Endangered Meadows of Europe, 1994

Future Garden Part I.

On the 1 and 1/2 acres of roofgarden on top of the museum, the Harrison Studio transplanted a 400 year-old meadow that was being replaced by an urban development and told the story of the meadows and their value as models of cooperation between human needs and a bio-diverse habitat. Structures were erected on the path of the grassland that surrounded the meadows to contain a series of 15 complex and many layered stories in German and English and images of the 15 meadows. The exhibition lasted for 2 years after its opening date in June 1996. Thereafter the meadow was, through seed and structure, transplanted in the Great Rhine Park of Bonn, adjacent to the Rhine River. This continuation of the “Endandered Meadows” was re-titled, “A Mother Meadow for Bonn.” Seeds from the Mother Meadow were used to generate other meadowlands throughout the park system of Bonn, thereby introducing back into the system, the historic, cultural landscape of the region.

This ecological narrative gives voice to a unique element of the European cultural landscape. The meadowlands of Europe are a recent phenomena from an ecological point of view. They have developed over a number of centuries as a result of forest clearing, and are maintained in their present form by the grazing of livestock and/or the annual cutting of hay. This kind of agriculture is a model for a spontaneous and profitable, (although unconscious) collaboration between humans and nature. Cutting and grazing has set the stage for a meadow ecosystem in Europe of considerable complexity and stability, one of the most successful collaborative and sustainable ventures between humans and the rest of the ecosystem.

Here the harvest preserved two systems, one cultural and the other ecological, each helpful to the other’s well being. This remarkable element in the cultural landscape is endangered in many parts of Europe by overcutting and over grazing and mechanized agriculture so that, in the end, a biodiverse system is becoming a monoculture.

Paradoxically, even as it is being destroyed and replaced, the meadow as it has evolved is, and will continue to be, a valuable model for future survival. As the artists, we see this collaborative model speaking across time, offering choices, posing questions and functioning as a potential model for future man-nature collaborations. Thinking about this, we begin to imagine a future forest, a future estuary, a future lake. In fact, imagine monoculture Europe as a Future Garden, a biologically diverse system, with the meadow as the model.

Where: The Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle, Bonn
When: 1994-1998
Project Manager: Manfred Langlotz.
Designers: Gabriel Harrison, Vera Westergaard.
Scientists: Dr. Wilhelm Barthlott, Dr. Martin Schneider-Jacoby, Dr. Schumacher
Commissioned by: The Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland,
Bonn, Germany.