Jardin Voyageur/Travelling Garden

"Jardin Voyageur" by Martine Aballéa

As the first large-scale trade and information network was established in nineteenth century Europe, the marvellous expression "official infection map" was used for route planning. Today, when we have the dynamic metaphor "information super highway", it is disconcerting that in former times the circulation of goods and information was linguistically close to epidemics. However, every kind of exchange does actually now have epidemic characteristics. In English and French this meaning has been preserved until today in the words "dissemination" and "dissémination". The meaning of the spreading of seeds is still in the words.

It would also be interesting to draw up an "infection map" for the poster projects from museum in progress. From their production as small germ cells in Vienna the posters soon spread in all directions. This dissemination is an almost imperceptible but effective process. In principle this phenomenon is well known today – every industrial product is now associated with the dream that it will spread like a virus through the bloodstream. However the posters from museum in progress are, so to speak, specially marked. In contrast to conventional advertising posters they do not refer to any kind of product, but for the most part rather to themselves as an image. The "Jardin Voyageur" project by Martine Aballéa makes it particularly clear that it is dealing with circulating images and that poster motifs are always mobile and infectious. The posters will first be put up in Graz and Budapest in cooperation with the steirischer herbst. Later (December 98 / January 99) they will appear in Vienna and 23 other European cities. Four unnaturally tinted landscapes with dark, almost palpable vegetation, will wander through the cities. It seems that paths lead into them but their calm does not feel completely trustworthy. What is still apparently safe ground soon turns out to be tainted water. The trees and bushes push themselves threateningly forward, and a purple veil oppressively hangs in the air. It is difficult to say whether the mist is the fiery red of evening or the reflection of poisonous gases.

Some people may be reminded of the paintings of Jacob van Ruisdael. The landscapes which van Ruisdael painted in the mid-seventeenth century were regarded as models for the whole genre of landscape painting right up into the impressionist period. They are especially well known for the suggestive effect of their impenetrable prosceniums, dead trees and threatening clouds. A similar restrained foreboding emanates from Aballéa's posters. Even the writing "Jardin Voyageur/Travelling Garden", printed in a golden shimmer, is hardly capable of clearing up the stormy atmosphere. Taken together, these two become a paradox, making a puzzle out of the scene but, also giving the images the power of speech. Interspersing these concepts among pictures is a reliable way of transforming the posters into conversation pieces, as though it were less the aim to produce an autonomous work but more to spread reasons to start people talking. In this sense it is very fitting that posters in public space are not usually immediately recognised as art. They are rather perceived as everyday things such as signs, street lines or clouds of perfume. This seems to me to be the most seductive thought in relation to Martine Aballéa's theme – that one could be walking through a town and suddenly be caught by a wave which could not have been foreseen. The medium of the poster as a kind of beguiling heavy perfume, captivating for a short time – and also as a whiff of infection.