We Reap What We Sow, embodiment and urban allotment gardening. Part 1: autumn- late winter, October- January. (2021)

Polly Hudson

About this exposition

This research investigates the inquiry: how is embodiment illuminated by a relationship with the land, earth, and plants, specifically in the context of an urban allotment gardening practice? It reveals the act of writing from the body, the relationship between a movement practice and gardening, the ancient ritual of growing and nurturing plants, and notions of gardening as a somatic practice. The research project was carried out over the space of a year, from 2019-2020, and in this exposition the activities and interventions that were carried out during part I of the research are revealed. The work shared here is part of an on-going long-term project instigated in 2017 ‘And so we Sow’ which looks at the relationship between dance and gardening.
typeresearch exposition
keywordseco-somatics, Skinner Releasing, embodiment, slow movement, dance, allotment, gardening
last modified20/04/2023
share statusprivate
copyrightPolly Hudson
licenseCC BY-NC-ND
published inRUUKKU - Studies in Artistic Research, Birmingham City University: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media
portal issue16. Working with Vegetal

Simple Media

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785811 IMG_0196 Polly Hudson All rights reserved
785817 IMG_6885 Polly Hudson All rights reserved
785829 polly-dom-164 Gregory Milner All rights reserved
785836 IMG_6965 Polly Hudson All rights reserved
785843 IMG_7014 Polly Hudson All rights reserved
785851 IMG_5425 Polly Hudson All rights reserved
786363 IMG_0263 Gregory Milner All rights reserved
786365 E5F4D0C2-D967-4B1D-80EE-98A3D5078366 Polly Hudson All rights reserved
786372 IMG_5477 Polly Hudson All rights reserved
786381 IMG_7120 Polly Hudson All rights reserved
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786399 91BD1DE6-B580-4433-99B1-B2A78D1B836A Polly Hudson All rights reserved
786420 IMG_0105 Polly Hudson All rights reserved
786430 IMG_6969 Polly Hudson All rights reserved
786434 IMG_6968 Polly Hudson All rights reserved
786436 IMG_6890 Polly Hudson All rights reserved
786439 86F9CCC5-71D4-4E60-A713-94D9D142DAC0 Polly Hudson All rights reserved
786444 7FF90FFF-1570-4BEA-AD71-D8485CA3D77A Polly Hudson All rights reserved
786468 6862B2C9-D110-413C-9662-E19B693AC04E Polly Hudson All rights reserved
786488 IMG_5477 Polly Hudson All rights reserved
786489 IMG_0196 Polly Hudson All rights reserved
788641 Unknown-2 Polly Hudson All rights reserved
788645 Unknown-1 Polly Hudson All rights reserved
788651 Unknown-1 Polly Hudson All rights reserved
788653 A4ADD70B-D7B8-48EE-BC91-68E6FD58B22E Polly Hudson All rights reserved
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788657 Unknown-1 Polly Hudson All rights reserved

RUUKKU portal comments: 2
Paula Kramer 24/05/2021 at 09:55

This is an edited version of the peer review comment, which the author has used as an aid when finalising their exposition:


Dear Polly,


I have written a peer review for your piece and am now sitting again with the version of the contribution as it currently stands. I re-read my peer review in which I find myself saying many things about positioning, framing, details, analogies, assumptions and the like as well as design and composition. I have to smile at my own tendency to get caught up in details when I review work, there are often many resonances, many things to say – what to prioritise?


I wonder how you felt when you read my review. Your contribution is full of earth and blossoming and growing and then someone arrives with a microscope and says: all very fine, but how is this bacteria here connected to that rhizome over there?


Or, as I wrote:


Partially the contribution uses quite normative language: “As we acknowledge the benefits of being outside and of gardening, we can begin to understand that it is necessary to shift our relationship with the earth, with where our food comes from and with how we live.” – whilst I can agree, the “benefits of being outside and of gardening” are not a given and how relationships to earth “need” to shift is quite a complex matter.“


In any case I notice that you defended (let’s say) your exposition well against my probing and left it mostly as it was. Well – that’s at least what I think. What is interesting in this process is that of course I can no longer refer to the exposition how it was when I first read it (nor can I return exactly to my state of mind in which I wrote my peer review).


In any case, a few points I decided to repeat here, the rest is between you and me, the editors and the universe. May we once see each other again, on your plot! Thanks for your work.




Implicitly this contribution is well positioned in relationship to the call, at the same time the reader (in my mind) needs to use deduction or speculation (or common sense: yes, this is about plants) – to draw conclusions on this relationship. It may be that the author feels like this is totally obvious because the exposition is “all about plants” or “all about gardening” – but of course at the same time it is also “all about life” as well as speaking specifically also about work, family and somatic practices or embodiment. As a reader I am interested to know how the author herself threads these threads together, specifically. I can sense this in a way, or guess it, or relate to it because I share a similar background or field of practice, but especially because of that I would encourage the author to unfold and make known (in her own way) – how she positions this work, what the draws from it, where she aims with it.


I very much enjoy reading the diary type entries, one by one, moving through the weeks and months in this way, partaking in Polly’s life events (in retrospect – weddings, deaths, birthdays, celebrations, musings, daily life, work, family etc.). A kind of peaceful and nurturing rhythm emerged within me that I found satisfying, enjoyable and noteworthy as a reader. The writing resonates in my body.


The exposition is of interest for, but it is not directly positioned towards artistic research as a field or practice. On the whole positioning is not its main concern. Personally, I would say that at least some positioning in relationship to its field (that I would roughly delineate somewhere between gardening, autoethnography and somatic practice) would be helpful to clarify from where and towards what the author speaks. A few anchors and possible visions made articulate in terms of what fruit this (kind of) work could bear in the context of artistic research seems relevant to me in the context of this specific place of publication.


The design of the exposition does not make significant use of the possibilities of the research catalogue. I could imagine the author take her choice of text/image setting further, whatever this might mean in her terms. I was reminded of a “scroll” (not sure if this is the correct term, a way of passing on writing pre “book” on a long piece of paper). 


The author suggests that through this sharing “the relationship between the self and gardening is revealed”. Whilst I partially agree I miss at least a few notes on how the author understand this “self” and how she takes this project on: what is her method and/or practice, what might be other helpful ways of framing, relating to this project, how does it speak to other projects/investigations taking place in the resonant space between gardening as a bodily practice and embodiment/somatic practices etc. – Last not least – how does she understand “embodiment”?


I think this can be done in many different ways, the author can of course also argue that this kind of material is better shared “directly” and without too many precursors. But also in this case I would like to see at least a sentence of reading advice / a reading score or some such, so I know what the author aims for - some sort of tuning, so we know what it is that we come upon.


(I do know, yes, that this also happens “on its own”, through the work, as it stands. But still. I do argue - where I can - for gestures of invitation and positioning).


Happy gardening and moving onwards!

Victoria Hunter 24/05/2021 at 09:56

This is an edited version of the peer review comment, which the author has used as an aid when finalising their exposition:


This is an excellent photo essay / reflection on embodiment and gardening and I believe it fits with the publication’s remit.


The exposition skilfully combines subjective reflection with broader theoretical / PaR ideas from the fields of somatic practice and environmental dance. The relationship between the activity of allotment gardening, somatic wellbeing and physicalized response to the world and its materials is well managed and the gradual sense of progression through the year and through the growth cycles of both human and nonhuman is excellent.


I think that those engaged with studies into autobiography, and autoethnography in performance / somatic movement ideas will find this of interest. The photographs are beautiful and capture something of the human-nonhuman exchange between body and site.


Whilst the article does not employ an overtly academic or theoretically dense mode of expression, the writing and reflection is nevertheless well informedand draws on a broad range of material to inform the reflection on the experiences gathered here. It will have broader appeal to those interested in creative writing, photography and somatic work and writing more broadly.


Relationships between the authors embodied movement practice and teaching and how this informs her engagement with the allotment space and vice versa are articulated and demonstrated clearly through the diary format prose.Methods employed are sound and the experimental nature of theoretical / personal and anecdotal writing works well and brings a new approach to combining these elements.


The design is beautiful and very engaging – it is simple to navigate and has a sense of rhythm that reflects the organic / cyclical nature of the growing cycles described.


I thoroughly enjoyed this article and really engaged with the images, ideas and propositions presented. The organic arrangement of materials, images and ideas reflected the type of human-world relationship proposed and the complexity of these types of relationships was made more poignant through the combination of reflection, reverie, poetic construction and reflection on life more generally.I enjoyed being offered a glimpse into the multi layered existence of another practitioner and to witness the ebb and flow of professional, academic, somatic and personal ‘materials’ woven throughout this text and its beautiful images.


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