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Given the historical references to a monastic garden, its socio-political location in an urban park, and its unique ecological dynamics, we enthusiastically began building a community of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.