaudio.de

Alberto García Aznar
Alberto develops his individual artistic work in the fields of sound art, fanzine, artist’s books and performance. Contributing artist in numerous collectives and events: Proyecto Equipo, Rayos Uva collective, Grupal Crew Collective, Indisciplinadas, SomosNosotros… He also works as sound technician at Radio Círculo (Círculo de Bellas Artes de Madrid).

https://albertogarciaaznar.bandcamp.com
https://issuu.com/albertogarciaaznar

Anna Katarina Martin
Conceptual artist. Works with: sound/video/instalation/performance/interactive and so on.  Together with artist and programmer Joaquin Diaz she’ll compose a Sensory Plant Communication Soundscape for our upcoming garden radio event.
https://annakatarinamartin.com

Eva Pilarte aka Eva Kurly
International performer;  gardener and environmental monitor; different colaborations in radio stations; component of experimental music duo ¨ el atico de los sueños¨, Pamito guitars endosers

https://kurlymusik.wixsite.com/elaticodelossuenhos
https://vimeo.com/evakurly

External Contributors:

Mahlet Ogbe Habte 
Sound installation and video artist. Born in Eritrea, she lives and works in Norway.  Among other places, she has exhibited at Heimat, Museo Revoltella, Trieste Italy, World Expo Japan Tokyo, and Bergen Group Exhibition at USF verftet. Additionally, she is a professional chef.

www.mahlet.no

Romina Casile
Artist from Argentinia, works with sound objects and field recordings.
https://issuu.com/rominacasile

Coordination: Jesús Jara, Maite Camacho
http://medialab-prado.es/
https://www.medialab-prado.es/en/activities/residency-sonora-10

Location: Esta Es Una Plaza, Calle Doctor Fourquet 24, Madrid

 

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