I was particularly taken with the last set of black and white photographs she showed us about the enclosed green house which we cropped and composed to exaggerate how the plants were trying to escape its metal and glass cage. It made me question the idea of the garden: is it really pretty and benign or is it a manifestation our perverse need to control nature? Is our need to make sense of the natural world really that threatening that we have to find ways to contain it? In many ways this is true . . . and I will never look at Beacon Hill Park the same again.
I think it particularly effective that the photos from this series are black and white. First it speaks about the bleak or dramatic connotations of the apocalypse and the revenge of nature and the manufactured environment. Second, it makes reference to old daguerreotypes and the birth of photography in old Paris (the structures of the greenhouse is reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower). The use of colour would have made the photos too attached to time whereas black and white leaves them timeless or eternal.
This piece reminds me of the installation in Seattle where Mark Dion transplanted a tree into a greenhouse space in a busy downtown area (Neukom Vivarium). To install this piece, a large amount of resources are needed to transport the tree trunk (thereby removing it from its ecosystem on which the next generation of tree depend) and then an equally large amount of resources are needed to maintain the fabricated ecosystem in the greenhouse space. It’s a disturbing statement about urban and rural space: is there equilibrium or will one system consume the other?
In light of the current state of the global environment, it seems fitting that the idea of the garden is a microcosm of what we do to our planet. In the words of Carl Sagan “How would we explain all this to a dispassionate, extraterrestrial observer? What account would we give of our stewardship of the planet earth?” How would do we account for how we treat others and the world? Are we in for a rude awakening?
|Carl Sagan: bromance!|