Our approach to the concept
The suggested theme of the 22nd International Garden Festival at Chaumont-Sur-Loire is „Garden of sensations” or Contemporary synaesthesia. The theme’s description contains many topics related to variety of physical sensations which could be experienced in a garden. It is not only covering individual sensations provoked by specific objects, but also those of sensations which could only be experienced as a result of a joint influence of several factors. So there is some sort of sensation scene which brings a person into a certain condition or provokes a certain emotional experience.
Examples of the gardens which provoke and accentuate sensations are well-known. Mostly of them are specially designed for people with disabilities. They offer a replacement of a particular sensation which can not be experienced by another one. For instance gardens with an emphasis on sound or scent could be meant for blind or visually impaired visitors.
This sort of sensation theme interpretations is undoubtedly interesting in a certain context. But at Garden Festival at Chaumont-Sur-Loire we would like to consider the theme at a deeper level, not limiting it to creating a picture of physical sensations. So we have started to develop a more complicated and abstract vision of the subject. Our concept has been inspired by a quotation from Aristotle given in the theme description: “There is nothing in our intelligence that has not first touched our senses”. It accentuates that it is sensation that make us think about objects and phenomenons. So what does garden make us think about? What other senses but physical it gives to us?
We have responded to these question in the following way. Probably the main feature of such phenomenon as garden is its dependence on time, its close relationship with this dimension. The most obvious manifestations of time in a garden are alternation of day and night and change of the seasons. We percept them automatically due to change of lighting and plants condition. So garden is constantly offering us an opportunity to think about time course and experience it.
There are more levels of time perception which could be experienced through garden. For instance, sense of eternity (cyclic recurrence) of life. It becomes apparent when you understand that garden would never die forever. Even a destroyed garden would rise up again one way or another. Garden is like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, just give it some soil, water and sun. And it will grow. Designed or not. It used to exist before us and it will exist after us. And even if it depends on a human at first sight, it’s not in fact. Garden will be different without a human, but it will live still.
It is eternity and cyclic recurrence of life that we decided for while choosing a theme for our garden exhibition concept. We only show a positive stage of cycle - its renaissance. It’s the way garden rise up from nothing. A negative stage – destruction – stays behind the scenes and is only exposed at the beginning.
We have chosen Black Square as a very simple but at the same time powerful symbol of beginning of everything. It refers us to the ideas and creative works of the Russian artist Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935). During the Garden Festival a new garden will rise up from Black Square.
In a garden context black colour forms an association with something burnt-out, like black coals lying on the ground. Coals and ashes mean something had been existed before but disappeared for some reason. But they have an additional purport as well – this substance has got a growth potential. It contains everything (except sun and water) that a new garden would need.
Our garden layout looks like a black square surrounded by a lightcoloured path made of gravel. The black square is a burnt-out garden raised up for 50 cm above the path. In the garden we see such elements as part of a fence, some paving, apple trees, grass and a mixed border. A space between the path and the hedge is filled with the mixed border, coloured white and green. The border appears to be a blooming frame for the black square. There are two benches on the sides of the black square. The sides opposite to the benches are bounded with white wooden walls, these walls also form some sort of an entrance hall. There are two Malevich`s quotes on the walls in Russian, English and French. These quotes make the visitors think about meaning of what they see in the garden. The first quote is placed above the entrance and states: “I am the beginning of everything”, the second is put inside the garden: “Neither Life nor Death should remain because these two phenomena do not exist apart”.
The image of the burnt-out garden itself is a strong emotional experience. The stronger this emotional experience is, the more powerful is the joy caused by rebirth of the garden. The “ruins” will add to the new garden some unusual, interesting texture and combination of the old “dead” garden with the rise of a new one will create an absolutely unforgettable scene.
With the time course the garden will “recover”and turn green. We would like to draw a picture of spontaneous vegetation growing over the traces of fire. However, we will assist the nature by planting and sowing while making our visitors believe that the garden is rising up on its own.
An important part of our concept is taking “time-lapse“ pictures of the process throughout the entire duration of the festival and showing them online. By displaying the different stages of the project development online we create an additional art-project, which brings an understanding of the process to another level.