Human Flower Project
Monday, April 20, 2009
Flower Vendors, Sing Out!
To Archie Green’s temple of laborlore, we bring another offering: “cries” from the street.
at home on Caselli Ave., San Francisco, 2008
Photo: Shelly Romalis
A month ago, one of my heroes gave out after 91 years. Archie Green died March 22 in San Francisco.
As widely read and thoughtful as anyone I’ve known, Archie stretched over political theory, linguistics, the history of art prints, ethnomusicology, 19th Century American literature…. In conversation, he was precise and boundless, also given to fine eccentricities, like intentionally mispronouncing the singer Madonna’s name – “Ma-dOne-Ah,” with a very long, dopey O.
Archie’s great commission was studying the culture of working people, what he called “laborlore.” From the inception of the Human Flower Project, I tried to get him aboard but never succeeded.
Here, I and others have looked at many dimensions of flower labor. We’ve written about the conditions for fieldworkers in several parts of the world, and tricks of the florists’ trade. We’ve run photographs of New York sweatshops where women made artificial flowers. We even documented the use of flowers in a Montreal labor union’s demonstration. Pushing all these efforts at Archie, I could tell he was never really grabbed by any of it.