lights camera sound actions | time-based contemporary art

Hortus Imaginum (1992)

performed June 6 & 7, 1992
Walker Botanical Garden, Rodman Hall Art Centre
part of niagara unpeeled, celebrating Niagara Artists’ Centre‘s 22nd anniversary

chitty2016webHortus Imaginum (Garden of Images) was the first in a series of performances (1992-97) in which the audience walked trails and paths, thus engaged in relationship, active embodiment and spectatorship as they passed live performers, still images and sound sources. I referred to these works as landscape-based.

Hortus postcard front?Hortus postcard back(left: postcard invitation)


Hortus Imaginum is a performance for public gardens. It is an investigation into the identity of nature and culture. The intent of the work is to invite the audience to consider what we mean when we use the words “nature” or “natural” and “culture”, and what we consider the relationship to be. I have chosen to situate this work in a garden, because the image of the garden is one of “cultivation”; nature framed. I am interested in the garden as a place where nature and culture meet…. more


All photos: John Mukts. Images below:
The mouth was projected on the rear facade of the art gallery and the ear and hand projected on screens between the pillars of the back verandah of Rodman Hall.

Hortus-facadeClick here for cast, cast bios and credits.

Click here for information on the Isadora Duncan part of Hortus Imaginum.

Hortus-stairslgClick here for Tree Songs.Hortus-children

The introduction of the children is…to put the leery at ease…’I’m very concerned that the piece be a hospitable one,’ Chitty explained. ‘I’m aware of the fact that people aren’t accustomed to performance art events.'”
– Back to Eden
, Sean Condon, St. Catharines Standard, Section D Spectrum, date unknown.

Hortus-piperThe Girl Child (Nell Chitty) and Woman Child (Kate Furseth) by the cherry tree at the entrance to the garden.

Images of local buildings (“representing political/social authority and publicly-identified culture” – artist’s proposal) were projected on shrubs, stairs and smoke from a fire tended by the Elder Woman. At the top of the stairs at the end of the walk, the audience was piped past. To the right of the photo, the Elder Woman (Alice Crawley) tended the fire; an image of a building projected onto its smoke.

The projection on smoke was an historical reference to early projection; both it and the projections on shrubs had very limited visibility. I had a long-standing interest in projecting on unusual surfaces and in this case was further interested in hybrid image of the ‘architectural’ and ‘natural’.

P.S. – The Young Woman delivered a text about the Twelve Mile Creek and the beginning of hydro-electric power at DeCew to the passing audience while standing on one of the benches then lining the amphitheatre (the Creek is below). I returned to this content 22 years later when Rodman Hall exhibited my work for the first time, Streaming Twelve.

– ec/7.2015

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