The Garden as an Activist Arena

From Planet 247

by Kirsti Bohata

Kirsti Bohata draws on an interview with artist Owen Griffiths to reflect on his ‘Thinking Green’ at the Glynn Vivian, why it’s not simply an exhibition, and how it illuminates the need to address climate change, colonisation and global capitalism, which are enmeshed from Swansea outwards.

‘Thinking Green’ might look like an exhibition, but it isn’t – at least not in the ordinary sense. Part of the Land Dialogues project and described as ‘part exhibition, part research space’, Owen Griffiths ‘uses the collection as a tool to explore our relationship to land use and landscape’. One immediate ambition is a collective redesign of the Glynn Vivian garden, at present little more than a paved courtyard. For those who have been following Griffiths’ transformative work on climate, space, landscape, food systems and social justice, however, it will come as no surprise that this garden project isn’t simply about making a green place to relax on a visit to the gallery. Interrogating the concept and function of a garden and rethinking the role of the Glynn Vivian gallery and collections themselves are part of the project. ‘What is the role of the museum and gallery at a time of global crisis?’ and ‘How can a museum or gallery be a “useful” space in the work of modelling a radical future?’ are two of the questions this exhibition poses and goes a long way to answering. ‘Thinking Green’ is a process, and a self-reflexive process at that which questions the role of art: ‘What does it mean to explore an artwork as a toolkit for change?’

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About the author

Kirsti Bohata is Professor of English Literature at Swansea University. She is currently working on a collaborative project entitled ‘Narrating Rural Change’ which looks at agriculture and land use in the context of the biodiversity and climate crises.