Where is the art of gardening?

Veronique Faucheur, Marc Pouzol, atelier le balto / Berlin   presentation Where is the art of gardening?   Where is the art of gardening? or The dance of the garden Numbers in [brackets] correspond to slides in presentation. The atelier le balto has often been invited by cultural and artistic institutions to create a garden. It seems that our work has been noticed by art interested people; that gave us a position at the edge, between art and landscape architecture or between art and gardening... [1-2] For our part, it seems to us  that we have developed an attitude which we believe to be simply one of a “paysagiste” ; you may say “landscape architect” or “landscape gardener” or, to use the word loved by J.C.N. Forestier, “jardiniste”, [3] unifying the words “jardinier” [gardener] and “artiste”.   This term has also been chosen by the culture journalist Paolo Bianchi, for an essay he wrote in the Basler Magazin (3. July 1999) at the occasion of an exhibition called „I never promised you a rose garden“, which took place in Basel, Switzerland in 1999. In his essay: “Im Garten der Kunst”/ “In the garden of Art” he considers the word “garden” in its origin as a rhizome [4], a wattelwork, the word rhizome deriving from the theory of G. Deleuze, F. Guattari, presented in Mille Plateaux (1980). In this essay Paolo Bianchi presents the word “garden” itself as a word, a work, a value, a process, as something in between. He presents the garden as a reality and not as a product of imagination. Together with Deleuze and Guattari, he reminds us that: “The reality appears through the interdependence of different impressions; the impressions that we experience through the time and the space. In the same way, the garden is a reality, which acts and changes and winds.”   Now, thinking about the attitude of atelier le balto in order to present it to you, I was asking myself the question [5] put forward by Brigitte Wormbs in the magazine Gartenkunst in 1997. Her question is:”What persuades garden art nowadays to a dialectic revision of its concept? Does it intend, instead of giving way to each latest trend of pioneering performance, to unfold the poetic in the historical?” (Brigitte Wormbs, in “Capriccio oder nach den Regeln der Kunst”, Die Gartenkunst, Edition 1/1997)   I think, indeed, that in creating a garden the intention of atelier le balto is “to unfold the poetic”. Let’s try to discover that through 5 points or 5 slogans. 1. “A garden is a place to walk – Walking in the garden and walking between the gardens “   [6-7] That a garden is a place to walk through is not something new; at least since the Sun King wrote the description of a walk, a Promenade through the Parc de Versailles. Louis the 14. described in this book 25 stops or spots… But, is the garden not also what is between these spots, these “pictures”, these “paintings”; is the garden not the promenade itself and what is going on in your head when you are going through? [8: painting] [9] « The walk was already the dance » is a phrase written by P. Handke trying to describe the mountain which was the main subject of Cezanne’s paintings (La Leçon de la Sainte Victoire). As an echo to this phrase I would like to quote an other artist, also teacher in the school of Versailles, Jean Luc Brisson’s, about the cat-walk we built in the Jardin Sauvage in Paris, for the Palais de Tokyo, a site for contemporary creation: [10-11]  “On peut survoler la terre” / One can fly over the ground. This wooden walk that crosses the garden from one end to other slows us down. Footsteps reverberate, we can play at walking.” The garden is something to go through: it means that, when you go through, you will be transformed, you will look at the things in a different way. [12-13] Jardin Sauvage   It means also that the visitor becomes an actor. [14- 17 = KW] – [18- 23 = Tallinn] – [24 =Tafel Garten] He is acting more consciously, more aware of where he is and on what he walks, more aware of what is around him or her. Then, naturally, the other visitors and even the plants become spectators of his or her walk. For this reason, when we build a garden, we often organize a feast, be actors ourselves and to look at the visitors transformed into actors and to be together. Is the garden not also a meeting place?   [25 : Woistdergarten?] In some of our projects, the walk also takes place between the gardens, from garden to garden. These walks allow a new discovery of the town. The project Woistdergarten? had and has still the purpose of making the people discover their own “Kiez”, their own living area. It has the purpose to move the people beyond the street, [26] behind a wall or [27] behind a building, towards a courtyard. [28 - 29] It also changes the perspective of the visitors. Having been in a garden, coming out of it, they look at the environment differently. They look at the grass growing through the asphalt differently, they rediscover the Ailanthus, this “god-tree” or “Tree of the sky” because we just cut it differently and cover its feet with dross.  [30 - 33: Katen Garten – Ailantus / dross]     2. The Garden is a place to feel what is “in between”!   [34 : Muybridge] We often defined the garden as a place being in between two elements: for example between two walls [35-36: Jardin Sauvage], which define or give the character to the garden; or between two spaces: for example between the street and the backyard [37-38, 39: KW]. In that case, the garden becomes a filter.   But the garden is also there to make feel what is between yesterday and tomorrow, [40-44: Gartenserie KW] between last year and next year; between three hours ago and right now… The philosopher Michel Onfray wrote: “In a garden, the river of time is slowed down, held back, accelerated, increased in its efficiency, guided, controlled and formed as sculpture” (Michel Onfray: Les formes du temps, théorie du sauterne, 1996) We like to make this feeling of time more apparent, more obvious. For that reason we leave the dry plants during the winter or we dismantle a garden when its time is gone. In the case of the Jardin Sauvage [45 - 48: Jardin Sauvage], made mostly out of perennials, the garden seems to disappear during the winter – just the palms remain. And each spring, the garden is bigger and more exuberant.        3. Slogan: “Already the drawing the garden is ‘an act of faith’” [49: Jardin Sauvage]   This phrase has been told to me by an enthusiastic person coming back from the Jardin Sauvage. It made me thinking that to be a garden-architect or a jardiniste, one has to see the garden before it appears. Yet, it is not there, but still, it is there. [50]   You draw it… [51, 52 - 55: Padula, drawings of Chloé Sanson] and soon, it will appear. After that, it develops on its own.   J.L. Brisson wrote also a text about the “monster” when he came back from the gardens of the project “woistdergarten?” we did last year in Berlin. [56] He saw these gardens as hidden monsters (good monsters) that we just discovered and revealed or disclosed to the public. [57 - 62: Buchgarten] When you are on the spot, [63, 64 - 68: Tafelgarten] you draw and you make it appear on the paper. Is drawing a perspective not the same as having a perspective, I mean: a vision… Is that not seeing what is already there… but hidden?     4. “The garden is living”   [69 ] When you see some new parks and particularly the new parks of Berlin, it seems that the parks today have to offer large space, green surfaces and straight lines. Is this attitude the result of a counter-position to the ecological movement of the 70? Has it to do with the pseudo-need of the town to have spaces easy to control, to clean and to maintain? Or is that an “air du temps”, a trend? Maybe as a reaction to this tendencies, since 2001, [70] atelier le balto transforms the courtyard of KW, Institute for Contemporary Arts in Berlin, into a new and each year renewed “living garden” or “moving garden”. The first year, we installed a nursery... Let say: a condensed nursery. We brought fruit-trees, willows, wine, and tamarisks. It was a festival of plants. T he second year we brought 5 different sorts of climbing plants. The most successful were the bean plants with their red flowers and their seeds at the end of the season… The third year we presented three different sorts of willows, receptive and reacting to the lightest wind. And the 4th year it became a hops garden; the hop was climbing on bamboo-sticks that visitors took as living bamboos…   In his essay “In the garden of arts”, Paolo Bianchi (op.cit.) wrote: “Nowadays, jardinists practice less an ordering of the nature than an unfolding of the human in the green. The garden as a living place, as open space to act, as a corner of the world and as cosmos is poetry. Poetry of the space [71], poetry of the plants [72], poetry of the live [73]”.     5. Act as a Gardner – being part of a process   [74] To build the Jardin Sauvage at the foot of the Palais de Tokyo, we had to form a solid team which would be able to make the garden appear in 2 weeks.…   To express this aspect I will quote a text extracted from a recently published book with title: “Fieldwork”. This book presents the works of 43 different European landscape architects, chosen by a jury consisting of professional landscape architects which are all members of EFLA. [75] « A handmade iron-barred gate [76] of the kind that belongs in such a wild garden closes off the new realm. Not only the gate was made by hand. The short time at their disposal required the landscape architects to add specialists with the necessary handicraft skills to their team and even to use their own hands. [77 - 89: Evolution Jardin Sauvage] The planners themselves built, planted, dug and watered here, they created space with the means they were able to handle themselves with, no more and no less. It was the planners’ attitude that convinced the jury. The jurors clearly recognized the planners’ intent to design without “design” and to make an inhospitable place into a lively garden, which inspires reflection upon where the wilderness ends and creativity begins, where the artificial intervention is what allows the presence of the natural in the first place. By making a garden, the planners have retrieved this place for people, and the jury appreciates its very special atmosphere: “one big shadow, filled with plants”. (Fieldwork, Landscape Architecture Europe. Birkhäuser, Basel, 2006.).   The garden is now still growing, with the help and under the light controlling hand of the jardiniste Marc Vatinel (Le Havre) [90], who is acting in the place two or three times a year.     Conclusion   I just would like to finish with some pictures of our last new garden, yet growing at the East of Canada, on the ground of Métis, the place for the international Garden festival of Métis and at the same time with a quotation which will bring us back into the vocabulary of the dance and the choreography, a quotation of the American Choreograph Merce Cunnigham, who believed that his work has always been in process: “Finishing a dance has left me with the idea, often slim in the beginning, for the next one. In that way I do not think of each dance as an object, rather a short stop on the way””. (The Weekend Australian 20-21 January 2001: 18). On the same way, we do not think of each garden as an object, rather a short stop on the way… [91 – 94, 95: Bois de Biais / Jardin Métis, Canada]       Véronique Faucheur, for atelier le balto, 2006.