Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Philosopher in the Garden

Readers with very keen eyes might've seen a small announcement in Jason Steger's 'Bookmarks' column in The Age A2 this weekend.  

Alongside Robyn Arianrhod, Wayne Macauley and Stephen Conte, I've been offered an Arts Victoria grant for 2009.  

With this, I'll be writing parts of The Philosopher in the Garden, a book on gardens.  But don't expect a blueprint for hedges, or a treatise on Pelargonium. A sample from my proposal:

It’s not a ‘how to’ gardening book – it’s a ‘how to live’ (or why), inspired by gardens. Tapping into the current interest in gardening and philosophy, it combines both to reveal what philosophy teaches us about gardens, and what gardens can teach us about life.  And it does so with wit, verve and understanding.

But why gardens?  In the last twenty years, gardens have enjoyed a resurgence.  It’s a £5 billion industry in the UK, while Americans spend $40 billion on their lawns alone.  In a drought year, Australia’s garden industry still grew by more than $100 million in 2006. Tens of millions of people around the world spend their free hours getting dirt under their fingernails – why?  They can buy the food they need, or pay professionals to landscape for them, but they don’t.  Others wander around public gardens for hours on end, talking, picnicking and romancing.  Why aren’t they at the mall, or a restaurant?

The Philosopher in the Garden shows how gardens can be cultivating, educative and inspiring. In lively, enjoyable prose, it illuminates the intimate truths that lie buried in our backyards and rolling public gardens.  While gardens can seem banal or trivial, they afford profound insights on identity, desire, attention, death and love.  They cultivate us as we shape or appreciate them.  In this, they are one of the last beautiful places to meet the distinctive challenges of modern life.  In a market saturated with technical or celebrity gardening books, The Philosopher in the Garden is something else entirely: a green, grounded adventure in ideas.


Anonymous said...

T'is a place of peace. When I look into my garden from above, all seems so quiet and contained, and yet so much happens beneath the foliage. Today I discovered some rather lovely potatoes which had found a rather comfortable spot beneath some gum mulch, t'was only a patch of pink which alerted me to their presence.They were added to the vegetable curry along with the pumpkin which hid suspended from a yellow grevillia earlier in the year.Lovely really.

Kirsty Murray said...

Congratulations on the Vic Arts Grant, Damon. The Philosopher in the Garden is a great premise. Can't wait to read what you come up with. We've just 'permacultured' our back yard, tearing up the lawn, installing water tanks and putting in tiers of mudstone and deep garden beds. It's a family project initiated by our eldest daughter and has had wonderful repercussions. Though it's early days, I can feel the way the garden will change and shape our lives in the years ahead.

Damon said...

Thanks, Mum. We've some pumpkin seeds if you need them for the new place...

And, Kirsty, lovely to hear from you. (I told you I'd distract you once your book was finished.)

Your backyard sounds fantastic. It's what we'd do if we weren't precarious, wandering renters. Well done (no doubt backbreaking work.)

Do you find the garden helps you to think, write, dream? I do, but then sometimes I just need a cafe...

Emma Kirsopp said...

Congratulations on the grant. Thank you, also, for sharing the proposal, I look forward to reading the book when its finished.

Great blog as well, its always fascinating to see (read?) about other's working methods in the studio/study.

Damon said...

Thanks, Emma. Yes, I'm chuffed to have the grant. I'll be even happier to finish the book!

I find artists' working habits fascinating: rhythms, eccentricities, longings, frustrations, and their fertile environment. They offer wonderful insights on my own foibles and fumblings.

The Garden of Self Defence said...

congrats with the funding. a friend just sent me your site address. nice blog.

i have both a conceptual and material garden which is the basis for my main practice as an artist and poet. i'm developing language and activities around decapitalised practices of existence. i'm particularly interested in constructing a permacultural model for the arts. Permapoesis is a term i'm developing which relates to the poet participating in their own food production and in turn their own localised ecology. i'm currently writing a paper on all this stuff for UK journal Angelaki, so i'm particularly interested in your work.

my garden is just out of Melbourne. good to visit your blog.



Damon said...

Thanks, Patrick.

Fascinating stuff. You're welcome to send me your Angelaki paper, if you'd like comments.

The Garden of Self Defence said...

oh, that wld be great damon. i'm presenting it at two fires festival this weekend on a panel i put together called "social warming", and it's due for further peer review just after this time.

Two Fires Festival of Arts and Activism.