SHADOW OF GARDEN
mixed media installations
at DEEGAR PLATFORM
No. 30, Malek-osh-Shoara Bahar St, Varzandeh St, S Mofatteh St, Haft-e Tir Sq, Tehran, Iran 1571745799
08.12. - 20.12. 2017
Marit Justine Haugen
Curators: Malin Barth, Alireza Bayat, Orkideh Daroodi, Sissel Lillebostad
Shadow of Garden
The curatorial project «Shadow of garden» stems from two exchange visits between the Iranian and Norwegian curators. The first meeting happened in spring 2015, around the time when the loosening of sanctions against Iran was still some time away. The next happened when the international community – which in this context means the western – relaxed their sanctions and it again after many years of absence became possible to have economic relations. This can be interpreted as a thermometer, measuring the temperature on potential collaborations. During this following period, the temperature has gone up and down, at the moment when this text is written – as cooling even. It remains to be seen if the cooling process will be embraced by Europe or if the released relations will continue to be eased.
So, what were our common denominators? And how to move beyond the big political image and too well-known narratives? This exhibition hands out some possible answers through the different artist's approaches and individual versions.
Growing crops is a constant battle, with harsh weather and barren soil, with invading weeds and animals serving themselves to the ripening harvests. Ever since our family of man got agricultural, we have struggled over diverse and unpredictable conditions. Even so, despite the constant worry and aching back, the garden is also a site for sweet encounters. A deep relation with our capacity for transforming, crafting, shaping. Thus the gardens become products of human labor and ability to plan for the future. Taming the wild, cultivating the soil, culturing nature. But without the constant care, they decline to ruins and wilderness. No wonder the gardens are kept under surveillance, behind walls and fences, with access regulated through locked gates.
The Semitic religions, which have influenced both Persian and Norwegian culture, share the concept of the garden as paradise[i]. Garden of Eden symbolizes humanity's original harmony with the divine order. Eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Life can be seen as a metaphor for the transformation from the innocence connected with childhood to the world of self-reflexing consciousness connected to the adult being. The child gets consumed by playing, imagining and transforming the world, floating in total attention, being in one with the task at hand. This state of occasionally occurring when making art and music, as well as writing and acting. They are moments of bliss and maybe what we really search for. For as we know from the story, as soon as Adam and Eve[ii] ate the fruit and saw themselves as naked, felt shame, guilt and fear, they were mentally outside the Garden. Being deeply connected with what you do, can, in other words, be seen as a metaphor for again dwelling in the garden as paradise.
The concept «Shadow of Garden»
The concept first developed from the recognition of our common cultural roots regarding the garden, but we soon moved in the split between the secluded garden and the indifferent wilderness. The existence of a shadow points to the presence of a walled enclosure, the fact that the garden is regulated and for many, inaccessible. A shadow is a place marked with separation and desperate desire. To be in somebody`s shadow is also a metaphor for dependency, understood as not having an autonomous existence. When you live in the shadow you are invisible: to history and power.
Metaphorically speaking we live in our respective gardens: Norway’s self-image as one of the best countries to live in, The Islamic Republic of Iran as a garden where the right faith is being cultivated. The undertaking of both regimes is to keep the garden intact. Not to weed it out, keep it manageable. Under these circumstances, the shadow, representing chaotic forces, is seen as unwanted and threatening.
We want to explore this complex topic within the present socio-political situation, which is tarnished by distress and anxiety related to unpredictability, but where we also find optimism and energy to solve these issues. We also want to take a closer look at the shade we create and how we through art perceive this position.
Short notes on garden cultures in Iran and Norway:
The garden has deep roots and a strong position in Persian culture, and it is valued as a place for leisure, peace, abundance, and richness’. In Persian art, the garden is given a visual appearance of harmony and geometry. It is also a visual and physical replica of paradise, where the big man (prince or king) could play the role of god and invite others into the paradise-like garden. It is not a place for labor, just joy, pleasure, and passion. The signs are always wine, music and fruits and food.
Iran is a dry country and water is a valuable resource. Controlling water is also controlling agriculture, this means power. The water is in many ways the essence of the garden and there is always water in the shape of a channel and a pool in the center. The channels are directed at the four directions south, west, north, and east. The water also works as a cooling system in summer. Ingenious structures, like Qanāt[iii], provide water supplies, often from mountains far away.
These gardens were not only fertilizing the symbols of nature but also the symbols of art. These gardens represent the timeless and eternal, a non-mortal existence. The culture and the architectural life of the secluded garden were exported together with the conquering of neighboring countries.
Where Persian gardens’ are centrally formed around water and shade, the fundamental elements in Norwegian gardens are sunlight and greenery. Stones or stonewalls are used to store sun-heath or protect against harsh climate. A garden in Norway will try to provide protection against the environment, there will be several places to sit and relax according to the time of day or direction of the wind.
Historically Norwegian gardens belonged to the upper class, not unlike the Persian gardens. In the middle of the 1700s, Norway had strong economic growth and thereby the possibility for a richer cultural environment. Norwegian landscape gardens from this period reflect both political upheavals and recent trade contacts. The Norwegian bourgeoisie began to use garden design and exotic plants to promote Norway and make new, good international contacts. The selection of plants demonstrated owners’ prosperity, knowledge, and education, and was also important in signaling identity. One of the most influential styles on the gardens of Norway was the English Landscape Style in the 1800s, where the formal part of the garden lay nearest the house. It was used to exhibit plants, whilst the part a bit further from the house was laid out according to the model of untouched nature, with trees and bushes, as well as various crops and shrubs that suit the terrain.
Today Norwegian gardens bear the mark of an informal, free design that goes back to early farmer’s gardens [bondehager] and common gardens [allmuehager]
[i] In the Qur'an it is simply called the Garden... The Garden of Eden is recognized in the three Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam… The word "paradise, "often used as a synonym for the Garden of Eden, is originally a Persian word describing a walled orchard garden or an enclosed hunting park."
[ii] Adam and Eve, according to the creation myth of the Abrahamic religions, were the first man and woman and the ancestors of all humans. The story of Adam and Eve is central to the belief that God created human beings in a Garden of Eden, although they fell away from that state into the present world full of death, evil, pain, and suffering.
[iii] A Qanāt (Arabic: قناة) is a gently sloping underground channel to transport water from an aquifer or water well to surface for irrigation and drinking. Qanat is an old system of water supply from a deep well with a series of vertical access shafts, Qanāts still create a reliable supply of water for human settlements and irrigation in hot, arid, and semi-arid climates. The qanat technology is known to have been developed in Iran by the Persian people sometime in the early 1st millennium BC, and spread from there slowly westward and eastward.
The exhibition received support from OCA.