We are now in the office of Orin Scrivello, D. D. S.
Seymour nervously enters stage L holding a paper bag
which reads “Mushnik’s Skid Row Florists”.
(emerging through “door” UC)
I guess that’s me, Dr Scrivello.
Do you have an appointment?
We met yesterday. Seymour Krelborn.
Eden was no forest growing wild. It was a garden that mankind was to tend – “to dress and keep” – which presupposes an ordered disposition of plants in beds and terraces. Among the rows of trees and beds of flowers there must have been places to walk, to sit and to talk. A hoe, rake or spade might have been there as well, in order to maintain the garden. If the fruit of the trees was made into anything like wine, this would also suggest the presence of jars and cups; and these in turn stores and sideboards, and so on to rooms, ladders and all that. A house, in fact. And yet historic documentation, so specific about the onyx found near Paradise, says nothing about this implied house.
Oh, of course. The guy with the plant.
And the Band-Aids.
(Seymour timidly pulls a gun from the
paper bag and levels it.)
And the gun.
R ... right.
The shadow or outline of an inferred house has dogged many builders and architects just as much as the enigmatically described plan of the Garden of Eden, with its four rivers, has inspired so many decorators, weavers and makers of carpets, as well as gardeners. All of these folks have spun their fantasies around the framework of the lost plan, since every paradise must – as Proust observed – necessarily be a lost one. In the ongoing search for the infrastructure of Paradise, a plastic poison ivy plant reoccurs in the venues of the graduation exhibitions and events of the Sandberg Instituut, which are scattered over multiple locations in the city of Amsterdam. Whenever one finds a bush of this artificial vegetation, it leads to a walled garden: a closed digital ecosystem like the one developed by artists Agustina Woodgate, Sascha Krischock and Miquel Hervás Gómez. Their VPN (Virtual PUB Network) is both a connectivity display and an emancipatory file server; an open-source structural instrument where guests at the exhibitions are able to share information and resources, hosting the circulation of knowledge as a methodology within its radius of action. VPN reveals the physical process of a communication system by creating an interface that allows visitors to engage at each stage of this process. Where Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat from the tree of wisdom (also referred to as the tree of immortality), and in essence were the only users of their world, Woodgate, Krischock and Gómez simply use a tagline and plastic poison ivy to attract exhibition visitors to make use of their VPN, tempting them into a site-specific community where data is a common good to be shared, only accessible on the exact spot of their installed works.
So why are you pointing a gun at me, Seymour?
I ... I ...
(crossing L. toward Seymour;
sweetly taking charge)
Hey. Are you a little bit nervous about
seeing a dentist?
No ... no, I’m not nervous, I ...
(easily taking the gun away from Seymour,
depositing it on the tray and grabbing
him around the shoulder at the same time.)
It’s gonna hurt a little.
No, you don’t understand.
I don’t want my teeth examined, I ...
Of course you want your teeth examined.
(Twisting Seymour’s arm painfully behind his back)
Adam and Eve, according to the creation myth of the Abrahamic religions, were the first man and woman. They are central to the belief that humanity is in essence a single family, with everyone descended from a single pair of original ancestors. They also provide the basis for the doctrines of the fall of man and original sin that are important beliefs in Christianity, although not held in Judaism or Islam. In the best-known Abrahamic version, God fashions Adam from dust and places him in the Garden of Eden. Eve is created from one of Adam’s ribs to be his companion. Up until that moment, the garden was like a one-person “Männergärten” or “Herrengarten”. That is a kind of temporary day-care and activities space visited by men in German-speaking countries while their wives and girlfriends go shopping. The name is a compound literally meaning “men’s garden”, formed by analogy to kindergarten, and has also been used for gender-specific sections of lunatic asylums, monasteries and clinics.
The first “Männergarten” in Germany opened in Hamburg in 2003. Each Saturday at the Bleichenhof shopping centre, for a flat fee men were entitled to two beers, a snack and access to male-oriented amusements: a model railway, handicrafts, men’s magazines and sports on TV. “Männerparkplätze” or “Männergärten” seek to meet a special need for gender-specific marketing. Taking an approach reminiscent of these “gärten”, artist Rowena Buur tackles two important men in their life by involving their father and brother in their graduation works for the final exhibition of the Sandberg Instituut’s Design Department. One of the men is portrayed extensively in a documentary film projected on a large surface, with plastic garden chairs for viewers to sit and watch the work. The other is present by means of a brick wall placed opposite the film projection, dividing the exhibition space but at the same time also creating a more intimate setting, as if the visitor is placed in the outdoor environment of a trailer park. Eight years ago Buur broke contact with their father, who was struggling with alcohol addiction and only recently found a stable home at the trailer park. The work is an intimate family portrait told through Buur’s eyes and revolves around the question of whether it’s possible to leave the past behind and create new memories together.
(wrenching Seymour down into a “tango-dip” position and looking into his mouth)
Oooh, your mouth is a mess, kid.
You’ve got cavities. You’ve got plaque.
You’re impacted. You’re abscessed!
You need a complete oral examination.
We’ll start with that wisdom tooth!
(flips Seymour up out of the “dip” and spins him into the chair, where he will remain through the rest of the scene)
We’ll just rip the little nugget outa there.
I gotta go!
There’s always time for dental hygiene, Seymour!
Have you ever seen the results of a neglected mouth?
(From behind the chair, he pulls out a large picture of a nauseatingly neglected mouth: diseased gums, rotten teeth.)
This could happen to you.
Unless I take immediate action!
Let’s get started!
Providing visitors to the graduation exhibition with a new metamyth are artists Holly Childs and Gediminas Žygus, who developed Hydrangea I and II in which they position flowers as a story and as forests containing never-ending branching tales. The work is set in one of the botanical gardens of Amsterdam, where performers wear petal-shaped headpieces and stand around the audience, who in turn are sitting in the midst of tropical plants, listening to a soundscape. Childs and Žygus aim to put to use each organism that influences the entire structure in a mythical storyline. Unlike the Biblical account, the Quran does not speak of a lush garden, but mentions only one tree in Eden – the tree of immortality – and adds some exegesis in form of an account about Satan disguised as a serpent. There are several mentions of “the Garden” in the Quran, although without the word “adn” – Eden – and this is commonly situated in the fourth layer of the Islamic heaven; it is not necessarily thought of as the dwelling place of Adam.
(Orin drops the pictures and crosses
US of Seymour to stage R side of chair.)
Wait! Aren’t you gonna give me Novocain?
What for? Dulls the senses!
But it’ll hurt!
Only ’til you pass out!
(Orin picks up the drill. It makes a threatening buzz.)
We see men harvesting and packing bananas, interspersed by recordings of botanical gardens and an animated male figurehead. Unveiling the biopolitics of Earth, in The Inner Life of Exterior Plants, a film by graduate Juan Arturo García González set on a banana plantation and in a botanical garden, a panel of experts is challenged by an astute interviewer to discuss contemporary trends in gardening, scientific classification and monocultural crops. The film is beamed onto a wall in a wide horizontal view and so provides a broad window onto our world as a production landscape for food, thus exposing our relationship with inanimate life forms such as plants. The work reminds us of the blood-sucking plant Audrey II from the black comedy film and musical The Little Shop of Horrors, in which plant shop employee Seymour is dragged into a problematic relationship when taking care for an alien plant. After he feeds it a drop of blood from his finger, Audrey II starts growing uncontrollably – as does its lust for blood – until we end up in a world dominated by flesh-eating vegetation.
That’s the drill, Seymour!
It’s an antique.
(With sincere respect and admiration)
They don’t make instruments like this any more.
Sturdy, heavy, dull.
(Beat, getting excited)
This is gonna be a challenge. This is gonna be a pleasure. I’m gonna want some gas for this one!
(Starts up C.)
I thought you weren’t going to use any ...
(Stops at opening in screens and turns back to Seymour; sweetly)
Oh the gas isn’t for you, Seymour. It’s for me.
(Getting excited again)
I want to really enjoy this and I find that a little giggle gas before we begin increases
my pleasure enormously. In fact ...
(A great idea dawns on him.)
I’m gonna use my special gas mask!
Just relax, Seymour. I’ll be with you in a moment.
Bibliography Griffith, Charles B., The Little Shop of Horrors, musical script, 1960. Rykwert, Joseph, On Adam’s House in Paradise: The Idea of the Primitive Hut in Architectural History (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1972).
Jules van den Langenberg is an independent curator, exhibition-maker and writer based in Amsterdam. His projects derive from ongoing dialogues with artists, architects, designers, cultural institutes and educational programmes. Key to his practice is redefining notions of representation, scripted spaces and talent with a focus on – but not limited to – the cultural field. Van den Langenberg collaborates with the Sandberg Instituut, Creative Industries Fund, Van Abbemuseum, Studio Makkink & Bey, Studio Edelkoort, Het Nieuwe Instituut, Thomas Eyck, Simon Becks, Wouter Paijmans, Saskia Noor van Imhoff & Arnout Meijer and Brecht Duijf & Lenneke Langenhuijsen.