Root words

Pop-up poster show confronts vocabulary, concept of sustainability

Jacob Nachel is steering a green-themed exhibition at Lost City Farm.

Jacob Nachel is steering a green-themed exhibition at Lost City Farm.


The Lexicon of Sustainability show runs during Artown at Lost City Farm, 512 S. Center St. in Reno. Visit for a complete schedule.

A widespread campaign to get people talking about sustainability is en route to Reno.

Part photo installation, part video montage, part grassroots movement, the Lexicon of Sustainability uses language—which is to say actual words and phrases scrawled onto compelling images and short films—to relay messages about food, farming, green living and community.

“We’re a grassroots collection of everyday heroes,” says a voice-over in the campaign’s vague yet moving introductory video. “We translate ideas into information artworks … that become pop-up shows across America.”

Jacob Nachel, who’s arranging such a show during Artown at Lost City Farm, says he was impressed with the Lexicon’s realistic approach and recognizable spokespeople.

“They feature some of the best minds in farming and sustainable food sourcing in the whole world,” he said.

One is Joel Salatin, for example, a Virginian known for raising beef, pork and poultry who actually dubs himself a “grass farmer.” (Salatin’s cows poop, his chickens scratch at the manure and kill maggots that’d otherwise become flies and bother the cows, more grass grows because the scratched manure becomes fertilizer, the cows graze again, and so on.)

Anyway, things like gluten and GMOs are confusing enough to folks new to the vernacular. Forget terms like “seed sovereignty.”

The Sustainability Lexicon “is a really good bridge between the people who are leading the movement at the forefront and those who have no idea what that [terminology] means,” Nachel said, not unkindly. “It’s too much for most people to handle.”

When he volunteered to launch the pop-up event in Reno, program organizers simply mailed him 24 large, text-covered images by filmmaker and multimedia artist Douglas Gayeton—the same posters circulating in similar shows across the country. The onus is on him to frame and present them at Lost City and four other places he’ll announce soon, then eventually find a school or library to house the posters permanently. And yes, takers are welcome.

Lost City was a fitting location in part because it’s easily accessible on foot for so many people, said Nachel, who approached farmers Toni Ortega and Lyndsey Langsdale with the exhibition idea.

“We figured it’d be a great union of sorts,” Ortega said. “Why not come and be on a sustainable urban farm in town while looking at the images, and kind of create a dialogue? The posters reflect all aspects of sustainability—not just food, but also energy and conservation efforts.

“They’re really beautiful images, but they’re really educational images,” she continued. “It’s an important piece of work, and it’s exciting that someone like Jacob is making the effort to have this happen in Reno.”