07.                     08.10.2023

a house is a house is a home: Garden and Archive Weekend

The house extends into the garden, a central living laboratory of Villa Romana, where since January 2023 we have been experimenting with seeds and with ecological imaginaries for agropoetics. Villa Romana is a home, as explored in this programme, and it is an ecology. Drawing from the greek word oikos which means ‘home’ or ‘dwelling place’ it is the Villa’s more-than-human inhabitants that make it a home. With the programme Testing Grounds/Seeding worlds, curated with Marleen Boschen, we have been encouraging joy through co-cultivation, enacting belonging through access to land, supporting biodiversity and regenerative practices.

We draw from the privilege of access to a large piece of flourishing and abundant land and seek to use this space to amplify the voices of those involved in environmental resistance and in keeping marginalised knowledges alive. In this way we want  to build collaborations and conversations with local diasporic communities and solidarity groups in encouraging the garden’s ability to sustain many, both human and non-human collaborators.

Villa Romana opened its doors to practitioners and people imagining the garden as a testing ground for agroecological and agropoetic practices that are grounded in collective care and intergenerational and interspecies knowledge sharing.

The programme began by slowly learning from the diversity that’s already present, understanding the dynamism of the garden as a place that has been in the making for decades, soil that has been made and remade for hundreds of years, and that will keep holding and giving ground for the life of the Villa and in the Villa, and for its ecosystem. Alongside an ecology survey by agronomist Isabella Devetta, we developed plans to establish a healing garden that can function as a collective resource. If you’d like to get involved in the ongoing care for Villa Romana’s garden, please get in touch.

Since January we developed a range of collaborations in the garden: The Living Recipe Book by Daniela Zambrano Almidón, Orto Continuo by Leone Contini, Seed Bunch, a collective sed-centred garden imagined with Monai de Paula Atunes and a Healing Garden with ecologist Isabella Devetta.

a house is a house is a home: Garden and Archive Weekend
As the seasons shift and we move into the darker winter months, last 7 and 8 October Villa Romana opened its doors for a harvest gathering that celebrated collaborative cultivation. With a wonderful and warm public, we eat together, we had workshops and performative presentations. The weekend was centred around artworks by Daniela Zambrano and Leone Contini as well as a collaborative seed garden, all of which have grown in the garden since spring, bringing together explorations of human-plant kinship and diasporic belonging. It was also a weekend in which we reflected on the practice of archiving: relating to seeds as archives, but also opening our photographic and historical archive of Villa Romana, engaging with its materials and questioning its absences.
As a new team at Villa Romana we are slowly learning from this garden and its inhabitants, as we are learning from our archive. The programme of the weekend read so:

Saturday 7 October 2023 (as part of Florence Art Week 2023)
10:00 - 13:00, 15:00 - 18:00 Guided tour of the archive with art historian Carlotta Castellani (Università di Urbino)
13:00 - 15:00 Seed Bunch, seed exchange and seed vessel-making workshop
17:00 Orto Continuo presentation and performance by Leone Contini, part of Semenzaio, a research project supported by the Italian Council (2023).

Sunday 8 October 2023 (as part of Florence Art Week 2023)
13:00 Pachamanca / Cosmic Pot: Andean Community Food Action by Daniela Zambrano Almidón


Seed Bunch workshop, Saturday 13:00-15:00

Seed Bunch is a seed-centered garden and performative seed library, growing in the garden of Villa Romana. It is a an attuning to vegetal agency, freedom, entanglement and co-cultivation. Friends and a wider public joined us for an experimental seed harvesting session where we explored the stories attached to some of the garden’s seeds. We made clay vessels for the storage of seeds through the winter months and use ash to protect the seeds. The seed garden has been imagined with Monai de Paula Atunes and developed with Leone Contini, grown from the generous seed donations of artists and friends. Seed Bunch is deeply informed by artist Zayaan Khan’s work on moving from seed-as-object to seed-as-relation.
We also had the pleasure of presenting Cultivating Relations, a Knowledge Sharing Session with Madeleine Collie and Marleen Boschen. Maddie discussed with us on acts of custodianship that draw our attention to the temporalities and needs of more than human companions. Plant politics entangle many of us in global systems of extraction and expropriation, while on the other hand it's through a desire to cultivate plants that a wider set of interdependences for our living, breathing, metabolising bodies comes into focus. Through a sharing of knowledge, we shared custodial practices that we might enact or that are enacted here in the garden that turn our attention to more than human worlds.

Orto Continuo Leone Contini, Saturday 18:00

Orto Continuo creates a space for creative cohabitation of the histories and movements of plants and their custodians. Responding to the evictions of Chinese migrant farming communities from their farms in Prato, Orto Continuo brings together plants from these farms that were forcibly abandoned, or that are in the constant danger of being confiscated, in order to unveil the demagogic circle of institutional/media violence that informs such practice.
These evictions take place in the local area where Leone lives. Orto continuo thus carries a responsibility to respond and make visible to the destruction of this form of self-subsistence farming that is able to feed the local community and therefore substainable. This ‘continuing’ garden asks how authorities and media other the cultivation practices of migrant communities through discourses around invasive species. Above all, the garden is a reflection on the practices of resistance that happen despite the evictions, on gardens that are destroyed only to reappear elsewhere, evading capture. Join us for a meal and open conversation at Orto Continuo, reflecting on the treatment of migrant farming communities and the movements of plants.

This project is a part of Semenzaio, a research project supported by the Directorate-General for Contemporary Creativity of the Italian Ministry of Culture under the Italian Council programme (2023).

Pachamanca / A Cosmic Pot: Andean Community Food Action by Daniela Zambrano Almidón, Sunday 13:00 onwards

Pachamanca means ‘a cosmic pot’ in Quechuan, it is at once sustenance, celebration and collective ritual. Cooked underground and with hot stones a range of Quechuan ingredients are cooked together. Artist Daniela Zambrano Almidón works with the deep and vital connection to the Land and connection to the rhythm of the earth in Quechuan culture. In spring this year Daniela planted indigenous varieties of maize, sweet potato and chili in the garden of Villa Romana. Pachamanca / A Cosmic Pot will create a moment of sharing food and rebuilding memory for Andean diasporic communities in the context of displacement. Based on the Quechuan concept of Ayni as a practice of reciprocity and interconnection Pachamanca / A Cosmic Pot celebrates a moment of connection with the land for migrant families.

The pachamanca is a celebration that takes place during harvest time. Respecting the rhythm of the land, and with the hope of harvesting the migrant species planted in Villa Romana, the Andean community is invited to participate in this celebration that connects our roots to the land, our histories and identities. This celebration of cosmos, flavours and memories is also a recognition of the migration of food of Andean origin. We are able to share these foods in gratitude to the ancestral knowledge that indigenous communities in the Andes and in their diasporas – such as in Florence – keep in practice, or in memory, and that are indispensable to safeguard life. This cosmic pot is the living recipe that closes this agricultural year and opens a path to the rest of the earth.

Healing Garden

How can an artists’ house become a space for collaborative healing and learning from plants? Drawing from the pre-existing biodiversity in Villa Romana’s garden we want to create a medicinal garden, put differently, a garden for healing both for humans and the villa’s nonhuman inhabitants. We imagine this garden to take shape in a secluded area within the villa’s larger garden in the autumn and winter of 2023/24. With the expert knowledge of agronomist Isabella Devetta we are currently mapping the biodiversity of the garden and learning about the pre-existing species with medicinal properties. Throughout the summer, together with the resident artists and the villa’s many visiting thinkers and practitioners, we will develop a list of plants and a design for a community apothecary. Exploring what the reasons and conditions are that might make us turn to plants – such as stress, anxiety, pain, digestion, sleep… – we will create a space that creates both an aesthetic experience of being held and belonging as well as a space for collective gatherings and practical learning from plants and people with herbal medicinal knowledge. By the spring of 2024 we plan to start using this garden actively, sharing knowledges around the plants with Villa Romana’s audiences and visitors and creating moments of collection, processing and experimentation.