Performance » Music

Keeping it Reel



Is grass-cutting an art form? It can be if you're one of those people who obsessively manicures the lawn on a precise diagonal, alternating said diagonal's direction each time you mow. And if you feel the urge to edge-trim and leaf-blow (or sweep away) any errant clippings remaining on your driveway or sidewalk, chances are you've experimented with additional artistic mowing maneuvers.

For those of you who groove on the click-clack, click-clack Zen rhythm of the old-school manual push mowers, you'll be pleased to know that you're not only keeping it real, you're keeping it local. Almost 80 percent of all reel-style models sold in local stores are made by the Great States Corporation (also known as American Lawn Mower Co.) that is based in Shelbyville, Indiana. What's more, they've manufactured them since 1895.

When the Indianapolis Museum of Art's Scott Stulen, curator of audience experiences and performance, was with the Walker Art Center in Minnesota, he helped organize a community art experience a few years ago that featured the push mowers. Resident artists Chris Kallmyer and Machine Project asked community members to bring their eco-friendly (people-powered) manual mowers to the Walker, and to "celebrate the American lawn." Their grassy tribute included marching (loosely) in formation with 50 other reel mower pushers, all of whom had embellished their mowers with bells. The folks strutted around in the somewhat choreographed "mobile-mower orchestra." The effort, alongside their other residency projects, is captured in this video:

Machine Project at the Walker Art Center from machine project on Vimeo.

When the rain finally ends and you pull your lawnmower out to tidy up you yard, consider the performance and visual art you can create.

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