The Practice of Gardening by Meital Katz Minerbo

Photo Credit: Mia Gourvitch
Meital Katz Minerbo’s solo exhibition “I Am Rooted, But I Flow” is on view through August 22, 2020, at P8 Gallery (Tel Aviv). In this feature, Meital shares with us how the practice of designing gardens creates events where the public and private spheres can co-exist, and how they become tools in her search to create an ever-changing place of belonging.
Gardening is a practice related to two different social realms: the private and the public. There are private gardens and public ones, both are the result of human thought and meticulous aesthetic sensibility together with a certain connection to nature.
It is well known that the garden is part of the private house, sometimes designed as a mirror of an imaginary home. Public gardens are planned taking into consideration the circulation of visitors in a very controlled way and at the same time the “nature” is organized to grow and  create hidden spaces where citizens can escape from the authorities’ eyes.
To make a garden is to create a set of rules, a new order; which plants, soil, water and sunlight are the Materia Prima to the hands of the designer. There is a sense of power and control related to this practice that reveals its performative aspect; the gardener recreates nature with an egocentric aspiration for control and perfection. There is also a therapeutic side to gardening that provides the possibility of sublimation: to rearrange, fix, and even create a new reality.
‘I am rooted, but I flow’ is the name of my ongoing solo show at P8 Gallery in Tel Aviv, where I relate to the practice of gardening in a different way. In my project, a bed is functioning as a parcel of land limited by defined boundaries, situated inside a bigger limited space: that of the gallery.
My bed becomes a landscape and I, the designer of the territory that has been assigned to me. I am a Gardener.
The process began with dying and painting patterns on white cotton fabrics in shades of green, brown and a touch of blue. Using the measures of a standard double bed, I cut and sewed a Garden/Duvet which is the center piece that the exhibition revolves around.
The top of the duvet features a checkered, hand painted background with geometrical shapes sewn onto it as an abstract representation of familiar public elements: paths, a water source and shrubs, inspired by 17th and 18th century European gardens. The abstraction and reorganization of regulated systems touches on the conflict of status and identity and the accepted conception of natural-cultural relations. The bottom side of the duvet is hand painted in a similar way as the top but in shades of brown resembling the soil under the vegetation. This hybrid object functions as an important part of the bed set and at the same time transforms the bed into a landscape; a specific territory, an arena that brings up narratives on identity and geopolitics from an intimate and a public point of view simultaneously.
White pillows are dispersed on top of the bed, unorganized, marking the memory of the body that laid there before. They sport handmade black ink drawings of female hands organizing, building and fixing the home space; the images are taken from the “Household Encyclopedia, Our Home from A to Z”, a book written for Israeli housewives in the 1960s. The pillows function as the boundaries of an assignedforced territory and at the same time they are reflective moments on future strategies or past erroneous movement, a set of thoughts to use for the creation of an alternative reality.
On the wall beside the bed hangs a small and deceptive drawing of a cross-sectional view of a colorful and rich landscape, made of thin layers of topography and movement. The drawing is based on a microscopic view of the layers of human skin – a sample of tissues and capillaries merging into one entity together with the bedgarden.
My garden is situated on the left corner at the very back of the gallery, living the rest of the space empty.  The installation is illuminated by a small spotlight that leaves the rest of the gallery in the shadows and the bedgarden exposed to the viewers’ eyes that wander through the wrinkles as if they were part of a landscape.
Being an immigrant, born in Jerusalem and growing up in Caracas, has been a central motif in my artistic practice that engages with representation of what it is to be an outsider.  There is a need to invent a visual narrative that can represent my experience between continents, cultures and languages, in a critical and creative way. My interest is dealing with the idea of being different everywhere, longing for an unexisting place to belong to.  There is a  constant state of movement of territory and identity: nomadism.
The exhibition presents the concept of territory undergoing changes, being nomadic: the gallery resonates as an empty house, the bed as a garden, the little drawing on the wall looks like soil but is actually human skin throwing us back to the body absent in the space, in a moment where it becomes one with the concept of territory.
In the garden, the public and the intimateprivate coexist, like the smallest parcel of the world and at the same time its totality.
All images: Mia Gourvitch


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