There’s currently a fantastic installation at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin. The work brings magic and poetry to the otherwise stiff and boring exhibition space located on the dreadful Unter den Linden. As you push the door of the DG open, you enter a totally different universe, with a greenhouse, a wooden construction and plots of the greenest grass.
New York artist Phoebe Washburn has taken over the whole exhibition space with a factory. The work draws on “serious” disciplines such as architecture and ecological design but the factory is totally absurd, it doesn’t generate anything else than grass for its own sod roof, where it will eventually decay. The grass is the excuse for the factory to exist. It is a closed-off production, it starts from scratch, it looks well-thought and engineered but it goes right to a dead-end.
As usual the artist has rescued and used as material the discarded and overlooked items that people have left on the streets. For the first time however, she’s been adding to the recycled bits of woods and trash, some rather large scale mechanics. Visitors are invited to enter the fabric and watch through plastic windows how a conveyor belt loop shuttles at intervals small plots of soil through different stations for light and water, which nourishes the growth of grass.
These â€œplotsâ€? are periodically tended by a â€œgardenerâ€? who plants the seed, allows it to germinate in a greenhouse before shifting the organic matter to the factory where it will mature, and finally places the output on the roof of the structure where it will eventually atrophy and wither, removed from the sustaining system of water and light, thus exhibiting the full cycle of growth and decay.
You don’t see the gardener but he or she has left traces in the adjacent greenhouse: gloves dirty with mud, packets of seeds, hoses and all sorts of gardening tools.
In a documentary directed by Moritz Wolf, Washburn explains how the factory works according to its own set of rules. Most of these rules are dumb, they don’t really make sense but the artist follows them nevertheless in order to see where they will take the work.