Visions of Paradise


Referencing the famous 15th century painter Hieronymus Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights uses the metaphor of the garden to probe our fantasies of paradise. More than 20 artists dissect a range of themes – utopia and dystopia, inclusion and segregation, structure and liberation – unfolding in Gropius Bau, Berlin, through immersive and sensory zones.

Many pieces are inextricable from the political and environmental issues which define our border-building, anthropocentric age. In Mesk Ellil (2015), Hicham Berrada simulates the conditions that trigger night-blooming jasmine to release its precious fragrance. Uncanny and profoundly beautiful, a laboratory of terraria raises questions about human interference with the natural order. Meanwhile, Zheng Bo’s video installation Pteridophilia (2016-2019) 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 Homo Sapiens Sapiens (2005), immersing the viewer in an intoxicating vision of boundless abundance.

Several artists frame the garden within the legacies of colonialism. Libby Harward’s Ngali nariba (We talk or Let’s talk) (2019) gives voices 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 Theatrum 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.

Until 1 December. Find out more here.

Verity Seward

Lead image: Rashid Johnson, Antoine’s Organ, 2016. Black steel, grow lights, plants, wood, shea butter, books, monitors, rugs, piano. Installation View, Rashid Johnson. Fly Away, Hauser & Wirth, New York NY, 2016. © Rashid Johnson, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.



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