An Ephemeral Garden

Posted May 19, 2018 by Nik Gaffney and Maja Kuzmanović

The pergola. A permeable edge, a transition, an archway. Lightweight struts and trailing plants. The bitter scents of herbs, acacia and asparagus fill the air buzzing with pollinators. Light and shadow overlap, wiggling, shimmering. Light softened with shades of shadow. Never completely one or the other, never the same. A continuously shifting field of relationships. An uninterrupted flow between inner and outer landscapes. A queer ecology of inception and subsiding. Awakening with daylight, buzzing with activity throughout the day, quieting at dusk. A temporary refuge committed to the gradual dissolution of its boundaries. A place with an expiration date. A symbiotic zone, porous and promiscuous. Porous to the point of becoming ephemeral.

Conviviality emerges effortlessly under the shade of a pergola. A graduated sense of closeness that includes those at a distance and those that hide in plain sight. Gregarious gatherings, lazy retreats, boisterous feasts. People come and go, the noise rises and subsides. Cooking, chewing, chattering, toasting, swiping, sprawling, strolling, splashing, calling. The hum of Earth-bound entities grows abundant, indifferent to human susurrus. Mosquitoes, wasps, flies, trees, grasses, vines, limestone, agate, calcite. Foreign rhythms of incomprehensible tongues meld into a pleasant cacophony.

A convivial atmosphere invites participation. A receptivity to a wider spectrum of awareness. It creates conditions for openhearted dialogue, solidary exchange and unexpected gestures of kindness. Food, ideas and stories are generously shared. Conversations meander around truth, importance, frivolity and amusement. The murmur of conversation becomes entangled with the sound of growing plants, crackling wood, expanding rocks, crawling insects and the invisible signals emanating from all-pervasive digital devices. Oscillating, resonant, animated matter. Divergent voices intermingle in a song of transformation and transmutation. A soundscape of layered conversations. Signalling, interpreting and misinterpreting. Beneath and between it all, the noise of life unfolding. A thick, almost viscous silence. The rich texture of being present in the world.

Rain falls on the parched soil, spreading the refreshing scent of petrichor. Mushrooms appear, fruits ripen, young wine ferments in creaking casks. It’s a time of lavish Dionysian feasts. Cheering, sizzling and laughter punctuated with the discordant harmonics of inebriated revelry. Leaves begin to yellow and fall, all dry and crunchy. An ecology of graceful decay. A culture of the overlooked and the inconspicuous, the quiet entities that persist, seemingly inert, alive within their own alien dynamics. Out there (right here) beyond human perception, rocks flow fluidlike and dust speaks to dew, voices trailing in the wind, barely heard.

As the hours of daylight diminish, so the landscape gradually succumbs to stillness. Beings turn inwards, hibernate, lay fallow. While the organic sounds abate, the technological substrate becomes more apparent. Electromagnetic waves, radio transmissions, pulses and signalling of networked entities permeate the garden. Machinic gossip spreading through billions of fingertips. In the darkness of oncoming winter, the pergola becomes an otherworldly antenna, listening to the ethereal sounds of electronic chattering. Listening to the ephemeral garden as it gradually recedes into silence…

This article accompanies FoAM’s sound installation Ephemeral Garden presented at the Croatian pavilion of the Venice Architecture Biennale 2018. The exhibition “Cloud Pergola / The Architecture of Hospitality” is conceived as a collaborative site-specific environment, crossing the boundaries of architecture, art, engineering, robotic fabrication and computational models.

In collaboration with Bruno Juričić, Alisa Andrašek, Vlatka Horvat and Branka Benčić.