Ústí nad Labem House of Arts
Opening of the exhibition: December 7, 2022
Duration of the exhibition: December 8, 2022 – February 11, 2023

The exhibition Gardening of Soul: Introduction is the first public output of the long-term project of the Faculty of Art and Design of Jan Evangelista Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem, which focuses on the issue of artistic reflection on the phenomenon of garden and gardening understood in a broader social, economic, environmental and cultural context. This project, called Gardening of Soul: In Five Chapters, is gradually being built in collaboration with several local and international partners and its basic idea is to strengthen collaboration between artists, art institutions and local communities in the form of jointly realized artworks using various means of artistic research, participatory work and site-specific interventions. At the centre of the project is the theme of gardening, conceived from a metaphorical perspective as an activity determined by an individual’s determination to improve and share a particular space, while at the same time using this space to provide for socio-cultural and existential needs. From this perspective, it is clear that although the phenomenon of gardening naturally changes in different communities and climates, it always has enormous potential to foster the conditions for cooperation, communication and shared production that are vitally linked to the surrounding natural environment and the shared purposeful activity of a particular community.

The initial output of this project – the exhibition Gardening of Soul: Introduction – is conceived as a presentation of different ways of artistic work using strategies related to the issue of the garden, and the Ústí nad Labem House of Arts collaborated with nine participating art institutions from Hong Kong, Croatia, Italy, Iceland, South Africa, Germany, Austria, Ukraine and the USA to select the participating artists and specific artworks. The exhibition follows the current theme of enrichment related to the development of communities and society as a whole, in a completely different, yet globally connected context determined by local geographical, natural, historical, social and cultural aspects. In doing so, it grasps this theme with artistic means that have the potential to activate communities and individual environments through participatory and site-specific methods of artistic work in public space, with the aim of improving the quality of life in these communities and opening up space for a society-wide discussion on environmental issues and aspects of sustainable development. The exhibition features works made over the last few years in very diverse contexts, different types of public space and using specific artistic strategies. The thematization of the garden and gardening in these works has manifested itself in the form of an emphasis placed on environmental aspects as well as on aspects related to the accentuation of community work or broader social or cultural contexts. The concept of the exhibition presentation focuses on the use of a wide range of documentary tools that enable the works realised in the public space to be communicated to visitors at the gallery context.

The exhibition Gardening of Soul: Introduction at the Ústí nad Labem House of Arts presents stories of artworks growing up and firmly connected to the issue of caring for one’s own surroundings or community, with the desire to improve and build gardens understood as places of shared responsibility, with the determination to transform the neglected and declining into thriving and sustainable ones. The theme of this exhibition and the project as a whole was chosen in the context of reinforcing a new vision for our region – the Ústí Region – which has often been compared to a thriving and uplifting garden in the past and which, after a devastating period of industrial and social exploitation, is once again seeking ways to become a shared and maintained garden offering a sense of its own existence.

Michal Koleček
Exhibition curator