Grass has seemingly always existed in the periphery of human affairs. As a resource and a space. Over time it has become entangled with its backdrop in ways that make it difficult to extract/seperate from the substrate in which it exists.
It's a weed, it's a lawn and a symbol. It's competitive arena and an ecology. It is a color and a scent capable of evoking childhood memories.
A mathematician, Benoît Mandelbrot asked How long is the coastline of Great Britain? It is a question to which the answer depends entirely on the scale of which it is being observed. A similar paradox of perception can be raised when observing the boundaries of any object or action in terms of scope and ramifications.
An early approximation of scientific definition of botanical is the form of the botanical illustration. It is a discipline which isolates specimen from an environment in which it is intrinsically enmeshed as ecology on a multitude of levels.
The collector of specimen cut his subject from its surroundings in a similar manner to the former colonialist rulers that drew straight and arbitrary lines across landscapes with disregard for the fuzzy boundaries, visible from perspectives at the ground.
The Swedish botanist Carl Linneaus would select specimen which he deemed perfect and pinned down as an ideal representation of its kind. and he named it in accordance with a unifying system of nomenclature of kingdoms and classes. Linneaus named the genus classification of grass Poa, derived from the Ancient Greek: πόα, póa for fodder.
The lawn may have originated as a consequence of domesticating livestock and emerged as enclosures within early medieval settlements used for communal grazing, distinct from fields reserved for agriculture. Areas of grass regularly grazed by rabbits, horses, sheep or cattle over a long period of time form a very low tight sward similar to a modern lawn.
Forms of this territory re-emerged among European aristocracy as a recreational and decorative space maintained by grazing animals or gardeners. Reserving land for a non-producing decorative crop is an expensive and extravagant proposition for most people at a time for whom the exchange value of the land would remain the primary concern. This space is one in which more lawn-based games and activities approximating tennis, golf and began to form among the classes with time for recreation.
This labor-intensive social and symbolic space underwent a process of democratization with the invention of the mechanical lawn mower, which lowered the maintenance cost thus propagated it as phenomena.
The lawn mower also integrated lawns in suburban expansion and creation of the household aesthetic, as an important aspect of interaction between the natural environment and the constructed urban and suburban space. Having a beautifully kept lawn at home is a signal.
As tertiary effect the lawn mower also turned out to be a catalyst for the codification of modern rules in sports on grass.
From the nineteenth century onward -especially in England and later France- sport was seen as a civilizing instrument. Both civilizing the working classes at home and the colonized populations that were part of the empire. In India, British colonialists would start cricket clubs and teach the local people how to play the game, which would entail the wearing of the uniform, following the rules and boundaries defined by empire referees. Embedded in this relation would be a moral enterprise that would teach discipline, self-control and respect.
Many of the lawn games dramatize a subset of reality. The Court represents a battlefield in which strategies and fortune plays out tactical manoeuvres take place.
Grass is a resource and natural, it is a weed and it is wild. As a lawn it is constructed contained and artificial. Grass is found at home and next to highways. its a landscape and a model of a landscape, it is a multitude of things.
When I see men riding machines mowing and maintain these contained steppes in our cities and beside our infinite network of roads. I can't help but think something inside of him or us, reminisce of the nomadic steppes and pastures from the past.
There is an ocean that surrounds the island that you inhabit and know, and that is everything you don’t know. The infinite.