July 23rd, 2006


Avant gardening

Well, I performed a Momus set last night outdoors, standing right in the conceptual garden (the sixth in a series) by Atelier Le Balto. In fact, the avant gardeners even have their office in the Kunst-Werke courtyard.

At a time when territorial invasion has become a malign trend, it's nice to see that a more benign use of territory is also fashionable: the transformation of dead sites into gardens. At Palais de Tokyo in Paris, for instance, as well as two Wild Gardens designed by Atelier Le Balto, you can currently see a show called Tropico-Vegetal. This show takes off from the work of Sergio Vega, whose installation Paradise in the New World at the Venice Biennale was, for me, the highlight of the 2005 show.

At Palais de Tokyo, as curator Marc Sanchez explains in a series of video clips about the show, there are five individual exhibitions, taking off from Vega's conception of tropical South America as both a real and a mythical place. The rest of the shows concentrate on "the zone of vegetation". In an installation called "Through the woods to find the forest", Henrik Hakansson has made sculpture of fallen forest trees and fifty species of orchids suspended from steel cables. His main material is "the universe of the forest, its plants and luxuriant trees, its insects, frogs and serpents".

Based on a 17th century book he found which described (with maps) exactly where to find an earthly paradise in the rain forests of Brasil (a place called Matto Grosso, paradise hunters), Sergio Vega has made an installation called "Un Petit Coin de Paradis", recounting his own rather haphazard experiences tracking down and finding this spot.

The Palais de Tokyo gardens will be dismantled in August, perhaps to be reassembled somewhere else. The idea would please Leipzig-based Atelier Atlas, who make mobile and brief-duration gardens: "A small experimental garden may have a life of but a few moments", they say.

Let's hope that Ian Hamilton-Finlay's conceptual garden at Little Sparta, outside Edinburgh, lasts a wee bit longer.