No. 514 . 13 April 2011 

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A stairway at The Garden House in Buckland Monachorum, England, climbs toward light. Photo: Philippe Ferret

Garden Meaning

by Robert Mallet

Let us put an end to the endless disputes between those who think that "anything goes" (what the French call bouillon de culture: a sort of "culture medium" or "broth") and those who are unconditional supporters of a single, unique "good taste."

On one side are those who think that we can ignore human physical and physiological facts and that their only importance is the meaning we give them — never mind the senses; what matters is the sense. A leap, then, toward total liberation, and this without a safety net. On the other side are those who hold the untenable position of believing only in their own "good taste."

Why not consider this apparent opposition in a different way?

The formation, or acquisition, of our taste legitimately differentiates us from one civilization to another, from one era to another, from one style of garden to another, and even from one individual to another.

But we cannot ignore facts that are inherent in the physiological nature of our species (unless and until it mutates into something else!). Therefore the use of perspective and what are pejoratively called "classical" patterns can be easily detected in many forms of so-called modern or contemporary art.

Meaning and Consciousness

The meaning we give to elements of our own decor (photography, sculpture, color choices, clothing) is absolutely personal. The formation of particular analogous groups of neurons takes place throughout our lives and makes us unique as individuals. Therefore, it would be futile to try to establish a set of rigid standards for gardens.   >>>

This article is excerpted from Envisioning the Garden by Robert Mallet, translated from the French by Bryan Woy, copyright © 2011, with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton.




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