Victory Gardens for the War

on Terror

Contemplating current geopolitical dynamics, we found ourselves drawn to consider the importance of physical and spiritual sustenance in times of conflict. Food itself is essential, but the human contact that surrounds and supports cultivation under existential threat serves an immediate need as well. We think the need is growing, even in places where armed conflict has been largely avoided.

What are we as societies and individuals under threat from now? A threat from terror? A threat from anti-terror? What is this terror we are constantly confronted with and has come to shape our lives and behavior? The war on terror is a war on ourselves. In response, we choose to grow food, both symbolically and actually. These are our Victory Gardens. We hope to encourage others to grow food too, both out of self-interest and solidarity. It’s easy to start one’s own Victory Garden and share in our togetherness.

We were inspired by a photo of a Victory Garden on the grounds of Westminster Cathedral taken during the Second World War. A German bomb had left a large circular crater, which the cathedral groundskeeper simply filled in to make a nice vegetable garden. The bomb in effect created the garden. How ironic. But the cathedral community cultivated it. Contemplating the implications of this poetic gesture led us to research UK Victory Gardens in more depth, which brought us to the Imperial War Museum Archives in London as well as the archives of Westminster Cathedral. Food, earth, death, hope, love, propaganda — Victory Gardens in that time and place wove all of these themes and more into poetic and ingenious ephemeral urban farms.

Our contribution is a sharable recipe for Victory Gardens for our time, where the foe is faceless and stateless.

Our inaugural Victory Garden intervention took place in London’s Hyde Park, and was derived from photos in the Imperial War Museum Archives which were taken there during the war.

In the age of undeclared conflict, intention is the key, and statements generate facts on the ground. Our method is to tag the earth, establishing a Victory Garden wherever one seems needed. The declaration is the garden. But of course we plant real seeds too. 

After first marking circles 11 meters in diameter — identical to the Westminster crater Victory Garden — we re-enacted several scenes from the archival photos. 

Since then we’ve been making Victory Gardens for the War on Terror in cities around the world, guerilla-style. Some come with their own planters, to encourage passers-by to take them home, others simply claim a spot of earth. The laser-cutting patterns for the garden markers can be downloaded as a pdf file, so anyone can make their own. This is the seed of our movement.

Paris

Bucharest

Victory Gardens for the War on Terror is a continuing cultural project, intended to mutate as others make and mark their own gardens. Our wider conflicts are beyond the capacity of any one of us to stop, but each of us can provide physical and spiritual sustenance and succor to the besieged, and seek to clarify for ourselves our loyalty to humanity and the risk of distortion to identity and values that state-driven wars on terror provoke.

PDF TO DOWNLOAD HERE

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Rooftop farm in Yalda, Damascus, under seige by pro-government forces, 2015.

Photo credit: Lens Young Yeldani (text by Anna Ciezadlo here)

Durable laser-cut wooden markers, each with an appropriate propaganda slogan, marked the center of each garden. We planted radish seeds at each marker.

Then we left.

Washington, D.C.