In autum 1992 we organised an in my view still very topical installation by the Belgian artist Johan Rottiers in collaboration with the garden architects Koen Janssens and Patrick ‘t Hooft as well as artist Georges Uittenhout. Together they considered the gallery space as a possible garden for the artist.
The starting point for Rottiers had been the Huizinga-lecture of 1990 by the Dutch writer Gerrit Komrij with the title ‘Over de noodzaak van tuinieren’ (On the necessity of gardening). As Rottiers described it in his open invitation to garden architects:
Komrij in this text gives a rich (art) historical overview of the diverse manifestations and meanings of the garden, for example Paradise, the garden of Eden, Golgotha, the garden of love, miniature gardens, the tree of life, the forbidden tree, the source, the bridal mystery of the ‘gaerdenere’ or gardener, the herbal garden, the healing power of plants, the closed garden as symbol for virginity, zoos, the goose board, the 20th century as the age of the destroyed garden…, names of flowers such as Narcissus, Adonis, Hyacinth, Crocus, that were once human beings…
In this Rottiers saw a rich parallel between views on art and gardens or gardening. All in all the project was a highly philosophical undertaking in which Rottiers and his collaborators asked questions about the role of the artist and art in society, the role of artistic activity for the artist, the meaning of producing art, the meaning of exhibiting in a (non-commercial) space as Parbleu, the meaning of a collaborative project. Which they thus basically ‘answered’ open-endedly with Voltaire’s famous phrase “Il faut cultiver notre jardin…”.
As Parbleu was a completely closed off space Rottiers developed an indoor garden on the symbolic idea of ‘Bread and Water, sprinkling white loafs of bread throughout the exhibition with water, developing eventually the most beautiful fungi. Patrick ‘t Hooft drilled a Duchampian hole in the back wall to give a view on a closed off court yard in which he designed a small garden. Koen Janssens showed his design for the ideal herbal garden for Parbleu whereas Georges Uittenhout made a multiple of terracotta garden shears that were thus basically unusuable but nevertheless poetic.
The exhibition was accompanied by an extensive dossier for which Wanda D’Hanis wrote a text (to be translated). The black and white photo’s were taken by Frank Toussaint and the colour photo’s by Anne Boons.