Shadow Garden, Amstelpark

Archaeology of gestures

In February 2024, under the Building Talent scheme, de Onkruidenier welcomed Samar Khan as a Future Gardener. Samar is currently researching interspecies communication at the Meertens Institute of the KNAW. In collaboration with Samar, the Onkruidenier will continue their artistic research Shadow Garden — Archaeology of gestures.

The walls of the garden help create a sheltered microclimate in which we observe unique interactions between species. This makes the garden an interesting testing ground for learning about urban nature’s ability to cope with heat and climate change. We are developing new tools, gestures and tactics for our dealings with the garden and all its inhabitants and want to design for and with them.

The concept of ‘Archaeology of Gestures’ highlights how places are made by the different ways human AND non-human bodies move and how their movements construct a shared and climate-adaptive space. The monastery garden is a test garden where we may carefully observe and learn from the coming together of the unique micro-ecology with small communities of people (us) who will care for the garden. The primary method that will run as a common thread through our various design interventions and investigations is autoethnographic: we study ourselves as we learn and act As designers, we want to establish affective and spirited relationships with plants, explore what it means to take instructions from plants about how they want to inhabit our shared spaces, and then translate our findings into methodologies that may be performatively presented, shared and taught.

Given the historical references to a monastic garden, its socio-political location in an urban park, and its unique ecological dynamics, we enthusiastically began building a community of experts. We are both interested in learning from and collaborating with historians, gardeners, farmers and practitioners of contemporary spirituality who may expand our imaginations about interacting with plants and their ecological properties.

Future Gardening

At the Shadow Garden, we have begun a search in recent months for the future of gardening in a changing climate that is getting drier and hotter. We are doing this under the title Future Gardening. This makes the shade garden a test environment and open-air studio in which we collectively speculate about the future of our green living environment.

In the near future, we will increasingly experience relatively wet winters and dry hot summers due to the Mediterraneanization of our cities. What does a xerophilic (heat-loving) biotope for the city look like? How do we develop a regenerative system for a thriving heat-resistant urban nature? Currently, our climate zone is shifting 13 meters northeastward every day. What will our urban biotope look like in the future when we live in the current Paris climate zone 50 years from now?

The urban area is dominated by asphalt, pavement and concrete, on a foundation of raised sand. The city is a large, walled heat island. What heat-loving plant communities do we embrace in the future? And how do we as humans learn to work with them to keep the city livable?

Shadow Garden

In the coming years, in collaboration with Zone2Source, we will develop the former cloister garden of the Belgian pavilion into the SchaduwTuin (Shadow Garden), an artist’s garden in which stories are housed that make entanglements of nature and man visible and tangible.

Shadow is where the light does not shine on it. What processes take place while we cannot see them? In the Shadow Garden, we as humans literally move into the shadows of plants, organisms, soil and earth systems. We delve into twilight, shadow, fog and the grey area of hidden knowledge that we bring to light. How can a garden be a place where people can reshape their connection to their environment?

With the Shadow Garden, de Onkruidenier is developing a test environment for a new relationship between humans and their future habitat. De Onkruidenier reverses the perspective: we leave behind traditional expectations of gardens and gardening. What attitude do we adopt as we learn to listen to plants and all the more-than-human organisms? What stories do they tell, what instructions do they give, what can we all learn? Through rituals, we develop a new language to take you into an in-between space where current issues of drought and heat and the shifting climate zone find a new order. Reflect with us on our relationship with (urban) nature. Every Wednesday morning the collective is present in the garden, when the weather allows us to. Here we weekly explore the relationships we maintain with this place. Through reflections, conversations, observations and our hands, we open our senses to the garden in new ways. Want to stop by or participate? If so, send us a message and we’d love to welcome you to meet the Shadow Garden.

Under the Free Space scheme of the City of Amsterdam, the walled Belgian Monastery Garden has been made available for the development of the Shadow Garden.

Shadow Floriade

In the spring of 2022, the Municipality of Amsterdam, Stadsdeel Zuid gave us the key to the former Kloostertuin in the Amstelpark. This garden, which was developed as part of the Belgian pavilion for the 1972 Floriade, has been given to the Onkruidenier for long-term management. The walled garden will be developed as an artist’s garden in the coming years.

In the summer of 2022, de Onkruidenier began developing The Shadow Garden, which focuses on the web of relationships between humans, animals, plants, bacteria and their habitats. Against the eco-modernist tradition of the Floriade, which is mainly about technological innovation without transforming systems and mentalities, we question the position of man himself within the ecosystem. New connections between plants, people and nature in the city provide a totally new experience of what urban nature can be. In the Shadow Garden we literally move in the shadow of the earth, as soil and earth systems and hidden knowledge is brought to light. How can the garden become a place where people can begin to reshape their connection to their environment?

The project opened during the Shadow Floriade that Zone2Source is organizing in 2022 to celebrate 50 years of the Amstelpark, parallel to the Floriade of Almere and during the 50th anniversary of the Amstelpark that was laid out for the Floriade in 1972.

The Shadow Garden is made possible by the City of Amsterdam, Zone2Source, Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst, Stimuleringsfonds and Cultuurfonds.