In this post we present a series of maps we produced at Frontyard to retrace our steps and the evolution, or disappearance, of the seeds we scattered and gifted.

The maps are made with:

  • Seeds from the project
  • Knots, straight and wavy lines, tangles, loops from our walks
  • Linseed oil based inks
  • Paper
  • Graphite pencils
  • Pens
  • A re-commissioned Risograph printer
  • Benjamin Forster who taught us how to do it.


Walking and Tinkering

We always walk with technologies and we think of this as a kind of tinkering. Tinkering encourages serendipity which leads to unexpected outcomes. Some of our favourite examples of such outcomes are from medical science, such as the discovery of penicillin and the story of the frog and the spark. But of course, there are also many examples from the arts such as the tinkering of the Surrealists with the technology of photography (see the work of Lee Miller for example)

We think of the way we use technologies as ‘tinkering’ rather than ‘mixing’. Tinkering can be rearranging, repurposing, repairing, modifying and always involves familiarity with material at hand, embodied immersion and is deeply situated.

The appeal of tinkering is in its association to play. So rather than always seeing everything we are doing as part of a grand plan, sometimes we are literally playing at the edge of processes and technologies.

Playing with our smart phones is an important aspect of the way we walk.

Here are 2 ways we tinker with our phones that are free and readily available on our smart phones:

Map My Walk

We use Map My Walk. It is a simple app designed for tracking walking routes to ‘know where you’re going, see where you’ve been’ .

The app is part of the Map My Fitness suite of mobile apps and websites which the company claims is ‘building the world’s largest digital fitness community by providing interactive tools to make fitness social, simple and rewarding.’ We don’t engage with the core of the company, we just tinker at the edge.

This tool is an important tool for Mapping Edges because it helps to retrace our steps. On our seed ball walk we mapped our walk so that three weeks later, we could retrace and see which assemblages of seeds and edges have been successful in generating new edges.


We use photography to frame what we are looking at, literally, and to record our observations. Instagram is used as a form of collaborative notetaking and a way to share our walks and our observations with each other.

How we observe, interact and tinker, is clear in our instagram feed.

We use as edges as a metaphor here by using the hashtag #mappingedges – we use other languages to find new edges. #kebun #giardino And we connect to gardening, permaculture, design, botanical and artist communities …  and even car subcultures when we used the hash tag #drifting.


Everything Gardens

We dedicated our walk to Bill Mollison. Mollison, who passed away on 24 September, was a teacher, writer, ecologist, co-originator of permaculture with David Holmgren, and many more things. We walked with Mollison’s A Permaculture Designer Manual in our mind, curious to find out what kind of yield would our walk produce if we thought about systems and design.

We walked with a group of people who had heard about the project and were curious about it. We gave to each of them a card with one of Bill Mollison’s principles, and a seed ball to start with: like fortune cookies, but based on system thinking. Then we started walking.

Urban edges are among the last places where one might expect to find permaculture principles, but let’s not limit our imagination. Take for instance the piles of detritus that accumulate at the side of the road: it’s waste, it’s not-waste. Everything works both ways. Discarded plastic cups act as a barrier and leaves collect against it. The leaves decompose. A tomato seed – escaped from a garden possibly via birds – germinates on the compost, and a plant grows. Suddenly waste becomes not-waste.

In this walk we decided to return something to these neglected urban edges in the form of seeds of edible plants that gardeners grow in the area. We had made seed balls in case the edge was not accessible, and we had seeds to scatter. It is a slow and small guerrilla gardening type of interaction: make the least change for the greatest possible effect. Seeds might grow, or maybe not: we chose niches in spaces with some of the right conditions for the seeds we had selected: some sunny spots for chili peppers, some shady corners for parsley, and so on. It will depend on water, and there hasn’t been much rain this Spring. In a week we will go back to observe what happened.



Frontyard, a starting point

We have been meeting to start our walks at Frontyard, a local, future-facing ‘Not-Only-Artist Run Initiative’. Frontyard is located on the land of the Gadigal Wangal people, now in the heart of the sprawling Sydney suburb of Marrickville. Marrickville has recently been amalgamated with a number of other councils into a super council, called Inner West Council. This move can be read in many ways. For Mapping Edges, the boundaries of government represents another bureaucratic misalignment with many of the important edges we pay attention to that produce locality. The edges we continue to map across the Inner West remain nuanced and particular to their ecosystems. Frontyard exists within and acts across these bureaucratic boundaries, serving as a much needed social space for people from all over Sydney who want to think differently about possible futures and our agency in shaping them.

Although it has only been running just over six minths, Frontyard has already been a starting point many times. Amongst others, Tom Lee, during his residency in April 2016, conducted a public walk to think about aesthetic boundaries and the categories of taste through Marrickville architecture. For Tom what is interesting about Marrickville isn’t the distinction between the beautiful and the ugly, but the uncertainty surrounding the judgements of these categories and the ‘increasingly mixed, dynamic and radically subjective relationship people have with what gives them pleasure and purpose.’ You can see Tom’s way of walking through the world and the path we took together here and @theaustralianugliness.

Also in residency in April, OpenAustralia Foundation used Frontyard as a starting point to walk and document current development applications and the miscommunications they produce.

And during our first residency, Mapping Edges began the process of finding and generating edges in the industrial and residential ecosystems and microhabitats of Marrickville. Since then, we have begun walks from this point many times.

Why do we start walks at Frontyard?

Kirsten Seale, one of our fellow walkers, answers this beautifully, pointing out the importance of recommissioning place collectively. She writes of Frontyard, ‘as a phenomenon emergent from processes of making that (with thanks to Tim Ingold) entail entanglement and correspondence between bodies, senses, spaces, materials and affects, and which are infinitely generative.’


From seed-balls to seed-bombs to seed-things

We started by making seed-balls, or as they are sometimes referred to, seed-bombs. We follow these different names because they help us to frame what we do as a translation practice.

The technique of encasing seeds in a layer of clay to protect them from predators is ancient, and in modern times it was adopted and popularized by Masanobo Fukuoka in his ‘do-nothing agriculture’. ‘Seed-balls’ is the English translation of the Japanese nendo dango, literally clay and ‘things combined together to make a ball’. But dango (the combining of things into balls) also carries other associations and meanings, such as sweet rice flour balls.

Seed-balls are useful in areas difficult to reach, and their use transitioned from natural farming and permaculture, to regenerative agriculture, and to guerilla gardening. Along the journey balls became bombs, and generated their own military metaphors, such as strikes, bombing, attacks.

Seed-balls. Seed-bombs. In one language we associate a domestic practice, making sweets with rice flour, to a non-interventionist form of natural farming. In another we speak of military operations, actions and conflicts. Every practice of translation is also betrayal, shifting and repurposing of meaning. What is a farming practice on the volcanic soil of a Japanese island becomes an activist reclamation of public space in urban contexts.

At the edge where these two meanings rub against each other, we started to make our own seed-things, and through the making process we created our own betrayal of both balls and bombs. The seed-things will be gifted to walkers and gardeners, in a translation of the gift economy through which gardeners generate their networks and gardens. We think of our first walks as a form of citizen (social) science, where we will be gathering data about different ecosystems, but also as a way of hacking the urban ecosystem, for instance by introducing the possibility of food production and small pockets of surprise to a semi-industrial zone of the city thought to be desolate.



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