In Search of the Garden of Eden
The World Turned Inside Out
Witte de With
May 25 - August 18, 2013
Stemming from her interest in the Garden of Babylon, Jennifer Wen Ma attempts to trace the original location of the Garden of Eden. Her research probes the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates in northern Iraq, the marshlands of southern Iraq, the Persian Gulf, Lebanon, parts of Africa, Jerusalem, Sri Lanka, Missouri and Mars. Eastern and Western creation myths—such as the Chinese legend of Nuwa and Fuxi, and the Judeo- Christian story of Adam and Eve—complicate and further enrich her project. Ma considers other works which explore lost utopias: Milton’s Paradise Lost, Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, and Tang Xianzu’s Peony Pavilion.
Ma’s research project combines artistic and literary interpretations of an iconic episode in Kunqu opera The Peony Pavilion, titled “An Interrupted Dream of Wandering Through the Garden.” In this episode, the female protagonist Du Liniang falls asleep in a garden and has a dream in which she meets a young scholar, Liu Mengmei. After an intensely romantic and erotic encounter with him, she finds herself unable to recover upon waking.
The exhibition was accompanied by a special workshop, in which the artist appeared in conversation with Biblical scholar Hans Ausloos and a contemporary operatic soprano. The workshop was additionally informed by a performance with the New York based Kunqu opera performer Qian Yi, and participation from a number of attendees. After the workshop, the presenters and attendees shared a beautiful multicolored culinary bounty, prepared by innovative chefs.