The Garden

Doug Aitken

In the work The Garden, multimedia artist Doug Aitken unleashes a dichotomy of nature and the artificial, a clash between synthetic vision and concrete conflict: A piece of living flora; with all its biological subtleties, needs and extravagances; meets the polished chic of human civilization.

A lit jungle stands in the darkness of the exhibition space, a jewel of natural vegetation, with an illuminated room, separated by bullet-proof glass in its centre. This almost over-lit chamber with its sterile structure, houses a modern home décor that works too well as a decal of civilization’s symbols of restraint. A white diorama, consisting of a bed, chairs, sofa, lamps, and a cupboard, reminiscent of pictures from furniture catalogs or concept stores, diametrically opposed in their basic conception to their constantly growing vegetal surroundings.

The living fauna continues to grow and thrive during the exhibition due to a specially adapted lighting and climate. The foliage of this sculptural plant construct would eventually – if the installation was left to itself – completely shield the infertil interior from the exterior environment and absorb it into its protective embrace.

The visitor is, after having put on appropriate protective equipment, invited to enter the inner core of the artwork and to interact in the space according to his own preferences. This also reflects the multi-layered structure of the installation, in which the visitor is an integral part of the artwork and completes the overall conception, as a piece of the puzzle. Aitken literally pushes an unrestrained emancipation from the civil code of conduct and recommends the use of massive violence against the interior, with the freedom to destroy everything in the room, with the intention to immerse the recipient physically in the artwork.

The recipient does not not remain on his own with his feelings and actions, because his interaction can be seen in a live stream on the Internet. A dedicated website serves as a simultaneous exhibition venue. The person as a catalyst, who emancipates the work of art through the release of his individual power, sees himself in The Garden, on a kind of stage that is physically real, but whose further dimensions lie in the digital space. Captured by four different cameras, the viewer becomes an object himself, being portrayed as a living exhibit and the artwork gets extended far beyond its own physical boundaries.

The Garden was first exhibited at the Aros Triennale – The Garden (The Future) section in Aarhus, Denmark, and was on view from June 3 through July 30, 2017.