In the Spring semester 2013, McMullen_Winkler installed the National Security Garden, a public artwork featuring a planter box filled with soybeans, embedded LED grow lights and a solar tower on the West Lafayette, IN campus of Purdue University, an institution well-known for its agriculture and technology research programs. It is the project's goal to create a new image of soybean plants that stimulates the cultural imaginary and critical thought, and to develop new visual metaphors for the intricate relationships between nature and technology.
In the Spring 2013 semester McMullen_Winkler were invited by the Associate Dean of Purdue's Honors College, Dr. Emily Allen to create the National Security Garden public artwork at Purdue University - as the experiential learning component of the Honors freshman seminar on food security. Similar to the National Security Garden in Singen Htwl., the conceptual starting point for this public artwork were the many connections the soybean plant makes to issues of food security, energy independence, agricultural practices, politics - and eventually to issues of national security. This time however, the work was placed in a regional context where soybean research and mono-cultural practices are central to agriculture: in the Midwest of the United States. Having a deliberately provocative title, the work suggests that there are connections between farming methods, energy consumption, climate change and food security, which in turn can be related to broader issues of national security. In fact, the issues the work is dealing with harbor the potential for strong political divisions and nationalistic thinking. Nevertheless the artists do not try to advance any particular policy or political agenda. In contrast, McMullen_Winkler are promoting critical inquiry and discussion from multiple disciplinary perspectives using artistic strategies and embedding the installation in explicit discursive and visual sites like: a symposium, a gallery exhibition and on-site discussion opportunities with the artists and their collaborators (Honors students). This strategy made the work an ideal educational component in Purdue's Honors College: Honors freshman students participated in all aspects of the production of the artwork and afterward were actively involved in discussions with the campus/West Lafayette community about issues of food security, agricultural practices, biotechnology, politics, etc...
The artwork became an artifact (a conversation piece) for the exchange of ideas, critical discussions and public discourse that allowed the students to enter from their own disciplinary perspective. Similar to the public presentations accompanying the National Security Garden installation in Germany, McMullen_Winkler together with the Honors students organized a symposium at Purdue University on April 22, 2013 that further contextualized the issues embedded in the artwork. Presenters in this symposium included McMullen_Winkler, Dr. Patricia Boling (Purdue University, Dept. of Political Science) and Col. Mark Mykleby (New America Foundation). Furthermore, the public artwork was contextualized by an exhibition of related works, a project documentation, reference library and overhead slides prepared by the students in the Robert L. Ringel Gallery at Purdue (April 26 - July 18, 2013). Together with chef Kimberly Lulay (from Purdue's hospitality and tourism management program) a group of honors students prepared appetizers made from fresh/unprocessed soy ingredients for the exhibition's opening reception. The National Security Garden was conceived as a temporary public artwork, it was installed between Purdue's Bell Tower and the university administrative offices in Hovde Hall from April 1 - July 21, 2013.
National Security Garden Purdue