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Tomas Jonsson – Day 5

October 20, 2010

On Friday, September 17, we planned to continue our discussion on housing and poverty and experienced a session that unfolded in three stages. Here is how it went…

The collaborative session started at 12:00 p.m. as originally planned because we wanted the chance to include other potential participants in the overall Showing Up, Speaking Out “process”, as well as welcome their involvement in the performance scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m.

Two people arrived at noon and, after a brief introduction to Tomas’ work, we entered a conversation that began with a comparison between housing in Canada/Winnipeg, and housing in Germany because the participants knew the situation there very well. We were informed that in Germany people routinely purchased homes with a view to how their family might grow/change over time because they generally intended to stay in that house for a very long period of time. In relation to this, we learned that the process of moving was considered a very significant upheaval, and that people tried to avoid doing this. The participants noticed that in people in Canada chance their homes much more often, and in many cases quite willingly. We speculated that while this was surely due to the real estate market creating such concepts as a “starter home” and “flipping” for profit, we also reflected on the situation of “empty nesters” and, perhaps most substantially, the fact that people generally lead less stable lives today than in the past, and that it is not uncommon for people to move to different cities for employment, education, or altogether different reasons.

After discussing various qualities relating to outdoor space including the phenomenon of natural energies associated with particular environments (i.e. The beauty of certain vistas or the effects of being near water), as well as the capacity for people to transform their space by customizing through landscaping, we found ourselves talking quite deeply about gardens. Garden, we agreed, were powerful tools in combating poverty through the creation of food security, but also a meaningful way of grounding people to land and the community with whom they share the land.

Since the participants didn’t have a tremendous amount of time to spend at the session, they decided they wanted to create an intervention on their own time that would involve planting images of food items on sticks within existing decorative gardens at various prominent cites throughout the city as a statement on the need to use land in ways that both beautify and help promote a healthier, more affordable, and community focused food supply. Were it spring and not fall, it might have been possible to secretly plant food items in flower beds, and see what grows out of it! But, given the time of year, a symbolic garden sounded like a great idea!


At the time of this posting, we’re not sure if this project was fulfilled BUT later the same evening, Anna – who is a landscape architect – emailed a proposal for future food focused community gardens relative to the sites of existing gardens in the city. The proximity of these gardens to where people live, and the ease to which they can access these gardens, is key to their successful use.

Here is the email we received from Anna, along with the map she produced…

Katharina, Milena and Tomas,

“Many thanks for the inspiring discussion today!

I ended up doing a very rough analysis. I checked a map of Winnipeg showing exisiting communitiy gardens and added comfortable walking distances (radius up to 400meters). Then I filled gaps with gardens to come out. I would like to discuss their criterias.

Hope this might be a kick.



The participants left at approximately 1:00 p.m. By 1:30 no one else had arrived as planned, and after a few emails were discovered sending regrets, Thomas and I decided to go for coffee to wait for the others to arrive while reflecting on the week that had transpired. At this time, we contemplated options for how we wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon in the event that no one else showed up at all.

It dawned on us that if we’d had enough time the day before we could have launched right into our performance. Indeed, taking an idea and running with it at the exact moment its conceived is sometimes all that’s needed to make that idea come to life. But, that was not the situation at hand and we ultimately decided it was better not to try realizing performance without the others. So instead, after returning the bag of shiny costumes to Ragpickers, we thought we’d go back to Waterfront Drive to further explore the oddly constructed intersection of community and commerce in the area by engaging with the scant businesses there and, maybe, documenting our exploration of one of the aesthetic services offered.

While at Ragpickers, we spoke to Kristen who suggested we talk to Ed Ackerman about his court case with the city involving the city’s effort to expropriate his now infamous house – 89 Gertie – without compensation. This, we recognized, was a similar yet inverted scenarios of the “use it or lose it” policy, which strives to take back derelict buildings from irresponsible landlords, not people clearly working hard to restore a property they own while juggling the financial issues associated with such an undertaking.

We walked to Ed’s place and left a note for him inviting him to meet us at aceartinc. on Saturday. We parted ways until then.

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