Métis Garden Festival

„In actions of mankind we recognize rather than moral or criminal acts the irresistible natural laws of creation and destruction“
De Sade

Derived from the old germanic word gart, the word „garden“ refers to an enclosure of a piece of geography for which an ideal and an ownership has been claimed. The word „paradise“ also refers to the enclosure of land, from greek paradeisos (enclosure), connected to Avestan (Iranian) pairi- (around) + diz (to make). While „paradise“ might symbolize the site of no conflicts, unity and life needless of morality, the question is actually about work, negotiation and warfare. The garden at Metis is further exploring a topic that has been recurring in different projects of Topotek 1, that of the Violence of the garden.

The „paradise garden“ is representing the wish for a paradoxical purity. Compared with a the view on nature as „natural“ and original, the garden is an unorderly condition, an illness. Seeing the garden as a fight of obtaining a constant condition, it is a site of conflict, of negotiation and strategies. To cultivate or create a garden (as an incarnation of paradise) destruction of the preconditions is inescapable. To create a new ideal the exclusion of species compared to others is as necessary as fighting pests and unwanted visitors. The trench, developed during the Civil War in 1863, outlines the definition of the „no mans land“; this field symbolizes the unreachable, a notion of exclusion. Its immanent possibility to move and create new borders reminds us of that ever-escaping ideal, and the remaining visible traces in the landscape from these acts of disappearing bear witness of that process.

The barbed wire was invented in 1864 by Joseph F. Glidden (Illinois) for fencing off cattle, but it took no more than a few years until it was recommended by the British to be used in war. The transformation of a tool into a weapon becomes representative of landscape itself, as being the arena for different strategies to defend and defeat. In history, landscape is political and the modifications of the landforms has been the task of the landscaper. The surface of the earth is showing these traces of artifice but sometimes the beauty of their forms hides their destructive aspect of violence.

To protect an ideal, disregarding the ethics of ownership and systems of power, is always done with the means available. The obvious references to the now more than one-hundred year old warfare techniques are here transposed into an observatory where the use of the land can be considered. The observatory gesture is underlined by the fact that this twenty meter long trench is not a direct reenactment to that used in war. While the proportions are accurate of an original trench, a real trench would have a perpendicular turn in direction every ten meters. It would have less of the perfected detail and the refined, sculptural nature of the barbed wire matrix.

The position of this garden, looking towards the Canadian bay, may allude the war-games of children, or perhaps the invasion of europeans as seen by native Americans, but rather, it reflects the emergence of the framed landscape image as such, a narrative of further paradoxical ideals. On one hand we have the protected, walled-in garden, on the other, the border-less paradisal freedom projected onto nature. Climbing into the trench and observing the landscape creates new perspectives, an observatory of the realities of the garden, forcing us to further consider the construction of our surroundings and our ethic standpoint. Put in a context of the naturalized gardening ideals, this installation might be perceived as violent, but as such, the questions of cultivation is brought to the table.3

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