On Radical Ecology and Tender Gardening Johan Grimonprez

Courtesy of zap-o-matik Photo: Aad Hoogendoorn

'On Radical Ecology and Tender Gardening' by Johan Grimonprez (1962, born in Roeselare, Belgium, lives and works in Brussels/Paleopolis), invites you to delve deep into the multitude of methods and applications that question the concept of nature. This vlog and online archive brings together a selection of stories, anecdotes and ideas, snippets of information from all over the world. For the artist, however, all these heterogeneous fragments are about one and the same thing, the possibility of people living on earth without exhausting it.

The fundamental question he is trying to answer is: how do we, as people, belong together? What connects us? To answer this question, he uses the garden as a metaphor. The vlog itself comprises different perspectives and pathways, from which we can enter into a dialogue, but, like any other garden, it will only flourish if it is cared for.

Grimonprez combines existing images to create ambiguous reflections of the current era and its challenges. Drawing on film and other archives, as well as scientific visions, he gives structure to all that we humans surround ourselves with in order to understand and view the world. Known for his criticism of media manipulation, and his pushing of the boundaries in both documentary and fiction, Grimonprez brings together that which is intimate and collective in today's globalised world. This results in large-scale, often multiannual film productions, in which intriguing layers of knowledge, politics, ethics, philosophy, conspiracy theories and alternative visions come together. The message is never clear, but rather ambiguous; utopia meets dystopia.

The aim of the gigantic database is to establish alternatives to our current, exhausting way of life, and to contribute to a paradigm shift towards a more social society. In an interview (2012), Johan Grimonprez said the following about it: ‘I’m less interested in the discoveries displayed in the video-clips than how the social fabric initiating these new itineraries, can point at an emerging paradigm shift. It’s a re-occurring theme in my earlier work. The seed banks Vandana Shiva set up in India are an example. They don’t operate based on commercial rules but on the infrastructure of a local community. And there’s Britta Riley: rather than patenting ‘Window-farming’, she shared her project as open source via social media. In the meantime, she’s built an online family with 18,000 members worldwide, who contribute ideas and help optimize the project.’

The artist is currently working on a sequel, in which he also examines colonial history. An overview of his oeuvre will be presented in 2022 at the ZKM Centre for Art and Media Karlsruhe.

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