Who can overlay a landscape/garden with cosmic underpinning? Charles Jencks. Known as a cultural theorist, landscape designer, architectural historian and co-founder of Maggie’s Cancer Care Centres, Jencks believes in the metaphor of the universe as artist. Tracing the beginnings of these ideas from Plato to Constantine, who fought with his back to the sun in order to blind his enemies, to Louis XIV, the Sun King, to the stone cutters of Keswick Circle… What is a garden if not a celebration of our place in the universe? Jencks
Jencks believes we have a crisis of meaning in our culture. His work is all about meaning – an intellectual construct he has created based on scientific theory. “… I do believe architecture,and all art, should be content-driven.” Jencks, Totally cosmic: The Life Mounds of Charles Jencks, June 2011, The Guardian
Jencks showed many slides – some of his work. The theoretical foundation for the creation of the mounds was so cerebral it was hard to comprehend. “Meaning is an aphrodisiac in an age of aestheticism.” Jencks. These gardens/landforms, according to Jencks, are not conceptual or symbolic, but gardens that are expressions of cosmological theory. I failed to see the difference.
Unlike, many other garden/landform designers who show their work in slide form, it is hard to imagine what is the experience of walking through a space designed by Charles Jencks. In his gardens, Jencks purposely places signage, explaining the cosmological meaning of his work. What would be my gut reaction to meandering my way around these mounds? I didn’t know. As I predicted on the way into the lecture hall, I left with a metaphorical (cosmic) headache.
After the lecture, I had dinner with a group of gardening friends. “Isn’t it amazing. Most Americans don’t even own a passport; if they have traveled it’s to another state or perhaps across the country to visit a relative or national park. We just spent two hours listening to someone talk about the multiuniverse, black holes, solar flares, basically the entire question of the cosmos, as we know it or don’t know it.” Mark
It was an awesome lecture, even if was incomprehensible.
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour….
-Auguries of Innocence
By William Blake
18th Annual Landscape Design Portfolio Lecture Series:
Artistic Expression in the Landscape
The Unierse as Artist
October 17, 2016