Apr 17, 2013

A Joyful Search


Jardin de la Connaissance
Garden installation for an international garden festival
Jardins de Metis (Quebec, CA)
with Rodney LaTourelle

Photos: (1)Rodney LaTourelle (2)Thilo Folkerts
(4)Anne-Renee Mongeon

of the interview with

 Why did you decide to participate in the Festival International de Jardins de Métis?
Is it an opportunity to explore ideas, that a project for a regular client would not give you the freedom to do?

In 2009 I had been invited to make a contribution to the International Garden Festival at the Jardins de Metis on the Gaspésie Peninsula in the Canadian Province of Quebec. Since 2000 the director of the festival, Alexander Reford, has successfully developed a venue of radically expanding the borders of what garden could be and mean today. Being able to realize an experimental garden project within such a challenging and supportive frame was an opportunity not to be missed.

Together with the Berlin-based Canadian artist Rodney LaTourelle we conceived and built
a garden project called Jardin de la Connaissance—Garden of Cognition in June 2010. The project involves about 40.000 books (equivalent to about 40 tons) that we arranged and left in the forest. The ‘Garden of Cognition’ does not illustrate a ‘return to nature’, but its intention is to provide an opportunity to experience the forest site in a unique and compelling way.

The garden engages the almost mythical relation between knowledge, culture, and nature. By using books as material in the construction of the garden, we confront these instruments of knowledge with the question of temporality. In exposing the fragile and supposedly timeless materials to transformation and disintegration, we aimed at inviting an emotional involvement of the visitor. The Jardin de la Connaissance is a sensual reading room and a laboratory for the aesthetics of the garden.

The short life-time of a temporary garden gives an additionally wide scope of freedom and possibilities. At the same time, the Jardin de la Connaissance has proven sturdy beyond its original temporality: this coming summer, the garden will see its fourth season at the Festival de Jardins. (www.refordgardens.com)

Do you want to talk about any other ideas you have about gardens?

The garden that is part of the work-title of my work is open. This garden is not bound by walls. In 1994 the American landscape architect Peter Walker gave out what for me has been kind of a brief for my work: ”Jackson Pollock, for example, tried to make space that was non-pictorial, actually within the painting. It was not a picture of something else but rather a spatial image in itself. ... If one could find those things in garden art with the internal power of these paintings, you could reduce the need for walls in much the same way that these artists have eliminated the need for a frame or a window to look through.” (Gardens without Walls, 1994)

In this way, the garden is neither restricted to specific form. Even though we may and should struggle over and over to define the garden’s form and our efforts in giving it shape: There is no general form that makes a garden a garden. The attempt to define and delimit the garden even today along the etymologic root of enclosure or fence (paradeisos, grad, etc.) renders it dead: the medieval hortus conclusus is closed off to the world. It is concluded, solved, benignly encased. In the best of all cases this enclosure is the proverbial golden cage.

I believe the garden may better be kept outside of confines. For me the garden is a joyful search; far from being concluded.

The most important thing, however, is that the garden is about making. As the land-artist Robert Smithson put it (in my reading with a hopeful outlook): “Too much thinking about gardens leads to perplexity and agitation. (…) The certainty of the absolute garden will never be regained.”

The landscape architect Thilo Folkerts was born in Neuenhaus, Germany in 1967. He studied at Berlin Technical University, taught as an assistant professor at the Chair of Landscape Architecture at the ETH in Zurich, Switzerland from 1999 to 2002, and as invited professor at the School of Landscape Architecture at the Université de Montréal, Canada in 2006. Since 2011 he has been lecturing at the Stuttgart Academy of the Arts. Based in Berlin, Thilo Folkerts has since 1997 realized temporary works as experimental setups on the concept of the garden. Temporary projects were installed in Le Havre, Lausanne, Basel, Zurich, Brussels, Berlin and Quebec—among other places. In 2007 Thilo Folkerts founded the office 100Landschaftsarchitektur in Berlin. In addition to working as a landscape architect who designs, experiments and constructs, he pursues his interest in the unique language of gardens as author, editor and translator.