We used bright red yarn to connect black bean runner vines to overhanging tree branches. Once a principle line is established from ground to branch, auxiliary connections are made from ground to intermediary points along each main line, thereby creating the form of cones which lead upward toward a transcendent connection with the lush foliage of the branches of the Elder trees.
These types of designs are wholly functional in the permacultural sense – the plants are food-productive, nitrogen-fixing, etc… and the cones orient the plant growth toward a full appropriation of the vertical dimension.
The symbiotic structure of the cones, in which the string provides support for the plants growth, which in turn animates the human design with the vibrancy of life, also provides a concrete object for meditation around a number of important idea realms:
The color red as indicating life, the life of oneself as well as the life of the eco-system in which one cultivates her own designs. We take care of ourselves and the so called other – which is all nature. My life is not separate from your life.
We learn from our study of the ecology of the forest that there are various “levels” or “niches” which different plants inhabit. We learn that there are canopies, vine levels, ground cover levels, etc… Here with this design, we provide a concrete poetic metaphor for the interconnectedness of these particular components of forest ecology. In other words, the act of psychically connecting the growth of the black bean plants by upstretching yarn toward the Elder canopy, allows us to perceive the interconnection in a direct, visual fashion which appeals to our ecstatic sense of of transcendent aesthetics. What is it the transcendent here? Transcendence of the vine layer into the hyper complex folial matrix of the canopy; Transcendence of the designer (self) into the field of ecology (other).
The taut application of the yarn also reminds us of the much-maligned straight lines of platonic, rational thought. Straight lines here are not really straight – they are bent and tugged by the grip and the weight of the vines – but they stand for the straight lines of pure thought. They display the “world line” of the intersection between design as thought and design as applied within the gross realm of vegetative growth and the torque of the vines.
Why are they called “Shinji Cones”? It’s a play on words for “Shinji-Kun”, the affectionate nickname for Shinji, one of the main characters from the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion. In the series, a sub-governmental organization called NERV is dedicated to protecting the Earth from the apocalyptic threat of the “Angels”, a gargantuan race of extraterrestrials. Shinji is one of the adolescent pilots of the “Evas”, giant bio-cybernetic hybrid robots that respondent to the pilots’ intentions via bio-nervous symbiosis. One of the key themes of the show is need for humanity to respond to global threats by transcending into new hybrid life-forms which utilize not only human science, technology and will, but also alien dimensions, non-human biology and hyper-advanced technology.
These are strong influences for me personally when I think of permaculture design. What are the limits of the symbiosis between plants and humans? How can we conserve the novelty that comes with human science and design on the one hand, and the advanced mechanisms of forest ecology on the other? These are open fields which we are proud to explore with open hearts and open minds.