Wild by Nature

March 5, 2013

I needed to do something that would renew my spirit and give me a sense of peace and optimism. That’s when I created this garden. What continually amazes me is how something so simple as this garden has stimulated so many wonderful conversations with the people in my community (Vancouver, Green Streets Volunteer).

Art therapy can be cultivated within the common lands of community life. These might include community gardens, playgrounds, parks and schools. A boulevard might also be a place to cultivate food or flowers, leave symbolic objects, decorate trees, leave notes, and assert your identity. A front garden and green spaces lining sidewalks can be personalized with guerrilla art, homemade crafts, and free food stalls.

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The Healing Fields: Working with Psychotherapy and Nature to Rebuild Shattered Lives by Sonja Linden and Jenny Grut describes how cycles of the natural world, and metaphors for gardening have rich psychological associations. For example –

Transplanting, Blossoming, Digging Deep, Grounded, Putting Down Roots, Cutting Back, Branching Out, Shedding, Weeding Out, etc.

Art therapy is largely an indoor activity that takes place behind closed doors. It is enclosed within a potentially claustrophobic space. Using the outdoor landscape as an art therapy studio liberates the senses. Participants are confronted with the ever changing conditions of weather, noise, seasonal materials, and varying temperatures.

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Neighborhoods can be a series of interactive gardens, whereby householders create sidewalk galleries. In Vancouver, Green Streets neighbourhoods encourage idiosyncratic displays of community spirit at street level. Domestic decorations inhabit urban walkways. Front lawns can be places to grow food gardens and scenes for the imagination. The unpredictable display of the personal within public streets, either through unique gardening styles or through shrine like arrangements of offerings, is invigorating to both mind and body.

The aim of art is not simply to communicate something that has already been formulated, but to create something unexpected.

One of art’s attractions is that it constantly finds new ways of pushing forward into a territory that feels quite strange and yet shockingly familiar.

(Psychological Aesthetics: Painting, Feeling and Making Sense by David Maclagan)

Fritz Haeg is commissioned by cultural institutions to dig up grass and install vegetable gardens within suburban front lawns. These gardens become educational and conversational sites for neighbors and walkers. The front lawn is the canvas, a gallery of vegetables in front of the house. Working the garden is public, and interactive, the potential to share produce and ideas within a community context.

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A garden is a work in progress, an art assemblage, a zone of shared imaginative experience. The ambiguous territories of sidewalk boulevards, playgrounds and parks offer spaces for processing, and connecting with a variety of people and activities. We move through collective community spaces and respond to different happenings along the way.

References

The Healing Fields: Working with Psychotherapy and Nature to Rebuild Shattered Lives by Sonja Linden and Jenny Grut

Fritz Haeg http://www.fritzhaeg.com

Fritz Haeg Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn

City of Vancouver Green Streets Program 

David Maclagan Psychological Aesthetics: Painting, Feeling and Making Sense

Anthony Elliott Subject to Ourselves: Social Theory, Psychoanalysis and Postmodernity

Photos

Davie Village Community Garden, Vancouver

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