Launched in 2015, Hakuna Matata is a project-space sculpture garden and serialized novella. It's true, we enjoy a certain ungirdledness vis-a-vis spatial categories frequently deemed antinomic—fictional and sculptural, natural and domesticated, local and global, site specific and digital, etc.—but that is hardly WHAT WE'RE ABOUT. Instead the seed was planted by a line from Thomas More. "The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden." What was so startling in this declaration? Surely not a vision of the dying souls of the gardenless, chief among them More himself, locked up in the Tower of London, awaiting execution. We decided to play More's claim against those of Anne Helmreich in THE ENGLISH GARDEN AND NATIONAL IDENTITY: THE COMPETING STYLES OF GARDEN DESIGN, 1870–1914, that
“gardenscapes do not communicate universal values irrespective of time or place; each culture endows garden forms with particular sets of meanings and, within that culture, those meanings, and therefore vehicles that express them, are contested and not fixed.”
Would we nourish the universal soul or furnish a coliseum for the combat of unfixed meanings? It’s important to keep in mind that More’s claim that “the soul cannot thrive without a garden” does not appear, as you might expect, in A DIALOGUE OF COMFORT AGAINST TRIBULATION. As it happens, the line was not written by Sir Thomas More but rather Thomas Moore, author, according to his website,
“of the bestselling book CARE OF THE SOUL and fifteen other books on deepening spirituality and cultivating soul in every aspect of life. He has been a monk, a musician, a university professor, and a psychotherapist, and today he lectures widely on holistic medicine, spirituality, psychotherapy, and the arts. He lectures frequently in Ireland and has a special love of Irish culture.”
But the administrators of goodreads.com insist on attributing the quote to More—with one O—display it beside a thumbnail of Holbein’s famous portrait of the Lord High Chancellor (later patron saint of Catholic statesmen). And so there we are: caught between history-as-thumbnail-and-inspirational-quote and the desiccated rhetoric and high-minded bewilderment of hyperspecialization, between bland disenchantment and PROBLEMATIZING and the inane enthusiasms of New Age mysticism and Irish culture. To these we should add a third antinomy—here, once more, borrowing from Anne Helmreich: “Anyone who wishes to understand art must draw a distinction between the objects themselves and the interpretations of those objects, which are found in readings.” Of course, she does not say where the objects are found. We are not so coy: they’re out in the yard. Come look at them!
Hakuna matata is a Swahili phrase that translates to “No worries.” It is a bit of gallows humor because really there is a lot to worry about.
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