If you happened to pass through Milan's Porta Nuova this week, you would have been forgiven for thinking you'd taken a wrong turn and somehow stumbled into the heart of rural Lombardy; for stretched out across 12 acres of land, a triangular field of wheat was being harvested by members of the public, armed with traditional scythes and flails as well as a combine harvester.
The rustic scene was in fact part of an installation by Agnes Denes that revisited the 'Wheatfield' project that the Hungarian-born American artist first realised 33 years ago, in New York's Battery Park. Invited to Milan by the Fondazione Riccardo Catella in partnership with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, Denes' Milanese 'Wheatfield' set out to renew the ambition of the original project – to reconnect the urban community with the land and their agricultural history, building social engagement in the process.
Reclaiming this slice of urban land, Denes transported 15,500 cubic metres of soil to the area, along with 1250 kg of Odisseo variety seed and some 5000 kg of fertiliser. To create an authentic experience, and so as not to harm the surrounding residential neighbourhood, no herbicides or fungicides were employed in the process. Coinciding with Milan's World Expo, the seeds were sown in March, harvested this week and will eventually make way for a permanent park, the Biblioteca degli Alberi, or Library of Trees, come October.