Social planning

In order for David Buckley Borden to begin creating his new body of work, he headed west, taking on the uninhabited and sprawling desert landscapes of Nevada and Utah. Having become interested in landscape, ecology, and cartography while a student at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Borden wanted to create an art installation that wrangles America’s conflicted relationship with its landscape and natural resources.

Borden’s upcoming art installation, The Wild West, which opens this Saturday, May 17 at Boston’s Bodega (you know, the shoe store), explores similar ideas to that of his prior professional work as a landscape architect that illustrates America’s grappling with species extinction, resource scarcity, chronic landscape disturbances, and the destruction of critical ecological systems.

Borden, alongside his handpicked group of creative professional collaborators* including, a leather worker, an architect, some product designers, a wood worker, an advertising executive, a graphic designer, and a couple of landscape architects, has crafted an uninhibited installation of abstract drawings and prints, custom shelving and rugs, and an array of uniquely crafted and heavily researched maps – some made of cowhide or laser-etched on wood ­– that communicate ideas that consider current environmental issues such as water rights, fracking, mega-droughts, industrial livestock agriculture, road ecology, and more.

Although the show, which runs until August 31, can be seen as an art and design exhibition, it’s also an exhibition of Borden and his myriad collaborators’ craftsmanship skills and talent. Borden has orchestrated an interactive art installation that is undoubtedly meaningful and accessible to a broad cross-section of people. All work is for sale and ranges from $12 to $2,400. Borden and his collaborators deliberately created a wide price-range in order to make the work affordable to everyone interested.

In anticipation of this weekend’s opening reception, scheduled this Saturday, May 17th, from 7-9PM, at Bodega, BDCwire has teamed up with David Buckley Borden for an exclusive giveaway of one of the show’s limited edition art prints. Enter here for your chance to win this limited edition print.

*Collaborators: Bodega, Brad Crane, Mike Foster, Tera Hatfield, CC McGregor, Myles O’Brian, Loyal Supply Co., Trifecta Editions, Valor Press, Union Press, Unlikely Creatures, and Steve Walz.


Q: You started this project in January, what has the process been like? Recruiting collaborators? Finding inspiration in what specifically and how?
A: This project started the day I picked up a copy of “America Earth, Environmental Writing Since Thoreau,” and realized our American landscape history, in very simple terms, has been a constant conflict between those seeking to exploit the land and those trying to protect it. Sometimes, these were the very same person, such as Teddy Roosevelt, albeit at different times in his life. I became fascinated by our country’s conflicted attitude towards its landscape and nowhere was this more evident than the American West.

Q: Did you head to the desert; actually take on the West?
A: Yes. As part of the creative process I thought it was important to go West. I visited Nevada, and Utah to get a better understanding of the Western landscape. I believe that in order to understand a place, its critical you go there to experience it first hand.

Q: How do the installations and pieces in the show speak to the ‘ecological Wild West of today?’
A: I set aside the popular narrative of exaggerated romance and violence associated with America’s western frontier experience for a narrative that instead positions the “Wild West” in terms of regional landscape ecology. There are troubling parallels to the Old West and the classic West imagery still plays a role. The ecological Wild West of today, like that of yesteryear’s Wild Wild West, is marred by violence, conquest, and unchecked exploitation. The critical difference is that the stakes are exponentially higher and operate on a regional scale with both local and global impact.

Q: This exhibit includes the work and craftsmanship of an array of differing creators (a leather worker, advertising executive, graphic designer, etc.) what were the biggest challenges in creating an exhibit with such a multi-disciplinary nature?
A: The coordination of a multi-disciplinary team is always a bit of a challenge until we all find our grove. Beyond that, the biggest challenge is developing the initial creative brief that lays out the project vision. Besides that, everyone was recruited with a specific task or objective in mind. These folks are professional problem solvers by nature; they solve problems, they typically don’t make new ones.

Q: How important was it for this exhibit to include collaborations and works from creative professionals that come from such different professional backgrounds?
A: Although I self-identify as a multi-disciplinary designer, the vision for the project exceeded my own abilities. I’m not a product designer, a graphic designer, a wood worker, nor a leather worker. But their skill sets were essential to realizing the vision. My own creative practice overlaps with a variety of disciplines. So, I view every project as an opportunity to work with other creatives. The end-result is always richest when you can fold in other talented folks with different backgrounds, perspectives, and skills. They certainly don’t need to be artists or designers in the conventional sense. For the majority of the collaborators, outside of the print makers, this project is their first installation.

Q: Bodega seems like an unlikely place for a show like this, would you agree? It kind of creates a weird, yet intriguing juxtaposition of styles.
A: Bodega is definitely an unlikely venue for a landscape ecology exhibition and that’s partly why they were my first choice of Boston locations. I joke with my landscape architecture colleagues that I’m on a life-long mission to make landscape-related issues more accessible and relevant to the general public.

Bodega is also one of Boston’s cultural hotspots. Its not that they just get a lot of foot traffic, but the people that go to Bodega are generally design savvy, engaged in the arts and interested in new ideas…it just happens to be a retail setting.

Q: Where will you go from here with your work?
A: I have a variety of related projects in the works. I’m working with Laura Harmon on a folk-mapping project of Super Storm Sandy. I’m developing a project with Andy Sturdevant that explores the cultural landscape of the Yankee Diaspora with a focus on the “Mid West of New England.” And, I’m working up some new spatial-experience branding with Ryan Habbyshaw and Kim LaFoy. Beyond that I’ll be digging into my Trifecta Editions artist residency.

Q:Tell me more about your Trifecta Editions Residency.
A:I’ve been select as the 2014 Trifecta Editons’ Artist-In-Residence and will spend most of my summer building a series of ecology-based landscape installations at their artist-retreat, a 50 acre plot of land at Eagle Lake in Ticonderoga, New York. The installations will be site-specific built works, similar to my recent landscape-a-day proposal project. I’ll also be creating 2D work as part of the residency, including a print series with Trifecta. The following year, there will be an exhibit showcasing all the work.

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