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‘The Waiting Gardens of the North’

Having recently seen Connecting Histories, This botanical art installation by Michael Rakowitz ought to have held particular resonance. Like Connecting Histories, there’s a plant-based exploration of colonialism. However, The Waiting Gardens of the North intends to reflect current, rather than historical, experiences.

By planting a ‘garden’ in which different plants are at different stages of the life cycle, Rakowitz intends to explore the strange ‘pause’ in life caused by waiting for asylum applications to be processed: a time when people are caught between the past and an uncertain future.

The central feature of the installation is a collage made of food packaging from local West Asian, South Asian and African grocery stores.

But honestly, I’m telling you most of that from reading the interpretation panels. I don’t think I’d have derived it for myself in a month of Sundays. Wendy commented that it felt like wandering around a particularly good garden department in a branch of B&Q, and I find it hard to disagree.

The nature of art means that, sometimes, the artist’s vision for an installation won’t meaningfully connect with some viewers. This was the case for me with this one. I don’t think I would ever have appreciated that Rakowitz was aiming for ‘a metaphorical space where the potential for growth, transformation, and resistance can take root.’

But that’s okay because I’m sure some viewers will love it.

The Waiting Gardens of the North continues at Baltic until 26 May.

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