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An exhibition conceived and designed by Cooking Sections, opening February 21, 2019 at the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery at Columbia GSAPP
Press Release
10 December 2018

The Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (Columbia GSAPP) presents Offsetted, an exhibition conceived and designed by London-based spatial practitioners Cooking Sections (Daniel Fernández Pascual & Alon Schwabe). An immersive installation comprising matter from New York City trees — including bark, branches, trunks, leaves, and clippings — will assemble a constellation of narratives about the political and economic interests that have both protected and displaced the city’s trees under the pressures of urbanization.

The exhibition is on view at the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery in Buell Hall, Columbia University, from February 21 through June 8, 2019. The opening reception will take place from 6 to 8pm on Thursday, February 21.

A London plane tree at 728 Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn reduces $13.55 of carbon dioxide annually. In Manhattan, a thornless honey locust at 320 East 42nd Street conserves $194.14 of energy. An ailanthus at 95 Astoria Boulevard in Queens intercepts $46.16 worth of stormwater. In total, 678,183 street trees in New York City currently provide $109,625,536.06 in “environmental services” to the city every year. These services correlate to a tree’s biological functions, which are calculated in dollars—a mitigation scheme that positions trees as instruments to offset man-made ecological degradation. Rather than address the actual source of emissions, wastewater, or energy over-expenditure, the quantification of the performance of trees into tradable assets implicitly accepts the continuous production of waste and pollutants.

Since the 1980s, environmental preservation efforts have increasingly deployed such economic frameworks. Though the environment as a concept remains an abstract entity of seemingly priceless value within the cultural imagination, its habitats are nevertheless mined as an economic resource to serve humans, and have been unequivocally transformed into global financial investments. Offsetted examines the emergence of this valuation of nature, questioning the underlying logic and mechanisms of environmental protection. Focusing on New York City, the exhibition assembles histories of individual trees through an installation of branches, leaves, cross sections, and cores from the five boroughs, presenting episodes from the evolution of its urban environment when trees have played an active role in “serving the city.” From colonial settlements to community protests against gentrification, to recent “green renewal” projects such as Million Trees NYC, the case studies in the exhibition together uncover the political and economic interests behind the planting of trees in the city. Offsetted reveals the ways that trees have been mobilized to negotiate the permanence and disappearance of the built environment and, as a result, how they have been used to both displace people and secure their rights to occupancy.

Offsetted seeks to launch a public debate on the financialization of the environment—from the scale of a city tree to an ecological reserve—and on current forms of environmental justice. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, Cooking Sections will further develop the project by exploring procedures for the de-financialization of the environment and the stakes of such actions. Challenging the imposed obligation on trees to perform as speculative assets and environmental mitigators, they propose ways to acknowledge the right of trees not to serve as carbon offsets, allowing them to just be trees.

Offsetted began as a lecture-performance for Performa 17 in 2017.

About Cooking Sections
Cooking Sections (Daniel Fernández Pascual & Alon Schwabe) is a duo of spatial practitioners based in London and founded in 2013. It was born to explore the systems that organize the world through food. Using installation, performance, mapping and video, their research-based practice explores the overlapping boundaries between visual arts, architecture and geopolitics. Since 2015, they have created multiple iterations of their ongoing, site-specific project CLIMAVORE, which explores how to eat as climate changes. In 2016 they opened The Empire Remains Shop, a platform to critically speculate on the implications of selling the remains of the British Empire today. A subsequent book about the project was published in 2018 by Columbia Books on Architecture and the City. They currently lead a studio unit at the Royal College of Art School of Architecture, London that investigates the challenges of the financialization of the environment. Cooking Sections participated in the U.S. Pavilion exhibition at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. Their work has also been exhibited at Manifesta 12, Palermo; Lafayette Anticipations, Paris; the 13th Sharjah Biennial; Serpentine Galleries, London; Atlas Arts, Skye; Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; Storefront for Art & Architecture, New York; Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal; HKW Berlin; Akademie der Künste, Berlin; 2016 Oslo Architecture Triennale. They have held residencies at Delfina Foundation, London and Headlands Center for the Arts, San Francisco, among others, and their work has been published internationally. They are recipients of a Graham Foundation grant and were recently shortlisted for the 2019 Future Generation Art Prize and the Visible Award.
The exhibition is organized by Irene Sunwoo, GSAPP Director of Exhibitions and Curator of the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery , with Tiffany Lambert, GSAPP Assistant Director of Exhibitions.
About Columbia GSAPP

Among the world’s leading research universities, Columbia University in the City of New York continuously seeks to advance the frontiers of scholarship and foster a campus community deeply engaged in the complex issues of our time. Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (Columbia GSAPP) offers a range of programs in architecture, historic preservation, planning, real estate development, and urban design that bring together imagination, experimentation, and critical thinking towards new forms of practice. GSAPP is committed to shaping a more equitable, sustainable, and creative world by engaging architecture and the built environment from diverse and global perspectives. The school functions as an urban condenser of ideas and drives innovation and change through the leadership of its faculty, the excellence of its academic programs, the expansion of interdisciplinary opportunities as well as the richness of its research initiatives and events.

More information about Columbia GSAPP’s academic programs and research initiatives, public exhibitions and events, and publications can be found at arch.columbia.edu.