Many of us have a particular space in which we touch nature. We are not always conscious of how to use the space in any other way than how it was appropriated when we began using the space. Often times the backyard, which is commonly this space for most, gets nothing more than a grass cutting and possibly some weeding but most often it’s the only consideration we give it. How to use this space changed for me this year as I moved into a rental that had no grass in the backyard. At first I refrained from going in the backyard because I perceived it as unsightly. As the winter rains came I saw the backyard change from brown to green, becoming overgrown, I began thinking about these personal spaces we have and how they cycle.

As a doctoral student in the School of Sustainability I am continuously thinking about what sustainability means, how it’s practiced, and who practices it. There are several schools of thought on how to best leverage sustainability efforts on global, regional, local, and personal scales and which are most effective; I think they all have their place. However, in theorizing we often forget about our personal practice, our need to touch the earth. I think there is significant value to the statement that if you want to change the world you must begin with yourself, this project is an exploration in radical sustainability on a household level.

Beginning with the current state of the backyard how does one go about changing it for the better? What would be considered better? Can mini-ecosystems be developed in backyards? What does personal sustainability look like? These questions need exploration in order to develop legitimate answers.

Finally, this project looks to bring awareness to everyone about our own backyards and how we use them and what we could imagine using them for if we were radical about how we touched and explored nature. As individuals we may not have significant influence regarding sustainability but as a community our decisions are compounded, we currently help shape the world we have and can have a substantial effect on how our world is reshaped in the future, all one has to do is start in their backyard.


Title: Experiences in the Backyard
Description: This video has been in continual revision about the experiences taking place in my backyard. We miss the multiple scales at which we experience these personal spaces so I play with time scales and resolution bringing awareness to what often goes unnoticed.
Date: 5/2011
Location: Tempe

Edgar Cardenas

About Edgar Cardenas

Edgar Cardenas is an artist-scientist. Born in California, raised in Wisconsin, educated in New England and the Southwest. He studied Psychology at Gordon College (BA), Industrial/Organizational Psychology at University of New Haven (MA), and is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Sustainability, with one foot in the School of Art at Arizona State University. Edgar’s photographs have been exhibited in galleries as well as in scientific journals. He believes the next creative mashup should be between art and science so he works in both spaces. Specifically, his work explores the ecological, cultural, and technological relationships humans have with land.