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Studio Wild – The Forbidden Garden of Europe Back

Studio Wild – The Forbidden Garden of Europe

25 Sep 2020

In our series of interviews with Culture of Solidarity Fund grantees, here’s our exchange with Studio Wild on their project, The Forbidden Garden of Europe.

Studio Wild’s The Forbidden Garden of Europe, at Spazio Punch in Giudecca will host a garden of ‘invasive alien plant species’, which have been listed for their ethnic and biological characteristics and pose a threat to European native species. The European legislative act from 2016 instated a list of 35 invasive plant species which are to be eradicated and banned from European soil.

Using plants as a metaphor, The Forbidden Garden of Europe sheds new light on politically charged topics and tells the story of these invasive alien plant species. Based on their ethnic and biological characteristics, these species pose a threat to native European plants and are illegal to grow, trade, and transport throughout the EU. Studio Wild’s aim is to create a parallel between the fate of these species and the fate of many of our neighbours who struggle to find common ground in Europe just because they are different. The studio wants to question this European legislation, and by doing so, provoke the discussion on whether spatial, legal and social restrictions contribute to a more inclusive society. As Voltaire has put it at the end of Candide: “Il faut cultiver notre jardin”. In order to change the world around us, we have to take responsibility for cultivating our garden. With this notion in mind, Studio Wild can investigate new ways of living together.

Rather than banning plants from European soil, Studio Wild tries to cultivate coexistence in a post-Covid-19 society. This is the time to recalibrate ourselves and set course for future-oriented solutions. With The Forbidden Garden of Europe, the studio wants to expand the notion of Europe as an open and shared public space for everybody during times of inward-looking and decision-making based on nationalistic values.

Studio Wild will enclose a garden in a cave-like space. A forbidden garden with a mysterious or hidden atmosphere in which these forbidden plants can live in a salvaged environment. Slim bundles of light illuminate individual species which grow on small hills. This organisation portrays a protective and monumental feel, strongly contrasting their current cultural and social environment depicted by exclusion.

The Forbidden Garden of Europe will open at Spazio Punch in Giudecca in Venice on 27 August 2021.

Forbidden Garden of Europe
Fondamenta S. Biagio, 800/o
30133 Venezia VE, Italy
27 August – 21 November
opening hours Tue-Sun 12:00-19:00

Can you tell us who you are and describe your organisation and your roles in the project?

We are a young architecture office based in Amsterdam, and we are a collective of Tymon Hogenelst and Jesse van der Ploeg. As a practice, we are interested in border conditions of nature, architecture, art, and politics. Those are the main scopes of our project. We were already selected to participate in the parallel program of the Dutch Biennale. So we started this project as the leading party in this project, but we are also collaborating with other local and Dutch parties in this project. In our practice, we do not just design buildings, but we design sculptures and installations. There’s specific research at the beginning of conceiving a work to address a particular problem or situation with most of them, which is derived around topics of different, complex cultural and political issues. We try to use architecture as a tool to either start a conversation or give a real solution to a problem. So the approach of dialogue would be a good way to try to operate and endure various projects.

What made you think of the project pre-Corona? What did this change, and in Corona, why is this a necessity?

We have been working on and thinking about this project for a very long time. It started during a project we did as students for Manifesta, the nomadic arts, the Biennale. And we stumbled upon this list of invasive plant species. We were very intrigued by this concept of invasive plants. Over the years, we read more, and we developed this project more and more. Now we want to create a garden of these invasive plant species. So it was something we were working on already for quite a long time but the current moment was perfect to realise this project.

This project is necessary because it is about living together and collaborating, especially after this lockdown. It sets up new points on the horizon to develop European society after the crisis. This project is about inclusion and exclusions and how this is done by society and politics. The period we are living now with COVID gives a recalibration of coexistence and non-coexistence. On the one hand, it brings people together, but on the other hand, it leads to people also being excluded.

It leads to international co-working, leading to exclusion and inward thinking and nationalistic approaches by excluding others and closing borders. So this project can build upon new political developments.

What will your project contribute to Europe post-corona?

Firstly, we want to discuss what is invasive and the concepts of borders being a man-made concept. We want to start this discussion through a garden. And with these plants, we think it’s a fruitful tool to discuss these very complex and challenging topics. So we hope to contribute to the idea of Europe at this international platform of the Venice Biennale.

How do you envision it to grow from local to pan European?

First of all, we are working together with very local parties. For example, we are working together with a botanical garden of Padua, which is providing all the plants for the exhibition and helping us grow the plants and how to treat them well and what kind of soil we need under what kind of light conditions. We are also working together with the local cultural organisation called the Robida, and they are from Italy and Slovenia, and they publish a magazine once a year. It’s a group of architects, philosophers, writers and graphic designers.

So we are working together on the local scale, and we are also working together with Matteo, a friend of ours, who’s working at the Università Iuav di Venezia. So this is on a local level of the parties we are working with, and the Venice Biennale is an international platform. So we hope and aim to address this topic on a global level. Although the Biennale is hosted in Europe, it’s an international platform with countries from all over the world, let’s say from the architecture sector and the cultural sector. And we think culture is an excellent tool to inspire people and address topics differently.

And – finally – how does your project help make Europe an open and shared public space for everyone?

By raising awareness about borders and mainly borders for plants, these plants need passports to cross borders. We try to export the plants from the Netherlands to Italy. And it’s very complicated because the plants need to cross several borders. So by visualising this and raising awareness about this topic, people hopefully will understand that an open and more, shared and inclusive Europe is the way to proceed and not expanding borders and walls. So we hope to inspire people with this project.

For example, some people say, “Dutch landscapes must be protected”, but in the end, they’re all manufactured and artificial, and the “very Dutch” Tulip is not Dutch at all. It’s from Turkey. So, these ideas of protectionism and nationalism around landscapes are perilous. So, that is something we want to address.

Granted: €12,500

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