From Edenic Apocalypse to Gardens Against Eden: Plants and People in and After the Anthropocene
and Myers, Natasha (2015) ‘Edenic Apocalypse: Singapore’s End-of-Time Botanical Tourism,’ in Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments, and Epistemologies, edited by Heather Davis and Etienne Turpin (Open Humanities Press).
In response to ongoing ecological catastrophes, artists, landscape architects, and conservationists are designing gardens with the hopes of restaging people’s relationships with plants. This project examines the aesthetics and politics of gardens that aim to demonstrate the interimplication of plants and people in these dire times. One response to the widespread acknowledgement of human impact on the planet is Gardens By the Bay, Singapore’s gleaming, billion-dollar infrastructure for what could best be called “end-of-times” botanical tourism. Another response is a series of works produced by Viennese artist Lois Weinberger. His “counter gardens” – plant-based durational installations and performances – challenge the moral order of Edenic gardens by inciting the subversive forces of weedy plants, and by celebrating waste, decomposition, and decay. Weinberger’s artworks, which invert and disrupt assumptions about the function of garden enclosures enact what Rancière might call a “redistribution of the sensible.” In so doing they offer a mode of critique for grappling with Singapore’s spectacle, showing how those gardens reproduce the very logics, discourses and practices that gave rise to the devastation they purport to denounce. If Gardens By the Bay is a design caught inside the logics of the Anthropocene, Weinberger’s counter gardens offers potential for reimagining of the contours of people’s relationships with plants, and for speculating on forms of life after the Anthropocene.
A draft of the essay is under review for Kregg Hetherington’s edited volume Infrastructure, Environment and Life in the Anthropocene.