Lydia Schouten: Le Jardin Secret (E)


Lydia Schouten’s ‘Le Jardin Secret’ is an exciting and eye-opening story about a group of people who flee the world in order to wander in an apparently beautiful, woodland setting. The group rapidly reveals itself to be nothing more than a collection of solitary individuals, acting on their own rather than communally, their only connection being the common objective. Growing tiredness and the disappointment and desperation of nature refusing to allow itself to be manipulated, cause deepening humiliation. This deterioration is aggravated by a number of gruesome sub-plots that intervene into the main story at set times.
The video images are projected life-size onto the four walls of a room. Floor and ceiling are painted black. The associated sound – a combination of composed music and natural sounds, sometimes amplified – raise the tension and take possession of the space in an oppressive, almost threatening manner. The viewer is rocked back and forth. Now feeling part of the action, now an outsider looking in. He has no way of knowing why things are happening the way they are, and is completely in the dark as to the possible outcome. He is an actor in a story that he recognises, and yet does not know.
Schouten raises the awful journey above sombre reality by weaving animations into it. All sorts of birds, insects and (other) dangerous animals force their way unexpectedly into the forest. Moreover, every now and then she gives the dramatic action a moving, stylized touch. This, in addition to the fact that the shocking images are sometimes poignantly beautiful.
Reality and fiction are then allowed to become intertwined through the sophisticated way Schouten has constructed the story and through the impact of the images, so that the viewer is forced to take part in an adventure that he knows to be merely a symbol representing reality.
In her earlier video works the artist created a carefree, colourful, media-inspired fairy tale with a sometimes sour undercurrent. Yearnings and desires were not always fulfilled or satisfied, neither were they always without risk. Having learned by experience she turns them around. She has now dressed her world in black and it is more difficult to escape from it. The ‘garden of desires’ has now changed into a ‘garden of burdens’.
‘Le Jardin Secret’ signifies a convincing return to the medium of video for Lydia Schouten. On the one hand the installation is a continuation of her earlier work, while on the other hand there are developments that arouse the curiosity.

Rob Perrée
Brooklyn, April 2006.