May 01, 2010


Bloom opened on Friday. I'm pleased with how it has come out - especially as there was a point where the fact that I am not interested in the environment made me wonder whether anything curatorially meaningful would coalesce. As I wrote in the last two books "ignore the gaps between cities"; but actually what has happened is that my indifference has let the subject breathe, allowed different ideas to reflect between the works, without the tiresomely worthy monotone that characterises most artistic dialogue related to climate change, etc. The process then has been much more of an investigation, a search of what this could be; and in that I am satisfied with the result. One of the themes that weaves through the show is the manifestation of human control as action in relation to the environment; with another key idea being the role of representation of the environment in-itself and qua representation. Lawrence Weiner's piece (pictured) acts as the nexus for both these ideas. The question of the relation of representation to reality is reflected in a number of works: from 17th Century oil on canvas "flowerpiece" by Ignace Henri Jean Theodore Fantin-Latour which simply looks like a sumptuous flower arrangement, until you know that at the time of painting the image is completely artificial because the different flowers could not be in bloom at the same time. Then there are the photographs of Andy Latham which might be described as the most‘realistic’ representations of nature ( ),but then Tony Tickle’s 1-metre high, new wave Bonsai tree is a real tree, but as the ultimate aesthetic distortion of nature, is it a real tree? Shaun Pickard's famous 'unnatural' neon reflects on this while his 'Common Buzzard Bueto (below) and unidentified raptor, Northwest England, May 1998' text cut into a park bench records Pickard's preoccupation with the doomed artifice of trying to describe nature at all. Sitting on the bench you can watch Tam├ís Waliczky's super real animation of rainfalling on a deserted village, wherein suddenly the rain drops are frozen and held up to intense scrutiny. I see this as a counterpoint to Magnus Quaife's large watercolour of a supercomputer floating in and sustaining a landscape called 'Time and Memory'. There are more works but this will just become a list.
The title of the show came from discussions around Bury's annual participation in the Britain in Bloom competition. Each spring and summer municipal Parks Departments bedeck public spaces with neat floral displays with a design history trapped in neo-classicism and Romantic notions of the garden as ordered paradise. These habitual displays offer a public aesthetic that is increasingly open to question in the context of climate change. So there is a selection of artists who deal with the idea of the garden - from Ian Hamiton Finlay to Paul Scott & Anne Linnemann - their contemporary blue and white Porcelain tree cup on a (Vegetable) Garden tray, which circles us back to Fantin-Latour.

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