Gardening of Soul: Introduction

Gallery 1

International Group Exhibition

Opening of the exhibition: December 7, 2022 from 6 p.m. 
Duration of the exhibition: December 8, 2022 – March 11, 2023

Exhibiting artists: Daniela Brasil (AT/BR), Jiří Černický (CZ), Hrvoje Cokarić (CRO), Alexis Dworsky (DE), Hannes Egger (IT), Hafnargarður Community Garden (ICE), Benjamin Hao Lap Yan (HKG), Kristyna and Marek Milde (USA/CZ), Lukas Kühne (UYU/GER), The Trinity Session (SA), Sam Van Aken (USA)

Curator: Michal Koleček

The exhibition Gardening of Soul: Introduction is conceived as a presentation of different ways of artistic work focused on the metaphorically perceived theme of gardens and gardening. The Ústí nad Labem House of Arts collaborated with nine institutions from Hong Kong, Croatia, Italy, Iceland, South Africa, Germany, Austria, Ukraine and the USA in the selection of artists and specific artworks for this exhibition. Using documentary formats or reinstallations, the exhibition presents artworks that were primarily conceived for public space and actively responded to the social situation influencing, determining or developing the character of a particular site and the quality of its use by the community. These art projects are intrinsically inspired by the desire to build imaginary gardens understood as places of shared responsibility and determination, to transform the neglected and decaying into thriving and sustainable ones.

The theme of Gardening of Soul: Introduction exhibition opens up to the aspirations for community and cultural care embodied in the various artistic expressions present in a broad global context. However, it also responds in a natural way to the current situation of our region – the Ústí region – which has often been compared to a thriving and uplifting garden in the past, and is once again seeking ways to become a shared and maintained garden offering a sense of its own existence after a devastating period of industrial and social exploitation. This is happening through an often painful yet necessary structural social and economic transformation, and the projects presented in the exhibition can certainly become an inspirational stimulus for thinking about directions, impulses or activities that enable the engagement of cultural expressions, artistic strategies and community collaborations in this process of renewal and regeneration.

The exhibition Gardening of Soul: Introduction traces the contemporary and to some extent popular theme of gardening in the context of the development of self-awareness of communities and civil society as a whole, in a very different but globally interconnected context determined by local geographical, natural, historical, social and cultural assumptions and predeterminations. In doing so, it grasps this theme through activist means that have the potential to dynamise society and individual localities, using participatory and site-specific methods of artistic work in public space to enhance the quality of life and open up discussion on strengthening social reconciliation, environmental issues and aspects of sustainable development. The exhibition features artworks made over the last few years in very diverse contexts and using specific and often unique artistic strategies. The installation concept is based on a wide range of documentary or repetitive tools, which enable the mediation of works originally oriented towards public space to visitors of the gallery environment.

The stories told by the exhibited works in the individual projects span a rich range and often unsuspected, suddenly emerging content or interdisciplinary contexts. Icelandic desire to develop together a community garden conceived as an element representing the specificities of the local ecosystem (Hafnargarður Community Garden) or to enrich the beautiful, but inhospitable place with a symbolic “sound sculpture” resonating in reference to folk music with the silence of the surrounding nature (Lukas Kühne) meets the digital research and visualization of originally economic stone architectures that are now gradually disappearing but still meaningfully animate the desolate plains of Krk Island (Alexis Dworsky). A concentrated exploration of the American fruit-growing tradition, reflected in an iconic growing experiment spread to many locations across this continent (Sam Van Aken), connects with the building of a floral sanctuary in an undulating Bohemian landscape invoking trunks, branches and leaves instead of stones, mortar and beams (Michaela Černická & Jiří Černický), as well as with the process of activist “pollination” of Johannesburg places and communities through the establishment of collective growing installations involving aspects of mycology, permaculture, design, and art consulting (The Trinity Session). Archaeological farming in a fortress located on the Italian-Austrian border area using fertile soil retrieved from Polish battlefields First World War to grow potatoes (Hannes Egger) is juxtaposed with the results of workshops reviving the indigo cultivation and textile blueprinting production that has shaped the life of rural communities for centuries, jointly visited by residents of the Hong Kong metropolis and their neighbours from the surrounding rural areas (Benjamin Hao Lap Yan), as well as with the documentation of an artivist performance that enlivens one of Kharkiv’s squares by planting exclusively dioecious plants to simultaneously express by this act the support for the LGBTQ+ community (Sasha Kurmaz). A welcoming installation composed of tropical flowers found in the garbage on the streets of Manhattan or borrowed from households in Ústí nad Labem, and imaginatively migrating globally between the shadows of the rainforest undergrowth and the warmth of our rooms (Kristyna & Marek Milde), intertwines with a cabinet opens to the multicultural milieu of one of Graz’s immigration-shaped neighborhoods, on which dominates a banana tree, to activate it towards a study in the many meanings of healing practices (Daniela Brasil), as well as with impressive compositions of organic electronic music created on the basis of electrical signals emitted by plants representing the Dalmatian ecosystem (Hrvoje Cokarić).

The exhibition Gardening of Soul: Introduction is the first output of a long-term project of the Faculty of Art and Design of Jan Evangelista Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem, which focuses on the issue of artistic reflection on the phenomenon of gardens and gardening understood in a broader social, economic, environmental and cultural context. This project, called GARDENING OF SOUL: IN FIVE CHAPTERS, is gradually being built in collaboration with a number of local and international partners and its basic idea is to strengthen cooperation between artists, art institutions and local communities in the form of jointly realized artworks using various means of artistic research, collaboration and cultural activism. From this perspective, it is clear that although the ways and forms of artistic gardening naturally change in different social and climatic conditions, they always have enormous potential to foster belonging, mutual respect, communication and shared production, which are inextricably linked to the care of the surrounding natural environment and the joint purposeful action of a particular community.

Michal Koleček                                                                                                                           
Curator of the exhibition       

The following curators and istitutions collaborated on the preparation of the  Gardening of Soul: Introduction exhibition:
Julia Martin, Skaftfell Center for Visual Art Seyðisfjörður, Iceland
Jasminka Babić and Marija Stipišić Vuković, The Museum of Fine Arts Split, Croatia
Eike Berg, Schafhof – European Center for Art Upper Bavaria Freising, Germany
Margarethe Makovec and Anton Lederer, <rotor> Centre for Contemporary Art Graz, Austria
Marcus Neustetter, The Trinity Session Johannesburg, South Africa
Jaroslava Příhodová, Dowd Gallery – SUNY Cortland, USA
Man Tin, PRÉCÉDÉE Hong Kong
Tatyana Tumasyan and Anastasia Khlestova, Kharkiv Municipal Gallery, Ukraine
Judith Waldmann, Kunst Meran / Merano Arte, Italy

The exhibition is a part of project GARDENING OF SOUL: IN FIVE CHAPTERS, which is supported by the EEA and Norway Grants 2014-2021.