Another fascinating space that I encountered was Derek Jarman’s garden set on the shoreline of Dungeness in Kent (UK).
The garden has been created within a most unpromising environment, amongst desert-like shingle and open to biting winds. It is overlooked by two huge nuclear power stations. And yet to step into the garden is to step into another world, a precarious enclosure of stone circles and magical sculptures formed from debris washed up on the shore (see my linked Facebook page for images). In particular, the space seemed to capture what Schama calls the two sustaining aspects of arcadia: the ‘shaggy’ and the ‘smooth’ or a site of both ‘bucolic leisure’ and ‘primitive panic’. The spatial ambivalence here rather than the temporal ambiguity found in the cemetery fascinated me. But I also became attentive to gardens and other spaces that grew up in the most unpromising and unexpected places. Jarman recalls a fantastic garden he came across in Baku, Azerbaijan. The gardener had built a memorial for his daughter amidst bleak housing blocks: ‘one hundred concrete animals, exquisite leaping deer, leopard sand lions, as well as leafy bowers and a ziggurat with a spiral staircase’.
The Eden Project in Cornwall, South England, is another example here: science fiction green houses built inside a derelict crater. Foucault suggested that gardens were ‘the oldest example of heterotopia’.
23 May 2012