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Hortus Conclusus

'Hidden greenery, the Hortus Conclusus' was selected in 2017 as one of the three documentary assignments of the Amsterdam City Archives. My goal was to make a layered interpretation of the canal garden, as Hortus Conclusus with the different meanings and layers of interpretation that you can give to it. The Hortus Conclusus as a place for introspection and reflection. A place where there is no evil.

But above all a place of desire. A desire to see what is behind the wall. A desire to cross the magical border between this inner and outer world. A wall that therefore also contains an implicit threat; an attempt both to shut something out and to keep something in. A separation between culture and nature? Between reason and feeling? Touching a nerve of both life and death.

How I got to work. My first step in unlocking the secret, the mystery of the Amsterdam canal garden, was by installing a wildlife camera. This camera reacts to movement and then takes a picture. A photo that shows what is happening without the disturbance of human presence. The secret remains intact and yet becomes visible. In color during the day and in black and white at night. This is done by the camera itself.

Another layer in unraveling the mystery of the gardens, I looked for in the plants that grow there. I saw potential in the oldest form of photography, anthotypy, discovered by Sir John Herschel in 1842.

An anthotype is created by applying a photosensitive emulsion made from the color pigments of flowers and plants and exposing it to sunlightfor several days and often even weeks. On top of the emulsion I placed a positive image printed on a transparent sheet.

The flowers I used are found in the gardens.Gradually I learned which flowers I could work with.I developed my own technique on how to do that.In the meantime I have experimented with emulsions of tulips, lilacs, roses, geraniums, gladioli, daisies, dahlias and hydrangeas.You need a lot of time and sunlight to make a print and you have to be able to deal with disappointments.

After three weeks in the sun, my exposures with emulsion of bright blue hydrangeas produced no image.For me, these experiments with plants from the gardens represent a desire to see something, just like at the Hortus Conclusus.You want to make something visible but you don't know if that will happen and if your desire will be satisfied.The end result, the six wooden boxes that I handed in to the City Archives, are a representation of that same desire.


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