Motivation behind Exploded View
Europe has a long tradition of describing and protecting parks, gardens and landed estates as heritage. Gardens and parks have been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since the early years of the list in the 1970s. In 1992 UNESCO redefined the theme of cultural landscapes. Gardens and parks were then listed as ‘designed landscapes’. Three new categories were introduced: archaeological landscapes, ‘living’ or ‘continuing’ cultural landscapes (mainly agrarian or industrial landscapes) and ‘associative landscapes’ (mainly landscapes that are the result of natural forces, but that are also part of the human domain through their connections with religion or art). Nowadays, all categories are represented on the World Heritage List.
Exploded View is an exchange between two urban parks, the Parco Regionale dell’Appia Antica in Rome (organized by Krien Clevis, curator of the Appian Park) and the Amstelpark in Amsterdam (organized by Alice Smits, curator and director of Zone2Source). Exploded View has joined forces with the Interfaculty Research Institute CLUE+ (Cultural Landscapes and Urban Environment) at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, which has been founded in 2008 with the explicit aim to study cultural landscapes as heritage, focusing on the past and present of cultural landscapes in relation to urban transformations.
The central aim of Exploded View is to explore these two parks in Rome and Amsterdam by inviting an international group of artists, designers, academics and students each with accumulated knowledge and extensive experience in the field of research on cultural landscapes to research the parks in unexpected ways and to propose plans for future uses from the perspective of their heritage. Exploded View brings together artists, designers, landscape architects, academics, city planners, ecologists, curators, researchers, local experts and park users, in order to exchange and develop new perspectives on these two parks within current urban transformations.
Heritage Landscapes, urban planning and design
Central to Exploded View is the concept of heritage in relation to landscape and art. At the heart of the project are the fundamental changes that have taken place during the last decades questioning the perception of what constitutes heritage. Firstly, in spatial terms the concept has widened significantly. No longer is heritage related to specific iconic sites and objects in relative isolation. Instead, the emphasis in defining heritage is shifting from the localised (monuments/sites) to whole landscapes and urban environments, and from the physical to the immaterial world of memories and traditions.
Secondly, while for a long time heritage has been defined from an essentialist perspective, reflecting the past of a given community as an objective historical reality, nowadays the past is rather seen as a mirror of contemporary society. Monuments, museums and the landscapes of which they are part, are not neutral transmitters of the past, but lieux de mémoire, or places and modes through which communities create and safeguard their collective memories. The strength of these more recent, constructivist approaches lies in promoting critical thinking on how heritage landscapes have been constructed and used throughout time.
The project Exploded View operates in this latter paradigm. It unites academics and artists in a common challenge to reveal the multiple layeredness of the Appian Park and the Amstelpark as heritage landscapes, to document and study how these landscapes have been constructed both mentally and physically and how they receive new functions and change meanings during this process. The challenge in doing artistic and scientific research in these specific areas is to write these biographies, thus revealing the multiple meanings of the landscapes and making them visible and experiential by unpeeling its layers, as occurs in an “exploded view”.
At first sight, the differences between the two parks seem more apparent than their similarities. For instance, the Parco Regionale dell’Appia Antica has been created and transformed by temporal narratives in the course of hundreds of years, whereas the Amstelpark has rather recently been laid out in a spatial mix of cultural references. However, in the spirit of the new heritage paradigm as discussed above, our approach allows us to explore the idea that the two parks are more similar than what may seem at surface value. Both parks were developed in the 1970s in a period when the worldwide environmental movement arose. While the Appian Park bears the image of a millennia old, naturally grown heritage landscape, it can be shown to have been artificially constructed fairly recently, in the 20th century. Likewise, the Amstelpark is known as a recent artificial construction, but as a heritage landscape of a world exhibition in horticulture (the Floriade of 1972) it can be argued to hide multiple historical layers, also dating back several centuries, just like the Via Appia Antica landscape. Both cases are characterized by the interplay between long term historical processes and creative agency. This interplay is key to Exploded View. The project aims to create a dialogue between the two parks, by calling on artists and academics to reflect on and get inspired by this interplay, in order to open to new perspectives on artistic research into landscapes and find new connections to the parks themselves within contemporary society.
The methodology of landscape interpretation that we apply in Exploded View is based on an integration of approaches from earlier work done by CLUE+ (e.g. Zandstad- and Testaccio-projects) and curator Krien Clevis in the project ‘Transition Zone’ in and around the ENCI-area in Maastricht, and the practice of transdisciplinary artistic research Zone2Source is doing in the Amstelpark. This shared methodology led to the collaboration of these parties within Exploded View. It is based on a practice in which different stakeholders – ranging from archaeologists to ecologists and heritage experts, practitioners and local residents – all provide their own visions and aims that are involved in the creation of their own notion of place. In Exploded View, these visions and aims can exist side by side, telling their own story. These perspectives are shared with the artists and designers, who will take this multiplicity of views as the starting point for their research, and will use artistic research methods in combination with the ethnographic approach of participative observation. This means that the artists and designers are simultaneously observing and participating, using several ethnographic methods like writing, drawing, collecting/ordering, documenting, interviewing, photographing, filming, walking, etc. Jointly, artists, designers and stakeholders analyse the complexity of the multi-layered heritage landscapes in a collaborative, co-creative laboratory context. This fieldwork will result in project proposals to be developed later in the year through which the research will be communicated to wider audiences.
With the collaboration between CLUE+ and Zone2Source, the project links up two Amsterdam based institutions, an academic and artistic one, in a unique effort to integrate science and art. We believe that the exchange of knowledge creates new and more transverse connections and collaborations leading to new approaches and expanded knowledge. The collaborative work of a wide group of artists and designers, academics and other experts as well as locals, will establish an immensely interesting platform for knowledge production and future visions.
During the research phase regular exchange meetings will be organized in which participants will share their work and engage with invited experts in both parks. Bill Wei (RCE), senior researcher for Cultural Heritage will organize a number of expert meetings using the method of the ‘Socratic Dialogue’. The objective of this method is to create an open space for questioning, in order to understand each other and to deepen the research. These meetings will become a focus point for sharing the research and project plans of all participants, some of whom focus on both parks, some on just one of them.
In Rome, 13 international artists will work together with scholars and (master) students from VU/CLUE+ and other universities and academies, as well as with architects, practitioners and stakeholders from the Parco Regionale dell’Appia Antica. The participating artists will embark on a “research expedition” to develop concepts for their works, using ethnographic observation methods and working with local knowledge and oral history. During the research period (autumn 2018 and spring 2019) the artists have the possibility to work in the park and at the headquarters of the Appian Park, the ‘Ex-Cartiera’. Artists, scholars and stakeholders will be meeting regularly to exchange ideas with each other. In collaboration with the Roman Accademia di Belli Arti we also organize several expert meetings at the academy. Here the artists present the status of their research in exchange with students of the art academy.
The same sort of research expeditions will take place in the Amstelpark in Amsterdam with collaborations between the artists and designers with scholars, stakeholders, practitioners from CLUE+ and the park. Here, the aim is to study the history of the Floriade park, as well as its integration into the rapidly transforming urban context of the Amsterdam Zuidas. Between winter 2018 and spring 2019, the artists will develop their research in the park, for which we involve various experts including ecologists, park managers and gardeners, landscape designers as well as local knowledge, depending upon the specific research questions posed by the artists. During this period several expert meetings will be organized to allow for continuous exchange of information and approaches. In addition, artists and designers will be offered excursions through the park by several experts, in order to learn more about the different aspects of the material, ecological, social and architectural aspects of the park. In this way an enormous amount of knowledge will be collected about the Amstelpark.
The research in Rome and Amsterdam will run simultaneously with lectures by specialists at physical locations, guided tours, exchange meetings, workshops and a project website on which all the research will be collected. Final presentations of the research will take place at both the Parco Regionale dell’Appia Antica and the Amstelpark in the form of talks, excursions or performances for which the public is invited to participate. On April 17, 2019 the research phase on the Via Appia Antica will be concluded with a final symposium at the Ex-Cartiera in Rome. Here the results of the research will be shared with the partners, stakeholders, artists as well as with the art students from the Accademia di Belli Arti in Rome, students from Urban Planning of the Sapienza Roma, as well as resident students of the Royal Dutch Institute (KNIR), and a wider audience. In the Amstelpark, artists will present their research in various forms, such as excursions, workshops, interventions or presentations.
The research that has been conducted will result in concrete proposals for new artworks and projects. For the Roman part, we will organize a manifestation in the late summer of 2019 at the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam. The projects resulting from the Amstelpark research will be realized in the autumn of 2019 in a two month exhibition in het Glazen Huis and various locations outside in the Amstelpark. In November 2019 we will organize a final presentation/manifestation in the Headquarters of the Appian Park in Rome (with exhibition halls, conference room and open air theatre). In this process we also include the municipalities which we hope to challenge with alternative views and perspectives on the future of the parks and their connection to a changing city. During this period a symposium will be organized in Amsterdam in which we will present and discuss the various methodologies and interpretative schemes for artistic research on heritage landscapes.