From a naturalistic point of view, the territory of Tuscia is one of the most varied in Italy and one of the densest in history. Here popes, nobles and princes have enhanced the territory with their settlements and decentralized residences, as evidenced by the numerous historic villas, from Villa Lante in Bagnaia to Palazzo Farnese in Caprarola.
What makes this environment unique is above all the presence of the Sacro Bosco in Bomarzo, the most esoterico of the Renaissance gardens. Here behind the deception and the surprise of exchanging what is artificial for what is spontaneous and vice versa, there is an invitation to a sort of initiatory path to lead man towards self-knowledge and research of truth, persevering the anthropocentric character of the western garden on the model provided by Francesco Colonna in his Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499).
It is a labyrinthine itinerary dotted with monsters and symbols that introduce you to a dreamlike and playful world, not to be contemplated, but to be experienced. The Sacro Bosco in the last century it has attracted artists fron all over the world: from Salvador Dalì who went to visit it in ’48 to later, in 1965, Marcel Duchamp, to the various artists who more recently decided to create parks/gardens in the Tuscia area as places of self-initiation into the procedures of creative action, open to encroachments, where the works arise from the complexity of the interferences.
Art, nature and everyday life
Contemporary artists, with their parks/gardens, pose the problem of a possible use of art in daily life and a new relationship with nature, creating, with a programmatic approach, physical places of creation. They are specific artistic practices, events in progress, ephemeral or perishable interventions in open, natural spaces. Overall, they are presented as the projection of the artist’s ideas, training, tastes, cultural choises, affections, in short, of his own imagination.
Central Italy as the place of election of the artist’s garden
There are many and different artists’ gardens in this area: starting with the festive and dreamlike Tarot Garden by Niki de Saint Phalle (Capalbio), sparkling with lights and colors like Gaudì’s Park Güell and as extravagant as the visionary Palais Idéal by Facteur Cheval in Hauterives (much loved by surrealists). It is structured as it is along a magical-fantastic path through enormous sculptures covered with shining ceramics that are accompanied by playful and rusty kinetic machines by Jean Tinguely.
The garden of his restless nouveau réaliste road companion Daniel Spoerri (in Seggiano, near Mount Amiata) is similar, with the mysterious name Hic terminus haeret (“Here borders adhere”). A sort of poetry album Spoerri’s garden is set on a labyrinthine path between his installation and those of his artist friends (from Arman to Eva Aeppli, Mauro Staccioli, etc.) in an insistent sensory disorientation full of surprises.
La Serpara garden by Paul Wiedmer in Civitella d’Agliano (VT) is organized in a similar way. Here his works (and those of his artist friends) are hidden among rare essences, local or imported from the Far East. Wiedmer’s iron sculptures breathe fire, making us active protagonists of the work that we ourselves, in passing, operate (through photoelectric cells).
By best interpreting the genius loci wich the territory of Tuscia is permeated, fire adds an extra element to the sculptures: surprise, disorientation, the wonder that makes them direct descendants of the amazing monsters of Bomarzo.
The latest in chronological order (from 2017) is the Contemporary Sculpture Park in Bassano in Teverina (VT) by Lucilla Catania, an artist who uses stone and marble, challenging their stillness and inertia and who opens his park/garden to the artistic practises of the scultptor friends.
Some parks are instead the result of a collaboration with the public administration. It is the case of Campo del Sole (in Tuoro sul Trasimeno), where twenty-seven international sculptors (from Nagasawa to Joe Tilson and Giò Pomodoro) were invited to discuss the topic of the column, an ancient symbol of man, but also a centuries-old element that marks the boundary between the sacred and the profane. The works are distributed in a spiral shape and create an “architecture of sculptures”, similar to a mysterious modern Stonehenge with its dual function as a sacral and territorial marker.
For a new aesthetic project
Despite their diversity, the artist’s parks/gardens are the result of free actions that propose a new aesthetic project charged with the ancient but still alive meaning of kepos, an epicurean garden born from the rejecton of the hegemonic culture of a society that has moved away from uncontaminated nature. They are places of reflection, to know oneself and to propose a new ethic based on the happiness of the individual who today, in our globalized world, after having lost its centrality, wants to reconstitute itself as a subject, albeit only on the basis of precarious, temporary, uncertain balance.