As I entered the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern I was struck by a sculpture of triangular raised beds with what seemed like plants growing in most of them. My friends and I stood by trying to make sense of it alongside dozens of others.
It turned out this was a sculpture by the Mexican artist Abraham Cruzvillegas. The sculpture featured 240 raised beds filled with 23 tonnes of soil from gardens and parks across my beloved London. I know some of these places – Peckam Rye, Regents Park, Haringey and Westminster, to mention a few, quite well and I guess that emotional association was what triggered my interest. The other fascinating thing about this sculpture was that nothing was planted in any of the beds. It was the hope of the artist that the soil transplanted into the beds would sprout to create plants. Such faith! The beds were watered regularly and lamp posts sourced from local building sites had been installed to provide light.
The exhibition which was in its 4th month when I came across it was first displayed in October 2015 and was intended to be exhibited for a total of 6 months.
The video, featuring Abraham Villegas below will give you an idea of some of the wider aspects of the exhibition and what the raised beds looked like in their first few days at the Tate Modern.
Fast forward 4 months later and the photos below show what I saw and experienced, 240 raised triangular beds showings signs of plant growth. It seemed no two beds were the same. Indeed against all hope and difficult odds the raised beds had managed to sprout all sorts of plants. It might have taken 4 months or it could have taken a year but, what was meant to be, had found a way to be against challenging circumstances.
The idea of the exhibition was to see how hope can materialise from nothing. I think there was more than hope to be drawn from this. Lessons applicable to our own lives, including perhaps how little we need to flourish can be drawn from this. With soil from various locations in London some lighting and regular watering plants sprouted. Regardless of the source of the soil, some from the borough of Westminster a place for the wealthy and well heeled and Haringey, a deprived inner city borough, there were enough organisms and invincible seeds in both to produce plants! Of course everyone regardless of origin needs the right environment to flourish. The water and the rudimentary lighting poles provided the optimum environment.
I can’t help but meditate on one of my favourite quotes from Hebrews 11:1 as I write – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This project personifies that quote. It is not always easy to see the end of the road. A vision is the first step to success. The second step is faith to believe that the unseen vision will be manifested.