The Profitable Art of Gardening

For her final show at the Royal Academy of Art in the Hague before graduating in 2002, Noorda presented video works, drawings and a web wall installation comprising texts and illuminated objects linked with electrical wire.

In early 2003, the exhibition was reinstalled as a solo show at the Museum Het Domein in Sittard, South Limburg. The title of the exhibition – The Profitable Art of Gardening – was taken from the first printed book in English on gardening, bee-keeping and herbal lore published in 1563 by Thomas Hill, a London-based natural historian, astrologer, and interpreter of dreams. The Museum Het Domein (now the Museum De Domijnen) was still, at that time, a small but well-regarded contemporary art venue specializing in edgy, avant-garde work, and retaining a notable photography and video collection.

The Museum acquired Annunciation, Noorda’s video piece from the show – a 2:21 min. close-up loop of the artist’s tongue descending into the frame to lick the pistil of a pink lily. In Catholic iconography, the lily and the rose symbolize the hortus conclusus (enclosed garden), emblem of the miracle of the Immaculate Conception in Catholic doctrine, and sign of the Virgin Mary’s purity and grace.

A second video – Maria Mandorla – screened on a car backseat mini-DVD monitor mounted on the gallery wall featured a small plastic statuette of the Virgin Mary inserted vertically in an open vulva, the figurine fitting snugly in the almond-shaped opening that enveloped and supported it.

Another exhibit consisted of a wall drawing that mapped a recent series of takeovers of Dutch supermarket chains represented by their corporate logos onto a rendering of the human digestive/reproductive system (as above, so below). The Spar brand logo – a spruce combining both phallic and mother tree attributes – stood out at the centre of the drawing.

A text on the same wall narrated the same takeover sequence in the incantatory style of Old Testament genealogies – “Schuitema begat Spar”, etc.

THE PROFITABLE ART OF GARDENING: installation, Museum Het Domein, Sittard, the Netherlands, March 23-April 27, 2003.

Photography: B.D. McKenna, R. Noorda