Victorian Gardening (1)
Victorian Gardening (1) is a curatorial project by artists and curators Joakim Borda, Verina Gfader, Colm Lally and Gerald Straub. Over four seasons, from spring to winter 2009, the group will organise an experimental programme of events using the theme of Victorian Gardens as a source for a contemporary engagement with nature. The project traces our relationship with nature, societal powers, our bodies and science from the Victorian period through the development of modern medicines, the industrial revolution, theories of evolution, visualisation of culture and contemporary critical thought. Subcategories within this broad space of research include: plants from the colonies and current colonization, Migration/contamination; Germs/seeds; G-nomes; Categorisation of nature; Orderings, Hierarchies, Models; Gardens as non-intellectual refuges - senses/perfume; Explorations - Expeditions; Foliage and the media screen; Garden as metaphor; ‘Gardening’ as an artistic territory.
Verina Gfader’s Curatorial Statement
OUTLINE OF PROPOSED PROGRAMME
“Geographers say there are two kinds of islands … . Continental islands are accidental, derived islands. They are separated from a continent … . Oceanic islands are originary, essential islands. Some are formed from coral reefs … others emerge from underwater eruptions … . These two islands, continental and originary, reveal a profound opposition between ocean and island” (9). “Dreaming of islands … is dreaming of pulling away, or being already separate, far from any continent, of being lost and alone——or it is dreaming of starting from scratch, recreating, beginning anew” (10). “Hence the fundamental list of the senses of the word planetary: global, itinerant, errancy, planning, platitude, gears and wheels” (75). “Who speaks and who acts? It’s always a multiplicity, even in the person that speaks or acts. We are all groupuscles … there is only the action … in the relations of relays and networks” (207). “If we look at today’s situation, power necessarily has a global or total vision” (210). “Imperial unity gave birth to philosophical discourse … . Philosophical discourse has always maintained an essential relation to the law, the institution, and the contract … traversing the ages of sedentary history from despotic formation to democracies” (259). “Whoever reads Nietzsche without laughing, and laughing heartily and often and sometimes hysterically, is almost not reading Nietzsche at all” (257). “An island doesn’t stop being deserted simply because it is inhabited” (10). “The simple is not divided, it differentiates itself. This is the essence of the simple, or the movement of difference” (39).
Gilles Deleuze, Desert Island and Other Texts, 1953-1974
The departure point of my programme proposal is to consider the “Victorian Garden”/“Victorian Gardening” (VG) as both a micro- and macrosystem: as microsystem the VG is a container with its particular dynamic, economies and properties, operative in already set parameters. As macrosystem the VG functions in relation to other systems, other movements that are sometimes linked to it.
VG as microsystem deals with controlled tamed garden space; ornamental, labyrinthine patterns; architectural devices; controlled movement. There are: trimmed hedges, pyramids, rigidly laid-out squares, rounds, garden monuments. There is the public space and the public body, social etiquette, aristocracy… VG as macrosystem deals with the affects, and the outside of VG as microsystem. For example, themes such as migration, trade, and the transportation system that emerge in the Victorian era and re-appear in specific forms in contemporary economies. With it goes: potential contamination; hybrid bodies/organisms. Michel Foucault’s concept of biopower taken further by Giorgio Agamben and Antonio Negri/Michael Hardt. A recent exploration of the implications of power in relation to life and forms of resistance by Alexander R. Galloway and Eugene Thacker in The Exploit: A Theory of Networks. Critical Art Ensemble’s investment of molecular invasion. With VG as macrosystem, other issues arise: dispersal, crossing, transmutation, loss of a fixed form, growing, dying, rotting. Detritus. Waste as material. Technology and waste. The growth of the digital and capitalism.
The theme of VG functions as a ‘seed’ or granular, a transportation system itself. This one-year project tells about garden as a particular site of research and action. The programme brings together disciplines of horticulture; bio-science; art; philosophy; it provokes the art institution as a relatively static and clearly defined place. For the year 2009 I suggest activities that focus on the development of ideas realised in alternative forms of shared cultural dissemination: trialogues (instead of dialogues or round table discussions), a seminar and counter-seminar, night-events or minute-events. The methodologies of research and presentation determining these formats are aimed to think “ephemeral knowledge” and to operate outside mainstream art production/dissemination. Each of the projects taking place can be seen as a grain towards a more or less sharp image. These research and methods of practice/theory relate to the gallery’s overall methodologies and focus on micro-politics, minimal gestures, and artistic and cultural ‘transactions’.
Verina Gfader, spring 2009