ExhibitionGarden State

Fadwa Naamna & Garage Rotterdam

How are our surrounding environments and societies cultivated and tamed? Wild plants continue to exist without conscious planning and supervision, but designed gardens can only be cultivated with the delicate care of the gardener.

The contrast of ‘wilderness vs. gardening’ is often applied in philosophy, where it is used to understand the design and surveillance of (post)modern societies. Gardening can be a metaphor for state sovereignty, whereas the weeds, being the unwanted and unrestrained plants, demonstrate the fragility of the imposed ruling order and the unceasing need for control and intervention.

Nowadays, more than half of the world’s population is living in cities. The acceleration of population growth in the last two centuries came with radical innovation in ways of making places, city construction, and urbanism. Urban planning, based on land use and environmental management, is often aimed at facilitating the physical, social, and economic provision of a quality living surrounding.

Similar to gardening and horticulture, city engineering for governments is accordingly an active force and a means to cultivate communities within highly controllable social templates. While life in urban environments seems to be easier with order and abundance of services and resources, the common daily embodiment within modern cities has become rational mechanisms used to routinize and program everyday life. The human scale and our relationship with nature have thus drastically changed; But what are the consequences of urbanism on the human aspects and on the ecosystems that coinhabit our environments?

The Netherlands, pioneering in land reclamation, is an excellent example of how environments can be engineered to offer solutions for population growth and increasing need for land and resources. This is well demonstrated in the old Dutch adage that goes “while God created the Earth, the Dutch created the Netherlands”.

The concept of the Garden State is inspired by the city of Rotterdam, its port, and its landscape engineering. The metaphor of the garden also departs from the fascinating scenery that one can experience when pondering the Dutch landscape from an airplane, as everything looks organized almost like a geometric abstract painting.

The exhibition Garden State shows a selection of artworks from the Netherlands and beyond. The artworks spotlight wild margins from our super-monitored surroundings and examine the ‘garden methodologies’ of contemporary control systems. As a group, the works aspire to give a non-mainstream portrait of the urban cityscape. Garden State presents critical reflections on various topics including land use, reclamation, mapping, militarism and territory, urban growth, industrial technologies, and their repercussions on nature and ecosystems.