The Garden. Cinematics of the soil

The exhibition project THE GARDEN. CINEMATICS OF THE SOIL is dedicated to the life and work of the British filmmaker, artist and activist Derek Jarman. His film of the same name, The Garden, as well as his legendary garden Prospect Cottage, become the starting point for a contemporary artistic examination of essential questions of our society and its future: environmental pollution and disease, collectivity and resilience.

The exhibition at Betonhalle links in many ways to the special topography and utopian potential of Jarman's garden on the south coast of England: Film footage, objects, diaries and paintings show fragments of his last place of residence, Prospect Cottage, which the filmmaker, who died in 1994 as a result of an HIV infection, created in the direct vicinity of a nuclear power plant and a military base. There he created a very special place of longing for the collaborative coexistence of people and nature, which offered him refuge from an increasingly destructive and discriminatory society and which is still a place of pilgrimage for thousands of visitors from all over the world. The Garden (1990), created against the background of AIDS activism and the anti-nuclear power movement, takes the contradictory nature of this place as its central theme: between dream and reality, idyll and pain, beauty and transience, nature becomes an analogy of the creeping decay of the human body in the context of climate change, disease and destruction.

Contemporary artists from various countries and friends of Jarman will explore his visual worlds and themes in sound and media installations specially conceived for this project as well as in talks, workshops and a film programme.

THE GARDEN. CINEMATICS OF THE SOIL aims to develop new forms of image production with and for the earth, telling of its cycles of creation and decay, its resilience and capacity for healing.

With: Derek Jarman, Mareike Bernien and Alex Gerbaulet, Dagie Brundert, CHEAP Art Collective, Peter Cusack, Inas Halabi, Philip Scheffner, Kerstin Schroedinger and Oliver Husain, Howard Sooley
Club des Femmes (So Mayer, Selina Robertson), Heather Davis, Peter Fillingham, Bishnupriya Ghosh, David Lewis, Bhaskar Sarkar, Annie Symons, Alexandra Symons Sutcliffe, Mary Katharine Tramontana, Simon Fisher Turner Rehana Zaman and Ed Webb-Ingall

With the support of Amanda Wilkinson Gallery, James Mackay and Keith Collins Will Trust.


Works exhibited

Derek Jarman / Mixed-Media-Collages / 1987–1990

Before becoming a filmmaker, Derek Jarman studied fine arts. During his last years fighting AIDS, he channeled much of his energy into painting. The exhibition shows some of Jarman's "Black Paintings", small canvases he painted between 1987 and 1990 in Dungeness on the south coast of England, his last place of residence and work. The mixed-media collages are composed of broken glass, poetic doodles or flotsam collected on the beach.
Curtesy of the Amanda Wilkinson Gallery and the Keith Collins Will Trust.

Howard Sooley / Photo series / 1990–1994

In 1990 Howard Sooley was commissioned to photograph Derek Jarman at Prospect Cottage. He soon became a regular visitor to Dungeness and continued to visit him until his death. The exhibition shows a selection of prints from Howard Sooley from among those that were taken at the garden and during the last year’s of Derek Jarman’s life. (Tbc)

Kerstin Schroedinger & Oliver Husain /
Performance, Lecture, 16mm-Film, Video- and Soundrecordings / 2019
The story of a chemical substance called DNCB (Dinitrochlorobenzine) is the starting point for our project. DNCB was used in film and photography labs as a component of colour processing. It was easily available through Kodak, for example. In 1986 a San Francisco based chemist and HIV patient discovered through self-experiments that DNCB applied to the skin had a positive effect on the immune system. He campaigned for medical research into the substance, and was involved in the founding of the first independent guerrilla AIDS clinic. Our work investigates the intersections of self treatment and photochemistry, autonomous organisations and circulation of information, in the connections that the chemical substance DNCB produces.

Oliver Husain's stay in Berlin was made possible by the residency programme of the Goethe-Institut.

Peter Cusack / Audio Recordings / 2003/2007/2021

Dungeness is a very special place with a unique ecology and history. A windswept promontory of shingle projecting into the Channel from south east England, it has long been a key migration route for wildlife and people and in the frontline of Britain’s ever changing relationship with Europe. Today a nuclear power station, lighthouses for shipping, a miniature railway, army firing ranges, 1920s concrete sound mirrors built to detect incoming aircraft, holiday camps and a world-renowned nature reserve co-exist there side by side with the local community. 1 million people visit per year. The soundscape reflects these feature and more. Peter Cusack's recordings from 2003/2007 cover distant gunnery practice, water birds, the fog signal in mist and stones being clicked in front of the sound mirrors to check the echoed reflections. During the first days of the exhibition Peter Cusack will be spending time at Dungeness once again, exploring the soundscape (recording and live streaming) of this unique landscape and talking to people there.

Bettina Ellerkamp, Jörg Heitmann & Philip Scheffner / Installation with 12 projections and research table / 2021
In a room-filling experiment, we’re releasing Derek Jarman’s film The Garden from a traditional screening context, and transposing its cinematic body of work into 12 projections within the space of silent green’s Concrete Hall, the former dead body storage area of what was once the district Wedding’s central crematorium.
Directly beneath the former medical examination area, we’re anatomizing the film — breaking it down into individual components — and in doing so, attempting to grasp the complexity and structure of its makeup. We’re finding our bearings. Digging, rearranging, excavating.
THE GARDEN — this garden can’t be charted from a single, fixed point of view. It needs to be experienced with all the senses. We dive into Derek Jarman’s universe, enveloped by the weight and energy of his work. We move around so that we can zero in on details, find hidden paths, and blaze new trails. Every person discovers something different, sees something different. We search for points of reference, lose ourselves in a surge of minutiae, and perceive ourselves beyond the given coordinates of space and time.
The day ends. The film begins…
March – Tuesday 7 
„The gardener digs in another time, without past or future, beginning or end. A time that does not cleave the day with rush hours, lunch breaks, the last bus home. As you walk in the garden you pass into this time – the moment of entering can never be remembered. Around you the landscape lies transfigured. Here ist the Amen beyond the prayer.“ Derek Jarman, Modern Nature

Concept and Installation: Susanne Sachsse, Şenol Şentürk, Martin Siemann
Music: Xiu Xiu
Lyrics: Susanne Sachsse
Voice: Vaginal Davis, Susanne Sachsse, Angela Seo, Marc Siegel, Jamie Stewart
CHEAP Art collective, founded in 2001 in Berlin, which presents queer aesthetic and poetic perspectives on the writing of history in its musical performances, will also develop a musical work for "The Garden":  A sound and light installation with a table, wooden poles, horn speakers and bone sound in the garden and Betonhalle of silent green Berlin 2021.

Mareike Bernien & Alex Gerbaulet / video installation / 2021

From 1946 to 1990, in the German states of Saxony and Thuringia, the Soviet corporation SAG Wismut mines uranium for the USSR’s nuclear weapons program. Above ground, socialism shines towards the future, below, the ancient rocks radiate through the torn up earth. Based on the map of former Wismut mining areas as a starting point, we move horizontally through the landscapes of today — which are characterized by mining and later rehabilitation — as well as vertically down through the archive of the ground. Deep drill-holes through space and time explore the sedimentary narratives that surround the element uranium materially, metaphorically and geopolitically. How does uranium haunt the landscape? What stories and biographies surround its excavation? How does it radiate into its recording media?

Inas Halabi / 2019–2020 / A
video (12 min) and a slide projection of 80 red filter images
This work is a video installation composed of a combination of conversation, interview, and location footage. Following research conducted by a local nuclear physicist, the work probes the possible burial of nuclear waste and the presence of man-made radiation, in the south of the West Bank.   In various ways, Halabi deliberately thwarts, withholds or delays the delivery of information, and the film comes to turn on issues of representation and conveyance. By placing red plastic filter sheets in front of the camera lens, different shades of red are generated to make visible the levels of radioactivity.  The isotope Cesium 137, invisible but deadly, could be seen as a synecdoche for a more ungraspable invisibility – the systemic networks of power and control in the region – and this work as a meditation on how to account for the un-filmable but inexorable.

Framework programme

The film scholar Marc Siegel will discuss current ecological, political and artistic practices of resistance in talks with artists and activists. The three evenings include topics ranging from AIDS and queer desire to ecosexual activism and the possibilities of new utopian spaces with the guest > Heather Davis (27 July), > Bishnupriya Ghosh, Bhaskar Sarkar, Rehana Zaman and Ed Webb-Ingall (12 August) and > Club des Femmes (So Mayer, Selina Robertson) (18 August).

The film programme in cooperation with Arsenal cinema presents Jarman's films and a queer, feminist, subversive and futurist short film programme from the 1980s, 1990s and the present. The Garden (Derek Jarman, 1990) 23 July, 26 July, 2 August, 9 August & 16 August | Blue (Derek Jarman, 1993) 4 August & 18 August | The Last of England (Derek Jarman, 1987) 28 July & 11 August | Garden of Luxor (Burning the Pyramids), 1973) 21 August | Absolutely Positive (Peter Adair/Janet Cole, 1991) 8 August | AIDS Walk in Central Park (Milena Gierke, 1995) 8 August | Aus der Ferne - The Memo Book (Matthias Müller, 1989) 13 August | Poison (Todd Haynes, 1990) 13 August

> Pinhole Camera Workshop: Art & Garbage
A two-day workshop by Dagie Brundert gives participants the chance to create and comprehend their own pinhole camera, and then use it to take negatives on the grounds of silent green. Using individually created organic developing agents made of food waste, positive prints will be created and then re-integrated into the grounds of silent green as their own separate exhibition, thereby temporarily returning to nature. (24 and 25 July)

> Reading + Audio Broadcast: Approaching THE GARDEN as documentary practice…
In a combination of reading (Philip Scheffner, live from the garden of the silent green in Berlin) and field recordings (Peter Cusack, live from Derek Jarman's garden in Dungeness), different temporal and narrative levels of the physical and mental approach to a utopian place overlap: THE GARDEN. (25 July)

Interview: Prospect Cottage and the gardener Jonny Bruce
During the first days of the exhibition, Peter Cusack will be spending time at Dungeness exploring the soundscape (recording and live streaming) of this unique landscape and talking to people there. Probabely in the afternoon of August 3, the conversation will be with Jonny Bruce, who, in recent years, has maintained and cared for the garden at Prospect Cottage. He will talk about his work there, how things have changed over the years and about Dungeness as a place. Afterwards, the interview can also be listened to in the exhibition.

> Walk & Open-air Screening: Kiss the Moment, it’s Not a Pyramid!
Over the course of many days, Dagie Brundert is out and about on the silent green grounds, taking pinhole camera photos in the garden. Negatives. One every now and then. With her trusty, much-travelled Illy coffee can, she lets chance and mood guide her, looking for spots where beauty beats banality by a mile to capture just one moment. For a few seconds. The developed images are returned to their place of origin, hung up there and they remain there until they are destroyed, soaked or weathered - kiss the moment, it's not a pyramid! In the evning Dagie Brundert will be showing some of her short films, developed in different plant soups, including Patthorster Waldgeist (1.21 min), Magnolia (1.09 min), Yksi Kaksi Kolme (3.03 min), Mjuk (1.46 min), Smilestone and the Sea (3.32 min), Kartoffel (3.05 min), I see the Tree and the Tree sees me (2.25 min), Salt eats Film (58 seconds). (30 July)

Arsenal Summer School 2021 - Derek Jarman’s Garden: Collaborative Working and the Gaze of the Compound Eye
This year's Arsenal Summer School will also focus on Derek Jarman and his garden. In addition to the artists and curators of the exhibition, some of Jarman's long-time friends and collaborators will talk about his work. With costume designer Annie Symons, artist Peter Fillingham, and producer James Mackay, supported by author and poet Mary Katharine Tramontana.

More about the programme


THE GARDEN is a project by silent green Film Feld Forschung gGmbH. The film programme takes place in cooperation with Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art

Artistic direction: Bettina Ellerkamp, Jörg Heitmann, Stefanie Schulte Strathaus
Curator talks: Marc Siegel
Project management: Bettina Ellerkamp, Linda Winkler
Production Events Programme: Merlind David
Communications: Hannah Osenberg
Design: José Délano
Technical directors: Christoph Andrich, Jonas Hinz, Kay Bennet Kruthoff
Exhibition construction: Simon Vierboom

With the support of Amanda Wilkinson Gallery

Funded by the
German Federal Cultural Foundation   

Funded by the Federal Government
Comissioner for Culture and the Media