DISSIDENT GARDENS (EXHIBITION DESIGN)
Location: Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam
Date: March 4 – September 26, 2018
In collaboration with: Eric Roelen and Team Bouwko Landstra
With Dissident Gardens, Het Nieuwe Instituut focuses on the most current expressions of the classic struggle between nature and culture. The programme includes a multi-part installation and a series of lectures and debates.
Many landscapes have been designed and are the direct result of human action. The Netherlands is a global leader when it comes to productive landscapes. It is our ultimate (export) product of imagination and control. The garden plays a distinctive role in this. Here, humanity’s desire to control the environment clashes with a fascination with the wild, untouched forces of nature. Dissident Gardens questions and investigates the most current manifestations of the classic struggle between nature and culture. The exhibition presents influential contributions from designers, architects and artists that allow us to reflect on our current relationship with nature, living-material innovations and the impact of technology on our lives and our environment.
You are invited to browse through four perspectives which are given central stage; the far-reaching rationalisation of the agricultural landscape, Mars as an earthly utopia, the development of the designer as a farmer and the holiday park as the outcome of a changing relationship between landscape and city. At the crossroads of nature and culture lies an exciting area to be explored. Through interdisciplinary thinking, and new dreams of the future and imaginations, we can challenge our conventions about nature and culture. In order to subsequently come to surprising perspectives and design solutions that can keep our earth and everything else out there liveable. Because it is clear: the current time is crying out for alternative visions.
SECTION 1: SMART FARMING
The Netherlands has been a forerunner in agricultural innovation for three-quarters of a century. Food production is starting to take place more and more in containers, garden flat buildings and mega-greenhouses. Totally controlled environments with rows of designed food crops form the future ideal and lead to an architecture in which humans no longer have a place. In this ‘technoside’ driven by drones, robots and laptops, traditional concepts like nature and culture lose their meaning.
Which new – perhaps alienating – places will arise as a result? What are the effects of far-reaching automation on the farming ‘profession’? Based on a 1: 1 model, Smart Farming shows the youngest idyll of the farm landscape: as much city as nature, both technology and agriculture. What kind of spaces are created by these processes, what does this mean for insects, animals and other residents and visitors, and what kind of countryside will we be left with?
SECTION 2: BIOTOPIA
Contemporary designers increasingly work with living organisms and living materials, with often unknown applications. Biotopia showcases the role of the designer in this field as both researcher and maker, and presents alternatives that result directly from a direct collaboration with natural systems.
This is a new design paradigm, inspired by agriculture and focused on the cultivation of materials and products. Biotopia dives into the latest developments: from gene manipulation, which is used to tinker directly with the source of life – and nature – into new applications of natural processes that seek to change the entire production and distribution chain of design.
Biotopia presents three production lines, each featuring ‘living’ material studies and results that are ready for use: mycelium fungi, seaweed and algae threads and bacteria. These living products and materials demand care and dedication, in a contemporary take on maintenance and repair. After all, a product that is “grown” through living processes will undergo a cyclic process of death, decomposition and mutation.
SECTION 3: PLEASURE PARCS
The installation Dissident Gardens contains a pavilion that houses materials from the archives of Het Nieuwe Instituut. They include designs for country houses and holiday parks by Van den Broek & Bakema, Hendrik Wijdeveld, Piet Blom, Gerrit Rietveld and Auke Komter, among others. They show our ambivalent relationship to nature: from immersion in and the subjugation of the landscape to the pursuit of sustainability and optimisation.
SECTION 4: GARDENING MARS
Gardening Mars shows many of the diverse aids and atributes used (on earth) to simulate and imagine life on Mars.
Gardening Mars is about the ‘terraforming’ of Mars, or the transformation of Mars into an environment that is suitable for earthly life. Prior to this physical and biological intervention necessarily has to come another phase – the one we are still in now. This is the phase of imagining Mars as a second, ‘other’ earth – the actual start of terraformation. This ‘cultural’ terraformation of Mars is informed by developments on earth, such as the climate crisis, doubts about technological ‘progress’ and the focus on perpetual economic growth.
Four different narratives or frames can be identified in the current phase of terraformation of Mars. Through the eyes of science, Mars is a swathe of untouched nature to study, but not to change. Mars is also presented as a new Noah’s Ark, a Planet B, where earth’s species can be protected from destruction. Next to this, techno-utopians see Mars as space for the desired and legitimate next technological step in human evolution. Finally, capital is already being invested in the expansion of the earth’s economy over the solar system, with Mars cast as a Wild West and economic hub. Gardening Mars shows how we cannot help but use the earth to represent Mars, yet at the same time it shows the limitation of this form of imagining. Gardening Mars is thus also a call for a more radical, holistic form of imagination, which is urgently needed on earth.