José Costa, 2020
Tiago Madaleno’s A Garden at Night explores the symbolic dialogue that exists between two figures, Kurt Schwitters and Harry Pierce, and the allegorical potential of the element that unites them, the garden.
As a child, in his hometown of Hanover, the German artist Kurt Schwitters was the victim of a tragic event when his garden was destroyed by a group of children from his neighborhood. In shock, Schwitters began to dance maniacally, in a misplaced performance. That dance was actually “Saint Vitus’ dance”, a neurological disorder that affects its carriers in times of great stress, and that left him bedridden for about two years. During the recovery, Schwitters dedicated himself to drawing and painting, which, eventually, led him to an artistic career.
While working on his garden, the English landscape designer Harry Pierce decided to quickly get rid of the weeds that plagued the field by setting fire to a small portion of land. However, a change in the wind’s direction made the fire run wild, burning down the garden that was already cultivated.
In 1946, both stories intercepted. Exiled in England and struggling financially, Schwitters used to paint portraits and landscapes as his breadwinner. When Pierce saw a portrait of his doctor made by Schwitters, he decided to order a portrait of himself. During the painting sessions, a friendship between the two built up. In such a way, that Pierce agreed to lease him an old gunpowder shed that existed in the garden he was working on, so that Schwitters could use it as a studio in the last years of his life.
Sometimes synchronized, others out of sync, Schwitters and Pierce’s stories are mirrored, filled with coincidences. The cherish for Nature; the fascination with the quest for a fusion between human gesture and the organic flow of nature; their confrontation with the lack of control when witnessing the destruction of their gardens, suggest a symbolic juxtaposition that grew with their encounter and through the reappearance of the Garden in Schwitters’ life.
Taking the garden as an expanded concept, A Garden at Night develops through the appropriation and recontextualization of narrative fragments taken from Kurt Schwitters and Harry Pierce’s life. Proposing a dialogue between body and landscape, the garden appears in this project as an ambiguous symbol: between the unbearable, sublime and paradisiacal dream and the predisposition for chaos; between the attempt to master and the inability to stop the turmoil.
In the video Silhouette of a Stranger, we find a narrative voice that changes into several images of an impossible garden, establishing a dialogue with the sound piece Red Shoes, through a restless bond between body and landscape, revealing the tension between form and inform, the choreographic structure and the fluidity of dance. Transforming and redirecting attention, it is in the interception between light and shadow that Weeds grows in the dark. Just in the middle of the continuous loop of the exhibition, when everything seems to point to a conclusion, a fleeting moment of textual incandescence appears, dialoguing with the space.
In these intersections between stories of affinity and lack of control, the body dances until it is merged with the landscape, and then, the landscape finally becomes performance. //