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PARTICIPATIVE GARDEN PROJECT BY MIRKO NIKOLIĆ AT ECOISMI 2012
WITH ASSISTANCE OF IL FOLLETTO VERDE AND WITH HELP OF 17 GARDENER/MAPPERS

July 7, 2012

GARDEN MAP 2.0.

Merciless weather conditions of the last two weeks have induced some serious damages to the floreal community on the Isola Borromeo. Some plants, especially the white and red begonias, have sadly passed away, they did not resist the wave of tropical heat, but all this is a part of every city's life. Meanwhile, the grass has continued to grow with great impetus, such that it required some urbanistic maintenance. Paolo Zaffignani and Ylbert Durishti have kindly intervened to clear the principal streets. Thanks to their remarkable effort, the urbanistic plan is again perfectly visible and all the streets are practicable anew. It can be said that the Garden Map has now moved into the second phase of its life, as the cohabitation between the plants and the grass is now a reality, so the urban design has reached a new level of complexity. From that derives apparently a more chaotic picture, but it is, in fact, the carrier of a more layered internal organisation between the "original" inhabitants of the city and the "immigrants". Moreover, in regards to its outside, the floreal city has now blended with more elegance with the surrounding lawn or, better said, countryside. I might say that the Cassano d'Adda Garden Map has become a little bit more cosmopolitan.

Apart from the Garden Map urban intervention, Paolo and Ylbert have performed some extraordinary maintenance on some other art pieces of Ecoismi 2012 which were needy. Andrea Mori, too, has visited the island and reshaped his installation because of the damage it suffered. Photos of these novelties at the Ecoismi 2012 show can be seen on Ylbert's blog.

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June 30, 2012

A SHORT DOCUMENTARY FILM ABOUT THE PROJECT

Thanks to the always staunch friend and documentary film-maker, Giovanni Freri, of the Cavallo di Troia fame, the person who keeps on documenting all my work, we have produced a short documentary of the project. You can give it a look by clicking on the image below. It lasts only three and half minutes, and there are some amazing shots in it, and, above all, the Garden Map can be seen as it is, in motion (the flowers do not really stand still, do they?).

Besides this feature, you can visit Giovanni's site to see many an art project from diverse artists that took place over the last years around Lombardy, as his archive is simply fascinating.

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June 20, 2012

SPLENDOUR AT THE SPRING'S ENDING, THE SUMMER'S START

Some twenty days after the planting, the Garden Map is in full bloom. With the help of a couple of beneficial spring storms, the flowers are now showing the best of their previously hidden features. There are a couple of surprises as well, for example, the yellow and orange tagetes groups, which at the start have suffered a bit, now surpass all the other plants in terms of colour and multitude of flowers. The summer is nearing fast, and the floreal inhabitants of this little town seem to be very enthusiastic about that. On a trip through the Garden Map our guide this time will be Paolo Zaffignani, the name of art Il folletto verde. Considering that he has engaged in every single segment of the construction of the garden, flowerbed by flowerbed, flower by flower, there is probably no other person who knows better every little corner of the Garden Map.

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June 19, 2012

ECOISMI 2012, THE ART OF TOUCHING THE NATURE BY SPRINKLING THE GARDEN MAP

Ylbert Durishti has written a beautiful description of his visits to the Garden Map, and about the activity of watering it and taking care of it. He accompanied the writing with a charming series of photos. To read the full article just click below.

Moreover, the Garden Map just got two new gardener/mappers - him and Isabella Mara.
Thank you, guys!

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June 18, 2012

Garden Map on Polis

Thanks to the enthusiasm of the editors of Polis, "a collaborative blog about cities across the globe", the Garden Map has been presented on their site. You can read the full article here. Apart from it, I can't help but to mention that Polis is an incredibly profound resource of critical writings about the cities, not to be missed. For that reason, it is truly an honour and joy to be on it.

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June 15, 2012

A SUNDAY RAIN

Last Sunday, the curator of Ecoismi 2012 show, Ylbert Durishti, has visited the island and the Garden Map. The plants needed no watering that day, as the clouds have been very friendly with it and gave it another formidable shower. So we got this nice picture below. If the rain continues with this rhythm, the Garden Map will grow steadily, and that is really good news as the summer season approaches.

Photo by Ylbert Durishti.

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June 15, 2012

A BOAT RIDE ON THE RIVER ADDA

The most important element for the birth and the development of the city has been water, its hydric system. In the area around Cassano d'Adda have been ingeniuosly combined natural flows with artificial constructions, such as dykes and canals, to create an astonishingly successful and aesthetically beautiful system for transportation and irrigation. One of the grandest rivers of Lombardy, Adda, coasts the city on the eastern side. The Martesana Channel, an important artery of Milan's channel (or naviglio) system, flows out from Adda, approaches the city from the north, and, after making an acrobatic L-turn advances eastward towards Milan, skirting Cassano on the north side. There are three big islands on Adda, one of which is naturally Isola Borromeo which hosts Ecoismi 2012.

What struck me as interesting is that Cassano, the city with its buildings, has generally not developed along Adda's banks, due also to the fact that there is a diference in height of 10-15 m. The only exception is the Castello, the city castle, which dominates the juncture between channel Muzza and the main Adda's flow. Otherwise, there is a strip of land, often covered by trees, which gently divides the city from the river. This natural wall, combined with the difference in height, means that, if were to take a boat ride along the coast of Cassano, we would not see much of the city. Nevertheless, this experience is possible on the Garden Map, and we can take a ride from the southern tip of the city to its north most tip.

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June 4, 2012

AFTER THE FIRST SHOWER

After a week of expectations, the Garden Map finally was soaked during a healthy spring cloudburst. Ylbert Durishti visited the island shortly after the rainfall, as the clouds were drifting somewhere else.

Photo by Ylbert Durishti.

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JUNE 2, 2012

POLICY-MAKING FOR WEEDING

Together with gardener/mapper Corina Findeisen, we have carried out the first action of weeding by hand. In the process, some unexpectedly significant queries came up. After merely a week of the Garden Map's life, I have already been confronted with an ethical dilemma I have discussed with Hans De Wolf, one of the Ecoismi 2012 artists. We wondered about sociopolitical implications of deciding to expel certain plants from the garden, or, simply said, about weeding, that fundamental gardening and horticultural activity. This question assumes much more emphasis by the fact that this garden is a polis, or at least, a visualisation of a city.

My opinion is that there are certainly ways how to integrate selvatic cultures, like grass, with the ones we planted, with begonias, tagetes and others. Without doubt, their ways of living in common will result a little bit complicated, but it is necessary to explore them, and to practice them. For this reason, I am greatly enthusiastic about liminal areas of the Garden Map, there where the city ends. It will be curious to watch how they will develop, with the collaboration of gardener/mappers.

One question springs into my mind: what would the plants/citizens say about these cohabitation styles in a participative garden democracy?

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May 31, 2012

THE FIRST IRRIGATION DAY

The first longer drought I have been writing about in my previous post has been succesfully put to an end by the help of the Municipality. They put in action yesterday in late afternoon the irrigation system, so the plants have finally got a fine drink. In this intervention, (as in almost every other connected central to Garden Map), the very important role has been played by Paolo Zaffignani, who, on Wednesday, repaired two broken sprinklers. Besides this irrigation out of schedule, from now on, every Monday until the end of the show, the irrigation system will automatically nourish the Garden Map. This will facilitate the job to us, gardener/mappers, as we can focus on the remaining days of the week.

Photo by Paolo Zaffignani.
May 30, 2012

WAITING FOR THE FIRST RAIN

Contrary to all weather forecasts, there has not been a rainfall this week-end. Moreover, the rain predicted for Thursday seems to be postponed until Sunday. This makes the first days of Garden Map's life quite harsh, under a glowing sun. In these conditions, Paolo and me had to act immediately, so we engaged in another roung of plants sprinkling. This time, too, we had to use our own forces, meaning a wheelbarrow and bottles of water. This meant quite a lot of time invested in watering activity, but, also a major dialogue with every plant. This portion of water will not last long, so probably I will try to perform a rain dance. After the first consistent rainfall, the plants should root themselves into the ground, so everything will be much easier

On this trip to Cassano d'Adda, I was accompanied by film-maker Giovanni Freri, who, among other virtues, is the most extensive documentarian of my art work. This means that a video on Garden Map will be coming soon.

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May 29, 2012

GARDEN MAP ON ITS BIRTHDAY

A series of photos show how Garden Map looked like on the day of its birth. We will see how it will grow and flourish in days, weeks and months to come. Therefore, I invite all gardeners/mappers to send me their photos of Garden Map so we all can follow various stages of its life. Thanks!

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May 27, 2012

DAY ZERO. THE FIRST COLLECTIVE SPRINKLING OF THE GARDEN MAP

From 11 AM on Sunday, May 27, 2012, Ecoismi 2012 and with it, Cassano d'Adda Garden Map is open to everyone. The first exercise of participation was held today. We already received two new plants. We also organised the first sprinkling. Even though almost all weather forecasts predicted rain on Friday, Satuday and especially Sunday, not a single drip of water came from the skies, and not a glimpse of a cloud was to be seen anywhere. That caused that some of the plants to suffer a bit, so it was absolutely necessary to water them. To make things more funny, the water fountain which was to be installed just a couple of feets from the garden was still not in place, so Paolo and me carried a barrel of some sixty liters all the way from the restaurant building at the entrance of the island to the garden. Fortunately, we did not have to do that on foot, we used Paolo's wheelbarrow, so ancient and so useful a tool.

Subsequently, Corina, Paolo and I started sprinkling plant by plant with a tiny watering can, which could have been a rather lengthly process, if it not were for a lot of kids that joined us with bottles of water. So, the Garden Map was saved from the first drought with the help of the youngest, and that was the most propitious and beautiful start imaginable.

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May 27, 2012

DAY FIVE. LAST MINUTES BEFORE THE OPENING OF ECOISMI

The day of the Ecoismi 2012 official opening has come. For that reason, the works on the Garden Map have been brought to a (temporary) finish. With the help of Andrea Mori, Hans de Wolf and new entry Corina Findeisen, and naturally Paolo, streets of the Garden Map have been paved. Now it seems like a real flower city.

I cannot help but think that still much could and maybe should be done, therefore I content myself by considering the current layout of Garden Map as the first draft only. For now, I will leave it to the citizens of Cassano d'Adda and to anyone that happens to pass by and wishes to become a gardener/mapper. In parallelwith human intervention, Garden Map will change day by day by itself.

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May 26, 2012

DAY FOUR. GARDEN MAP POPULATES, ROAD SYSTEM UNFURLS

Today the city has been given some new significant features, at least as for what concerns the first draft, the one made by me. Thereafter, Garden Map remains in hands of inhabitants of Cassano.

A new group of flowers has been added, in particular, the city fractions of Cascate and Cascine di San Pietro have been planted. Liberato Aliberti, the author of Meridiana cromatica donated the stones which he did not use for his work. More than simply giving them away, he transported them with a wheelbarrow and, together with indispensable Andrea Mori, they laid out maybe the historically most important landscape feature of Cassano d'Adda, river Adda. Eventually, as soon as the river took its shape, Garden Map became what it was meant to be, a landscape map. The river rooted Garden Map into the territory it represents, and upon which it is situated.

Other artists continued to contribute to the works. When we outlined Isola Borromeo with Adda, I invited all Ecoismi 2012 artists to map their presence in Cassano by planting a Begonia in the position where their art pieces stand. In the evening, we had a theoretical and practical assistance when town councillor for Public Works and Environmental Protection, Andrea Gaiardelli, by profession an engineer, helped pave the first roads.

The first roadways to be "asphalted" were the main routes of Cassano, corresponding to ancient Roman primary urban axis, north-south cardus, in this case, Corso Europa, and west-east decumanus, here Via Milano and Via Vittorio Veneto. These two streets do not respect the scale of the map. They arebroadened in the design, so that visitors can easily stroll along them. Others, lateral streets, will be paved in wood bark. That remains to be done tomorrow morning, though.


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May 24, 2012

DAY TWO. THE TERRAIN PREPARED, MODELLING THE URBAN GRID STARTED


The leading character of the morning works continues to be the blue engine-driven cultivator. With much rush, Paolo and I succesfully terminate the digging of the urban area until midday. The project is on a tightest possible schedule, as the cultivator has to be returned by 12.30 PM at Inzago.

In the afternoon, the next task, the drawing of the urban grid, is started. Even though we have ploughed the land in depth of 30-40 cm, it was not that easy to model urban blocks thanks to the hardness of terrain and the presence of great numbers of stones.

Moreover, from around 4 PM clouds commenced to gather and to approach from north-east, in a similar fashion as the day before. This time, it was clear that they would not pass over the island without dripping some of their content. That would be a complete disaster, considering that the modelling of the grid would have been entirely destroyed. Paolo made a rapid voyage to the nearest bricolage centre and he was back with plastic canvases when the rain was starting. With help from Andrea Mori and Eshan Eshani we covered swiftly all the parcels just in time.


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MAY 23, 2012

DIGGING OUT THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE CITY

Today Ecoismi 2012 works on site have officially started. The international group of artists has converged on Isola Borromeo. As for what regards my project, I have started, with my assistant Paolo, from the very base of things. Just like when building any city, even a Garden Map one requires foundations to come to being. At first, we have tried by using a yellow, I don't exactly remember how strong in terms of wattage, engine-drive cultivator. Very soon we have found out that terrain is all but malleable. It was way too hard, and, in the morning, we have managed to prepare only a tiny piece of the entire area, with a great waste of calories, too.

At that moment, Paolo suggested we changed the instrument, and, in the afternoon, we rented a much more stronger cultivator. That proved to be a solution, albeit still not an easy one, because we needed to do three rounds on every tract of land to obtain the necessary depth of the dig. In that way, until dusk we managed to cover the central area of the city. But, half of the day was lost, so we were already behind the schedule. Moreover, the clouds accumulated, and the smell of rain was in the air. If it rained then, or during the night, the earth would have become impossible to work on for a couple of days. In this tense situation, as the sun went down, a rainbow appeared. I interpeted it as a propitious sign for tomorrow.

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May 22, 2012

A VOYAGE THROUGH THE GREEN OF CASSANO

Today I made a prolonged tour throughout the town and its surroundings. The original intent of this percours was to explore certain areas that are not easily decodable in satellite images. Pretty soon, instead of focusing on urbanistic features and architectures, my gaze was caught by marvelous gardens, both public and private, which ornate the town.

A panoramic look on Villa Brambilla's majestic garden.

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May 22, 2012

CHOOSING THE COLOURFUL PROTAGONISTS

Today hard decisions had to be made. After weeks of consideration, the time came to finally pick out the favourites that will come to form the Garden Map. It was so difficult to select among dozens of beautiful seasonal flower plants. To make the final cast, I had to travel to another nice place along the river Adda, at Trezzo sull'Adda. There, in this enormous nursery, in clouds of dizzying perfumes and flashing colours, only a very small number of plant sorts could become actual protagonists. At this moment, I cannot reveal yet which are the winners, but some of the photos below show them and some do not.

Moreover, it was curious to return to Trezzo sull'Adda. Years ago I participated in a student art show in the town's castle, a truly magical place sited on a serpentine turn of the river. The work, a temporary diagram sketched on a block of concrete, illustrated how this river, within a larger European aquatic network, connected my two cities of residence at the period, Belgrade and Milan. Now, it feels great to be back in the area and to work meters away from this river which continues to fascinate me.


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May 18, 2012

CLEARING THE CENTRAL AREA FROM WEEDS

In order to protect the plants which will grow in the Garden Map, the area had to be cleared from weeds. Following Paolo's advice, we have used the lightest possible solution, in that way, it won't represent any danger for the surrounding ambience and for the animals in the park.

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May 16, 2012

CENTRAL AREA OF THE GARDEN MAP TRACED

Today I and Paolo have signed the outter line of the central zone of the Garden Map. In spite of a very strong wind, the first step towards the planting has been made.

Central zone staked out.

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