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The dutch Fedor Van der Valk created an uncommon kind of hanging gardens. The project, named String_garden, consists in growing out from a ball of soil or moss any kind of plant, from small trees to strawberries, from simple grass to colorful flowers. These balls are hanged with strings to the ceiling – if indoor – or to other platforms. They are a redesign of the original japanese botanical style called Kokedama.

Even though we don’t know if the author of these “installations” is an artist, a gardener, or none of them, we think that the beauty of these images speaks by itself.

Images taken from http://www.stringgardens.com/

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For some strange, lucky reasons, I manage to get into the opening of the XII International Architecture Exposition of the Venice Biennale 2010. Outside shiny models and drawings, in between the non-architectonical offer (which remains the most friendly to me), I got impressed by the nice work presented by the serbian pavilion, which possessed a special, playful ability, to involve people in its game.

Under the direction of the curator Jovan Mitrović, pavillion of Serbia shows two different installations, ideas of the collective Škart, born in 1990 at the Faculty of Architecture in Belgrade.

The first one, See-saw Play-Grow, chooses the see-saw to explain the concept of architecture as a meeting place (the main theme of the whole Biennale): the see-saw teaches a child to relate with the others, since it doesn’t work if you use it alone.

The second project, Plant-o-biles, was conceived starting from these few verses, written by the serbian poet Vasko Popa:

My wife who I would do anything for

Told me once

I would like to have
A small green tree
That would run after me
down the street

The installation consists in a series of simple objects mounted on wheels, carrying soil, plants and flowers. The nice mobile disposals create a sort of  little garden moving in old pots, which is supposed to be carried by people, promoting a sign of friendship with nature.

Photos by Christian Bonin

Plant-o-biles reminds us other similar projects, like Moving Forest of NL Architects or Mobile Garden of the artist Tattfoo Tan, which we already discussed here.
For sure Serbia won our gold lion.

In the contemporary scene of installation and urban art, the polish artist NeSpoon creates with her work a winner mix of street art and traditional pottery and embroidery techniques. The project Oak Beach, an original intervention on natural environment takes its name, she said, from her favorite place on the Baltic sea, were she used to go every summer.

What she does in this context is trying to introduce her art in a particular place crowded with memories, using laces not as a stencil – as she usually does – but creating installations on raw objects found on the beach: carefully constructed compositions are tied between the branches of pieces of tree trunks. By doing this, she’s moving installations outside the usual art theatre, looking for interaction with bathers on the beach. She explains that “Many people took pictures of the installations, they moved them around from place to place, they were even used for the construction of beach camps. Kids played around them and with them.”

We believe that, once this level of interaction is achieved, it can show which is the living nature and the real aim of a motionless installation.

Images taken from http://www.behance.net/gallery/Oak-Beach/599056

The city of Essen, this year’s nominee as the European Capital of Culture, decided to take advantage of its position to start a radical change in the Rhur, the region where it is located in Germany. Essen for the Rhur 2010 is the name of the program, which aims is to create a new metropolis in Europe, the Rhur Metropolis: no more old an abandoned industrial areas, but art and culture centres instead.

Their slogan is “Change through Culture – Culture through Change!”, as to say, they want to transform the largest coal mine in Europe into a lively district through culture and art: for this aim, three hundreds projects will be realized in various cities and towns of the zone.

An example is Still life A40: the 18th of july a lunch event was organized on the highway 40 (the most intensively used highway in Europe), which stayed close all day long to celebrate the everyday culture of the Ruhr through music, food and performances.

Image taken from www.essen-fuer-das-ruhrgebiet.ruhr2010.de

Image taken from flickr.com/photos/gerd_burchard/

Another project is the Shaft Sign, made with balloons marking the spots of former coal-mines.

Images by WAZ FotoPool (Manfred Vollmer), taken from www.essen-fuer-das-ruhrgebiet.ruhr2010.de

But the most interesting project is the Light Ruhr 2010: artists, architects and designers created light installations in different places of the Ruhr, in order to show in a very visible (and visual) way the ongoing change of the area. Some of the works are installed into the coal mines, transformed into rich and lively public spaces, like in the Landschaftpark in Duisburg Nord, but also in other sites with a different quality of space like the Zentrum für Internationale LichtKunst in Unna.

Image taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/34408161@N04/

Image taken from flickr.com/photos/everglade10/

The Landschaftpark in Duisburg Nord was an old steel and coal mine abandoned in 1985, then transformed between 1991 and 1999 into a landscape park by the architects Peter Latz+Partner. The new transformations create a strange relationship between industrial archeology, art and landscape, which looks charming and fascinating to our eyes.

Image taken from latzundpartner.de

Industrial archeology has come back to life. The Bechers would be proud.

Last november on the Abstract City blog of The New York Times a funny post appeared. His author, the illustrator Christoph Niemann, played with the concept of bio-diversity, modifying the shape of leaves in many different ways, producing not just the ordinary butterflies’ collection, but few original samples of very nice custumized leaves and fruits. Nothing else to say, just watch and enjoy!

Images taken from niemann.blogs.nytimes.com

Can Felipa Civic Centre, in the very heart of Poblenou in Barcelona, the old factory workers’ district, nowadays renewed and transformed into an art and culture centre, is hosting till 19 of june an interesting exhibition of young artists titled Paradis Perdut, alg(unes) mirades al voltant del jardì. The works exposed are built around the theme of the garden and the contemporary loss of “paradise” in our city, where a green space is often like a hidden treasure (expecially in Barcelona); all the works together contribute to write a redemption song calling for the lost paradise. What is shown is a series of thoughts about the idea of garden and about its contemporary condition.

We would like to focus especially over two particular projects of the exhibition. The first one is “Degradado, Jardin Ambulante” by Cecilia Martin, an installation made from five bins painted in a degrading color scale from black to white; in each bin stands a cypress tree, growing in height toghether with the bin growing in brightness, as a symbol of the meeting between industry and nature. It is literally a moving garden through Poblenou’s district, trying to start  a dialogue about the green areas and the intense urban renewal of an industrial space, mirror of the change of an economic paradigm.

The route of the garden consists of eight stops, all of them located in strategic places where, years ago, there were factories or workers’ housing.

Following the garden we can walk the path of the transformation of the spaces in the context of a contemporary-faced city, where the industrial past is only a (romantic?) memory, with a critical eye in front of the lackness of green.

Another work by the same artist, Natura Viva, reminds us the Mobile Garden of Tatfoo Tan, which we already described in this post.

Images taken from jardinambulante.blogspot.com

The second project we would like to talk about is Julie Houle‘s Patch; based on the concept of “object trouvet”, manipulated and repaired. In  a series of postcards we can find maps of the streets of Poblenou with a mark in every place where the artist stopped to repair parts of “broken” natural elements, such as trees, leaves or stones, with different materials. Examples of this patchworks are shown in the exhibitions inside glass boxes. Putting one beside the other natural and man-made materials, the artist wants to give a ludic and ironic sense to her work, revealing at the same time the uniqueness of nature. The apparently useless repair tries to make us indulge in a reflection about our environment, underlining with these little interventions the need to focus on bigger topics.

This work reminds us the one of Nina Katchadourian for “Platform 21”, who carefully repaired dozens of spiderwebs. We believe that the “repairing nature” is more than a work of art and helps us facing realities we have always ignored or considered as independent and self-sufficient, but that nowadays really need all of our attention.

Images taken from juliehoule.com

In october 2009, for the festival Art in Odd Places in the city of New York, the artist Tattfo Tan created the work Mobile Garden.

The project involved groups of citizens, students and artists who walked down the city’s streets bringing wheeled objects – from baby buggies and shopping carts to old suitcases, from chairs to skateboards. What you could see above these objects were no babies, food or clothes, but every kind of plants and flowers. The intention of the artist was to place all little mobile gardens in particular spaces, pointed out previously with some signs (which said “Plant here!”).

The perfect locations for plants were pieces of land unused and neglected or out of sight corners. All the pointed spaces were collected in a map, distributed to people in the neighborhood.

The use of particular objects, usually found abandoned or lying along the streets (shopping cart, baby buggies) powers up the performance, involving a level of provocation and reevaluating classic symbols of poverty and urban decay.

By placing the plants in abandoned spaces, the artist wants to invite people to reflect upon unexplored possibilities of urban land use, particularly about the lack of parks and green public spaces.
The performance is going to be repeated in june, 5th 2010, in Staten Island (NY), for a Mobile Garden Expo, but in the meanwhile it inspired some other similar works: the artist Shannon Young, on february 2010, presented a project very close to mobile garden in the Umami, Food&Art Festival in New York city.

Talking about Mobile Garden, we’re not saying anything particularly innovative: the japanese architect Gen Yamamoto (NL Architects), during the ExperimentaDesign Amsterdam in 2008, conceived a sort of “forest” made by a hundred of shopping carts scattered around the city, in which he planted trees and plants. This way, he wanted people to interact with his installation and “adopt” a tree, to make the city greener.
Other examples could be find in the Green Island workshop, developed every year in Milan in correspondence with the famous Design Expo Salone del Mobile. In the 2009 edition the work Bike Cart and Portable Garden was presented, which totally reflected the Mobile Garden of Tattfo Tan, moving little gardens above bikes an mobile containers.
More than this, in 1994, Lois & Franziska Weinberger, a couple of austrian artists, created Portable Garden putting plants and flowers inside little bags or different containers. The past is a good teacher.

All images taken from http://www.tattfoo.com/projects.html