Days Like These

by Marshall, Mike

Video 2003

Days Like These, Tate Triennial 2003; Figuring Landscapes

The rhythmic clicking of a garden sprinkler counts out the duration of a long summer afternoon in a perfectly manicured garden. The clipped hedges and rose beds act as a template of suburban gentility exported and reproduced as English garden design in every corner of the Empire.

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In flagrant contravention of the British hosepipe ban, a succession of sprinklers rhythmically spray the quintessential English garden complete with its rose beds and borders encircled by neatly trimmed hedges. A high summer reverie, Days Like These concentrates on the background sounds and images, the incidental moments from which larger narratives have been built in both television gardening programmes and British films such as Joseph Losey’s Accident (1967) in which sexual tension and masculine competitiveness blossomed in an Oxford garden. Marshall’s video is also about the space of a garden – the light, the planting, and the air described by the arcs of water, which Simon Herbert observed ‘cut the air and clarify that the air is there, terminating where it hits something.’This is not simply an observation of the phenomena making up a tamed corner of nature, but, as Herbert contends, it makes the case that ‘our environment isn’t comprised merely of consensually interesting items punctuated by blank intervals.’ Instead, ‘it is continuous, crammed with significant molecules, changeable.’ Even in the apparent safety of an idyllic English garden, an element of doubt creeps in – is this place real or invented? Perhaps it is too perfect. Real nature is mutable, capricious, indifferent to the human drama and capable of responding to its overexploitation with a violence beyond the imagination of the complacent Sunday gardener, wherever in the world s/he toils. Catherine Elwes


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