Documenting Britain

Gardens and Empires

My photographic practice is concerned with the evolving relationship between politics, landscape and art histories. I intend to continue my ongoing exploration of the politics of gardening, examining the relationship between formal public gardens and empire.

My Garden

November 24, 2014

I am thinking about gardens at the moment: gardening as a political act, a radical act, an ideological act. Guerrilla gardening, The Royal Botanical Gardens, allotments, community gardens, private and public, cultivated and grown wild.

I have been wondering about my own garden. In April 2014 I went to Amman, Jordan to exhibit Gardening the Suburbs, a photographic wall installation that explores Israeli settlement gardens and the ways in which they are used to alter the landscape. It was in Jordan – while on a botanical fieldtrip held as part of the exhibition events programme – that I began to wonder about the plants in my own garden. While we were quietly tittering at the Middle Eastern proclivity for planting roses and sustaining lush lawns in the desert, I remembered that in England I grow jasmine and bougainvillea and clematis. I have a roof terrace on the eighth storey of an apartment building in central London. This flimsy, cardboard-walled new build has been constructed with no thought to the layout of the surrounding buildings. Wind tears through the gaps in the towerblocks, making my roof terrace ecology more akin to that of an Alpine mountain. If my delicate plants even make it to flowering, the petals are soon blown away. Yet for the four years I have lived here, I have stubbornly clung on to my vision of creating an earthly paradise: an abundant, lush Mediterranean garden, the air filled with the sultry scent of orange blossom.

So my work for Documenting Britain will focus on my garden. I will pull up the roots of my botanical fantasy and develop a new strategy for cultivating my outdoor space, considering gardening in relation to nationalist ideology and Edenic fantasy, artifice and wildness, the indigenous and non-indigenous, rootedness and belonging. And at the end of my terrestrial endeavours I will hold a garden party, with Victoria Sponge and Lapsang tea.