Location: Abbotsfrod Convent, VIC
Year(s): 2017
Exhibition title: Gardneing is not a rational act
Curator: Tai Snaith
Participating artists: Eleanor Butt, Kent Wilson, David Rosetzky, Kate Daw, Kate Ellis, Eugene Howard, Chako Kato, Tai Snaith Sean Meilak and Alice Wormald

Status: Completed
Welcome to Country: Uncle Ron Jones, Wurundjeri Elder
Supported by: Australia Council for the Arts, Creative Victoria (VicArts) and Abbotsford Convent Foundation

Work title: Tenant   Part one

" Gardens have always been a place of philosophical contemplation and creative thought: from the famous gardens of Athenian philosopher Epicurus in 306 BC, to the Garden of Earthly Delights painted by the early Netherlandish master Hieronymus Bosch. The process of gardening shares many parallels with the process of art-making; process through trial and error, consideration of colour, texture and composition and the creation of a complete, shared environment. The garden is also literally a site of digging up history, highlighting politics of place and activity ‘on country’, both indigenous and introduced. To mark the start of Spring in the Abbotsford Convent gardens, ten contemporary Melbourne artists who share a love of growing things will take over four gallery spaces of c3. Together, their works will explore the act, aesthetics and the outcomes of planning, nurturing, documenting and reaping what they sow. “Gardening is not a rational act,” the writer Margaret Atwood wrote. “What matters is the immersion of the hands in the earth, that ancient ceremony of which the Pope kissing the tarmac is merely a pallid vestigial remnant. In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

These works emerge from an ongoing process of utilising practices of gardening and care to inform creative processes.

Having moved into a rental property in 2013 with just a dry lawn and some roses, I received permission to create a garden. Over the following five years I grew a mixed edible/ornamental garden of introduced species including ‘weeds’, vegetables and fruit trees, with both indigenous and native species too. This garden became a place to engage gently, through the handling of the garden, with ideas around history, material ethics, temporality, seasonality and control; it was a ‘studio’. This process also functioned to sustain an ever growing ecology (including ourselves) with food and habitat. Three months ago however the property owners gave us notice to vacate, they are selling the property and I was to erase the entire garden, returning it to level with nothing but half a dozen roses. This project for Gardening is not a rational act is the final work from this garden, all of the plants that could not be transplanted have been turned into mulch and isolated briefly for this exhibition only to be returned soon into the cycle of a new garden. This garden was, I think, seen as distracting from the monetary value of the property, somehow I had contaminated this realestate with the foreign entity of ‘nature’.

The second component contributed to this exhibition is a space for a collection of tools to be exhibited. Some tools loaned from the Wurundjeri Land Council to foreground the 65,000+ year Indigenous inhabitation of this country and acknowledge the Wurundjeri of the Kulin Nation upon whose lands this exhibition takes place (specifically the presence of the Wurundjeri Land Council at the Abbotsford Convent), fellow artists within the show and the gardener at the Abbotsford Convent.

Many thanks to the Wurundjeri Land Council, the Abbotsford Convent gardener Simon Taylor and to Bruce Pascoe for generously providing the important text below.

We acknowledge the unceded lands upon which this exhibition takes place as those of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, we extend our respect to Elders both past, present and emerging.

This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria program and the Abbotsford Convent Foundation.