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Butterflies, architecture, the cartesian split

 What do butterflies, architecture, and Rene’ Descartes have to do with each other? I hope that this site-specific artwork, Butterfly Bower, will give you layers of ideas to think about.

Many of you will be familiar with the concept of the Cartesian Dualism, the mind-body split that has characterized Western culture for hundreds of years. (I think, therefore I am).

We privilege mind over body, intellect over sensual experience. We privilege human over wild nature, and this philosophy has lent itself to justify so many other oppressions of gender, race, class, and more. But this fundamental elevation of mind over body, human industry over untamed nature, I believe that this is the cultural basis for the ecological damage that we’ve done to our planet.

We can extend this metaphor poetically to this physical site.  This church, and it’s consequent revival as a cultural center, as a signifier of the Mind,  and over here, the manse, with it’s kitchen and bedrooms, speaking to the needs of the body.

In this sense, the carriage house is a perfect site for this Butterfly Bower, a habitat for humble pollinators. Bower can mean a shelter in a garden or woods, a retreat, a lady’s private rooms in a medieval castle: a perfect place for fertile and fecund productivity.

We humans depend absolutely on the pollinators, the bees, wasps, bats, and birds,
for our crops, for our nearly all of  our foods. We need them to show up in droves at the perfect moment for the cherries, then the apples, then the zucchini.

  And yet, in between the times of flowering for our crops, they struggle to find their own food and habitat. We make their lives very difficult. We mow our lawns before the wildflowers can bloom. We plant exotic shrubs in our yards, from which they cannot get their nutrition.  We pour poisons on everything: herbicides, pesticides, moss-killers, detergents, petroleum oils and gasoline. 

Charlotte is beautiful and green, but if you were hungry for a flower, where would you find your lunch?


So: Feed the body. Remember that the word “aesthetic” refers to sensual experience, the perceptions of the body, the stunning beauty of wild nature.

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