Broaching change project – detailed description
If Australia is one day to become a republic then a new style of gardening to accompany a new style of governing seems possible. The work for this exhibition has the symbolic potential to promote the social value of gardens as reflecting notions of community, which is the essence of republicanism.
The social aspects of gardening can be seen in community gardens which provide access to fresh produce and plants, access to satisfying labour, neighbourhood improvement and a sense of community and connection to the environment. Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Program for example educates children about gardening to positively influence food choices and teach them about the natural world. This style of operation that coalesces communities around plants and their products occurred during WWII in Australia when people were encouraged to plant vegetables due to food shortages.
With the potential for future transport, production and financial crises the garden as a producer of plants for use, becomes more and more relevant. Much gardening is done within a residential setting and takes many forms, from container or potted gardens to cottage gardens etc. Engaging in a community garden is not for everyone, but a desire to share an excess of produce, seedlings or flowers is inherent to most gardeners’ philosophies.
While food production is the focus of many community gardens, some focus more on growing flowers, native plants or plants that bring birds/butterflies to a community. Within a local neighbourhood people specialise and grow what they love the most. With this small series of works I’m wanting to engage through the work with ideas that might promote a model of gardening whereby a small micro community working from a grass roots local base comes together toward a common end. This end being that each individual, in whatever diverse form or shape, is able (as part of a loose cooperative) to share their specialist plants or produce with others in that small community for free, with no requirements for reciprocality.
The symbolic connotation of giving altruistically, whether it be to help someone eat or to give flowers for pleasure, as just some examples, is huge. It has the potential to bring a system of sharing into existence at a local community level rather than on a more familial, friend based or over the garden fence level where goods are often given freely. Symbolic of just some of the plant categories available to the home gardener, the plants chosen to carry these ideas are personal and diverse. Oregano represents the culinary plants, roses signify cut flowers/ornamentals and the wattle symbolises trees. The image of a broken crown is juxtaposed with this plant imagery to reference the republican aspect of the concept which is inherent to the project. This mixed imagery offers the potential to open dialogue about the piece.
The brooches, like the concepts inherent in the works, are free and permanent ownership is not possible. Requiring circulation of the works to the wider community to generate discussion about the notions imbedded in the works, a proviso for those who gain initial custodianship of the works (from drawing their names from a hat) is that with temporary custodianship of the brooches various covenants must be adhered to. A small manifesto accompanying the work outlines these covenants and the aims of the project. Through solemnly promising to engage in the conditions required of the project, honesty and trust is required of the temporary owners as well as me the maker in giving over my work to an unknown end. There are no full proof guarantees this will happen but a leap of faith is sometimes required in order to bring about change.
The work can be passed on if a viewer actively engages the wearer about the work and is made aware of the covenants applying to the piece. Set out in the covenant would be the requirement that the wearer, on receipt of the work, indicates on a blog their temporary ownership. Participation in dialogue opened up by this forum is also a requirement. The opportunity to track the piece’s life and contribute to further discussion acts as a way for all involved to engage with the work beyond the time spent with it. Links to related sites are also included as a way of heightening awareness of the social potential of gardens and gardening and related topics.