[...] In many cultures, the garden is symbolic of a state of human happiness. It is the image of nature enclosed and protected, and it speaks of the possibilities of human harmony with the natural world. The garden is the opposite of the wilderness, though even the wilderness can be described as an Arcadia. (Canada, in which the wilderness maintains to this day a tenuous and fragile actuality, derives its name from the word.) "Arcadia", Penone has said, with characteristic acuity, "is a notion, a mental space that has haunted man ever since the day that organised physical labour became part of his daily routine. Its traces can be found in poetry even more ancient that Virgil's; it isn't just an aspect of Romanticism. It is present every time that someone creates a relationship between his own being, his cultural and social background, and the reality of things that exist beyond himself in the world at large. It is a space for reflection, not a real place."
It is not surprising that certain artists have found in the creation of a protected garden the possibilities of a work that is at once emblematic and real. herman de vries is eloquent on this subject and goes to the heart of the matter: "what is the difference", he asks, "between beaux arbres and beaux arts? ... bringing together trees and art is a challenge - for art, a park, a botanical garden or arboretum is not nature! the collecting of plants and trees (from nature) is a cultural act. A botanical garden is, then, art - for it has to do with being conscious and the process of becoming conscious - and in the botanical garden you can sense (see, smell, feel, and sometimes hear and taste)." The modern botanical garden - such as that in Edinburgh where he was speaking - combines aesthetics and functionality, science and horticulture. Significantly, the design of such gardens, following that of Kew, the greatest of them all, borrowed heavily from the idea and practice of the English landscape park, with its artful and paradoxical implication that within it nature was free from human interference. It is in this respect that the landscape park, and the botanical garden, which combines scientific system with this benevolent illusion, may be said to operate as simulations of nature, even as they provide sheltered space for contemplative recreation (which word, now somewhat hackneyed, carries within itself the principal meaning of recreation: the very function of art in the receiving consciousness).
In 1998 herman de vries proposed to plant a few collections of shrubs, avenue trees and fruit trees in the residential area 'De Kievit', Tilburg. Each were given a nameplate on the pavement and cataloged in a booklet. The collections were put together in order to expose the tenants to a multitude of trees and shrubs. Each front garden of each of the 102 rentals was furnished with an apple tree, pear tree or plum tree.
Photo 1-36: Peter Foolen, Eindhoven (2011)
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tuindorp de kievit, tilburg
voorwoord peter blankenstein
tekst herman de vries [right]
stichting bronzen beverfonds, tilburg
de mondriaan stichting, amsterdam 1998
64 p. ; 23 × 16 cm. edition 2500.
introductory text by herman de vries to the project (Dutch).
Passage from Mel Gooding, 'Listening to the music', in Song of the Earth : herman de vries, Chris Drury, Nikolaus Lang, Richard Long, Giuseppe Penone / Mel Gooding, William Furlong (Thames & Hudson : London 2002) 6-47, 39-41. © Mel Gooding; courtesy Mel Gooding.