Nordico, city museum in Linz, dives deeply into the concept of gardening in their exhibition „Im Garten“, a collaboration between plants and people.
„Im Garten“, German for „At The Garden“, is an exhibition held at the City Museum of Linz. There at the Nordico, director Andrea Bina and her two co-curators have mounted a full-scale panorama of the garden topic. It features a garden tower erected by local artitsts, covers the broad spectrum of newly emerging garden movements such as city farming and „guerilla gardening“, several documentary works on gardners and food workers as well as artworks dealing with the garden topic. The show is one of the first of Andrea Bina who began directing the museum in last summer. Before, she used to work as a curator at Lentos, which is Linz‘ museum for contemporary art. Nordico as Bina’s new playground focusses on local and regional art phenomena. So it might not come as a surprise when already the museum’s forecourt is a statement of the new curatorial ways Andrea Bina wants to go.
Creating an Ouverture
„It is important to me that this place is part of the exhibition, and of every exhibition that will follow“, the Andrea Bina says. Right at the entrance, the public is supposed to experience that their participation is wanted, she adds. So the Nordico’s courtyard at times of the „Im Garten“ exhibition resembles a grand ouverture of a symphony. Three patches of about 2 meters times 5 metres show off their fruits. Different parties such as a local eco-farm or a allotmentier’s club have planted and hoed their parts of the temporary garden. „The city’s garden authority comes here everyday to flush the plants“, Andrea Bina adds. Then she takes on a slightly proud face, directing her finger at a tower of about ten meters‘ height. „There, at the very top, we have two beehives. In the past weeks, we already harvested 28 kg of honey“. The tower was built by „Time’s Up“, an artist collective based in Linz, and it manages its own water supply by pumping water automatically from the tanks at the tower’s botton into the vertically organised parts of this neo-greenhouse.
What a garden is
Participation of the public, participation of a city institution outside of the artworld, participation of a local art group – all these features make a dense opening to what is shown at the museum’s inside. There, nearly every single feature of what a garden is or possibly could be is quested. At the so-called „Linz Room“, there is a space to further dive into the garden subject by taking a time-out in hand-crafted chairs and reading a a finely chosen selection of books on gardens and gardening. From there, the exhibition that was co-curated by Magnus Hofmüller from the Lentos museum and landscape architect Karin Stadler unfolds over three floors. Like a small gesture, a work by swiss artist Regula Dettwiler plays with oppositional concepts such as „nature“ and „culture“ in her work „o.T. (Rüdiger)“: cotton lines are crocheted around the silhouettes of each single leaf by an indoor plant. Yet by following the exhibition’s route alongside city garden projects such as the „Prinzessinnengärten Berlin“, examples of private garden architectures or historical representational parks, the exhibitions makes a statement. There’s no such divide as the one between „nature“ and „culture“ in a garden; the humans work with plants as well as the plants do with the humans.
Fiction and non-fiction
So what is a garden? For expressionist painter Emil Nolde in his „Die Maiwiese“, the most precious of the works shown at „Im Garten“, it is the space in which a mother and her two children take a bath in yellow and green. Haruko Maeda, a japanese painter living in Linz, shows her „Eden“ as a garden full of flowers in which mankind prevails in the form of ghosts. „As I was appointed the Nordico’s director in a short time span, we had only had half a year to curate the show“, Bina comments on „Im Garten“. „That was possible only because I knew the archives of the Lentos museum so well, from which a variety of the paintings stems from“. Yet the contemporary part proves strong, especially the documentary works. Magnus Hofmüller portraits garden and food workers in his „Gartengespräche“, or garden talks. A cook, a media artist, or the director of the local „Slow Food“ branch talk about their motives to do what they do. Nikolaus Maier for example, the gardener from the biodynamic farm Leisenhof.
Time for harvest
Come mid-october, come the end of this show, there will be a big celebration at the rooftop of the museum. „We will harvest the temporary vegetable patches as well as the garden tower“, Andrea Bina takes an outlook into the future. „Then we will cook a menue and eat and drink together“. This will be a closing that will bring together the parties of the show. The move is smart: The players of the museum’s forecourt, who open the show spacially, will close it on the time level.
By that and by the city’s rich art archive, „Im Garten“ manages to turn what might first seem a disadvantage of the Nordico’s mission statement into a strength. While the show might dissolve any structure into its diverse perspectives on the garden subject, the local view provides a suitable focus. One of the next shows at Nordico will be „Outside And In“. The museum will show the contributions to the competition concerning the Nordico Forecourt. Again, the call for partizipation was a local one. The six artists should come from Upper Austria or have a strong tie to Upper Austria. It’s about the terroir, as wine-makers might say.