Visions of Paradise

Maria Thereza Alves | Korakrit Arunanondchai | Hicham Berrada | John Cage | Tacita Dean | Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg | Futurefarmers | Lungiswa Gqunta | Libby Harward | Rashid Johnson | Yayoi Kusama | Louise Lawler | Renato Leotta | Isabel Lewis and LABOUR | Jumana Manna | Uriel Orlow | Heather Phillipson | Pipilotti Rist | Maaike Schoorel | Taro Shinoda | Zheng Bo



Garden of Earthly Delights

Maria Thereza Alves | Korakrit Arunanondchai | Hicham Berrada | John Cage | Tacita Dean | Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg | Futurefarmers | Lungiswa Gqunta | Libby Harward | Rashid Johnson | Yayoi Kusama | Louise Lawler | Renato Leotta | Isabel Lewis and LABOUR | Jumana Manna | Uriel Orlow | Heather Phillipson | Pipilotti Rist | Maaike Schoorel | Taro Shinoda | Zheng Bo


Gropius Bau, Berlin

26.07.2019 - 01.12.2019

Taking Hieronymus Bosch’s surrealist Eden as a starting point, Garden of Earthly Delights uses the metaphor of the garden to probe our delusions and fantasies of paradise. More than 20 international artists dissect a range of themes - utopia and dystopia, inclusion and segregation, structure and liberation - which unfold in the Gropius Bau through a succession of immersive and sensory zones.


Many pieces are inextricable from the political and environmental uncertainties which define our border-building, anthropocentric age. In Mesk-Ellil (2015), Hicham Berrada simulates the circadian and climatic conditions that trigger night-blooming jasmine to release its precious fragrance. Uncanny and profoundly beautiful, his laboratory of terrariums raises questions about human interference with the natural order. Zheng Bo’s video installation Pteridophilia (2016–19) features six men rapturously consumed in erotic encounters with ferns. Bo uses the lens of queer ecology to champion a return to tenderness and vulnerability in society’s relationship to nature. Two caressing women plunge through a jungle-like vortex of saturated colors and ambient sounds in Pipilotti Rist’s film Sapiens Sapiens (2005), immersing the viewer in an intoxicating vision of boundless, prelapsarian abundance.


Several artists frame the garden within the legacies of colonialism. Libby Harward’s Ngali Ngariba (We Talk) (2019) gives voice to plant specimens uprooted from Australia to be classified within European botanical gardens; isolated in glass vitrines, they ask in their indigenous language: ‘Why am I here?’ In Antoine’s Organ (2016), Rashid Johnson intersperses his living garden with signifiers of African-American cultural output, whilst Uriel Orlow’s Theatrium Botanicum (2015-2018) imagines the plant world - such as the garden Mandela planted during his incarceration - as a witness and agent within apartheid-era South Africa. The exhibition calls into question the structures we apply to make sense of our chaotic and volatile world, exploring the garden as a space of psychic and philosophical potential.


Text by Verity Seward

Published in Aesthetica Magazine Issue 91 November / December 2019

































© 2020 by Verity Seward