– Autumn/Winter 2003

Modern Future Past Park: On a Plan for Escape by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster

Jan Verwoert

If you took a walk in Kassel's Karlsaue gardens during Documenta11 you were likely to come upon Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster's park within the park. The artist had made a composition out of different architectural elements used in the design of modern parks; a scenario that, even though it blended in with its pastoral surroundings, seemed strangely out of place in these 18th-century manorial gardens. Rather, it had a modern atmosphere of a place somewhere in a Mediterranean or tropical climate.

The components of this environment were: a palm tree; an agave; a rose bush; a large lump of lava rock; a light-blue, flat, oval pool; a folding chair; a lamp post; a pink bench; a spherical, blue telephone box with the logo 'Telemar'; a field of square concrete tiles set into the lawn in a chessboard pattern; a path made of tiles; a long row of small stones; and a modernist windowless pavilion made of plain concrete and dynamically shaped due to the acute angles of its geometric outlines. The pavilion had a light box on one side (showing a graphic map of the park) and a transparent screen onto which a film was projected from the inside of the building. The film, which could only be discerned after dark, consisted of a montage of images from the park scenario itself cross-faded with sequences from films such as Antonioni's La Notte or Blow Up in which actors either perform against the backdrop of a park or cool, modernist architecture.

The most striking aspect of the park environment was that it could be instantly grasped as a coherent whole despite the fact that it consisted of more-or-less unrelated elements

  1. Sartoris makes this statement in an interview in the documentary La Memoria di un Secolo (1994) by Andreas Pfaeffli and Elda Guidinetti.

  2. Joan Ramón Resina, 'The Concept of After-Image and the Scopic Apprehension of the City', in Joan Ramón Resina and Dieter Ingenschay, After-Images of the City, Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2003, pp.1-22

  3. Ibid., p.6

  4. Ibid., p.14

  5. Ibid., p.22