Power and Gardens – A video essay by Nico Carpentier

Power and Gardens is a four-part video essay by Nico Carpentier that investigates how human-nature relationships are condensed in the gardens of the European cities of Paris, Lyon and Prague. Driven by a discursive-material analysis, the essay is a reflection on how gardens are locations where nature is tamed, and how they often perform an anthropocentric ideology that is strengthened by a series of other discourses, such as capitalism and colonialism.

These discourses are not disconnected from the material world; they are, on the contrary, entangled with a series of material gardening practices where nature is used as a sculpting element, where the threat of the wilderness is removed, where exotic nature becomes an object of display, where humans organize commemoration and entertainment, and where biotic life is created. While the first part (“Domesticating Nature”) provides the more theoretical backbone of this discursive-material analysis, the second part of the essay (“Ways of Taming”) discusses the taming mechanisms that tilt the power relations towards humans. The third part (“Gardens and Class”) then moves away from the royal gardens, and shows how gardens have been, for centuries, sites of societal struggle, for instance between different class positions, and between the logic of privatization and the commons. The fourth and final part (“Nature’s Agency”) analyses how nature resists the human disciplining attempts, and can exercise its own agencies. This final part of the essay concludes with a reflection on the ideal garden, and the need to develop more (and new) synergetic models for gardens that rethink the power relations between humans and nature in more fundamental ways.

Concept, production and research: Nico Carpentier
Photo: Vaia Doudaki
Production assistant in Lyon: Cecília Avelino

A film supported by Mistra, the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research, through the research program Mistra Environmental Communication.