This project started out as my first commissioned art project. Initially I was a bit sceptical, since all of my previous projects had been self- initiated. How would this forced marriage end up? Would art even be possible under such conditions? Luckily, I was given full autonomy, and could following my own heart and intuition. I grew quite fond of the Botanical Gardens at Milde during the span of four seasons, and hopefully it shows.
Unlike most of the natural areas that we today believe to be untouched nature, Bergen Botanic Gardens does not hide the fact that it is just the opposite, highly touched nature - even planned, designed and managed by humans more or less to this exact outcome.
In this lies something sincere and liberating in light of most if not all of nature here on our planet no longer being untouched. We do however like to cling to the romantic illusion about nature pristine, unsullied by humans. If you find yourself in Antarctica in a spot where no person has ever set foot, you will also be able to see obvious signs of humanity’s indirect and serious influence. It is so, all across this planet of ours.
Humanity’s niche and advantage throughout the course of evolution has been our unique ability to change our surroundings to our advantage. For example, in the Stone Age, long before agriculture and industrialization, we used fire to burn off large areas for strategic reasons. On every continent we spread to, we quickly eradicated most of the megafauna, which again had profound consequences for other flora and fauna. Triggering ripple effects that we at the time were total and maybe happily ignorant of.
Just because of our ever-increasing ability to change our surroundings, I think we must realize that we have a moral responsibility to manage all of the remaining nature here on planet Earth in an active way. We must realize that nature requires our action in order to avoid collapse in species diversity and serious degradation of important natural areas.
Eventually, I hope that we will do a better job at including sincere nature in construction projects and urban areas, so that everyone can enjoy nature where they live. Not everyone is as lucky as us here in Bergen with nature on all sides. My fiancée is a landscape architect and she can frustratingly confirm that planned green area is often the first to be cut from a project when cost has to be reduced.
In this project I have visited Bergen Botanical Gardens in four seasons spanning from winter 2017 to autumn 2018. I have met people who have told me how important this nature area has been for their rehabilitation after cancer or in recovering after the loss of a loved one. A nice elderly man once almost apologized to me about hanging around in these botanical gardens rather than exploring Hardangervidden, the famous Norwegian nature reserve. He said that this was easier with his declining health.
If you take a closer look at the photographs in this project you will notice that some images are vignetted, blurred and perhaps somewhat distorted where I used older Zeiss Contax optics. Other motifs have reproduced with a great deal of detail. Thus, the choice of optics and technique has been determined by the mood of the subject I have wanted to emphasize. All creative interpretation of any scene has been done with analogue means, on a digital camera.
This project can be seen as my attempt to find the romance, mystery and beauty that we usually only associate with "wild nature". My defence of planned nature – although I would love to see large chunks of Earth being reserved for all nature non- human, planned nature is needed where the damage has already been done. Perhaps this project is also my persuasion of this elderly man I met, in telling him that there is adventure and wonder to be fund here also - no apology needed for exploring this sincere landscape. That here too is something that makes you feel open and grateful. Nature that you with good conscience can enjoy as something authentic.