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Futile attempts at control in an area of curated wildness, mini industrial farms in the forest, or retirement homes for abused tubers; these earthworks are also monuments to communal labor and conversations about food and land. 

Installed as part of Owning Earth, curated by Tal Beery with Erin Lee Antonak, at Unison Arts Center, New Paltz, NY, 

June 2021 - October 2022. 

Catalogs available here


Co-co-codac! audio guide

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Emilie Houssart Co-co-codac

A network of rectilinear growths emerges from the forest floor. Could these be symptoms of some viral intruder, corrupting our sanctuary from modern life? On closer inspection, some of them appear to be sprouting. 


Profit-driven thinking demands unilateral progress from A to B, at the expense of the quiet in-betweens. These square-topped forms out in the woods might recall monumental pedestals, but also our rectilinear homes, our farmlands, and our borders. Each confronts us with billions of subterranean microorganisms at body level, and about 20 pounds of industrially farmed potatoes. 


The protrusions were built collaboratively with a series of guests. Together we made potting mix from the forest floor, combining it by hand with local town compost, sand, and fermented horse manure. We replanted potatoes bought in 5-pound plastic sacks from local supermarkets, ramming each layer into shape while we explored perspectives on food and land in conversation.


Monoculturally farmed potatoes undergo a barrage of chemical treatments during production. This explosively reproductive, imported tuber fueled the burgeoning workforce of European colonialism; today, it is a staple of American processed food. Out in the woods, those doused with the most potent sprout-retardants were unable to root. Their forms collapsed quickly, and they rotted among the leaves. Others were able to take advantage of fertile conditions to sprout and flower - though they were no longer required to. Their root-bound ecosystems re-arranged themselves more gently into sustainable forms. They had babies and continue their displaced lives undisturbed by the logic and aesthetics of commerce. Cycles of growth and collapse will continue throughout the course of the show.


The title of this work is taken from Eugène Ionesco’s absurdist play The Future Is In Eggs. Characters who have become obsessed with producing more and more of their own kind squawk “Co-co-codac!”, as a newly-matched couple produces batches of eggs, ensuring the future of the white race. It should be pronounced as though by a human chicken.

Emilie Houssart Co-co-codac!

This is a story of displacement and survival, of abuse and resilience; of control and release; and of reproduction at all costs. 

The project will culminate in a publication documenting a year of growth, decay and dialogue.


(Audio guide text) 

Among the trees, square-topped earth forms seems to rise from the ground. Billions of forest floor microorganisms meet us at body level like the fruits of an anthropocene fungus. 

Profit-based human activity on the planet is signalled by geometry - the most direct routes from A to B, at the expense of the quiet in-betweens. These forms might recall gallery pedestals - but also our rectilinear homes, our farmlands and our borders.


Each protrusion contains potatoes bought from local supermarkets. These tiny industrial farms seem out of place in our sanctuary from a fast-paced life; or perhaps they are luxury hotels, a tuber's retreat from fluorescent lights and pesticide sprays. These potatoes may sprout, but they are not required to. 


The title of this work is taken from an absurdist play, The Future Is In Eggs, by Eugene Ionesco. Characters who have become obsessed with producing more and more of their own kind cluck ‘co-co-codac!’ as an arranged marriage produces new batches of eggs, ensuring the future of the white race. 


The potato is a postcolumbian import from Bolivia and Peru. Introduced in Europe, the astounding reproductive prowess of this humble root vegetable fed an exploding population of workers of the Industrial Revolution, the engine of early colonialism. These days in the US, potatoes are farmed on an immense scale for huge corporations, rendering land and waterways infertile and poisoning low-income communities.


The forms also act as records of conversation. My guests and I made potting mix from the forest floor with sand, local town compost and horse manure while we talked about food and land. The constructions and dialogues will continue throughout the year to form a publication.

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