text by  Marta Mancini

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Long before written observations, it was mythology that recounted gardens as places of harmony and happiness for man and gods until the moment of that gesture of arrogance or blame without ransom put an end to the state of grace of the human race. One of the first literary traces goes back to Sumerian times where there are stories of the goddess Ishtar, a divinity with a womb like a fertile garden and from there the Mesopotamian civilization was born and the cult of the Great Mother that then spread to the Mediterranean. Ariosto must have been inspired by the two words femininity and garden because he describes the place where Alcina seduces with her enchantment as magic and sensual. Wall paintings in ancient Egypt discovered in the tombs of Pharaohs and illustrious Egyptians document refined cultivations where real gardens of delight can be recognized. 
Philosophers and poets have found inspiration and meditation in gardens while in spiritual sites, monks have cultivated orchards and officinal plants, linking a formidable productive organization to their devotional practice.

In the poem Roman de la Rose, gardens are celebrated as places of love and enchantment and as such they are found in the Sicilian-Tuscan poetic experience at the end of the thirteenth century where the echoes and fortune of Provencal poetry resound.
In the Comedy, Dante urged the Hapsburgs not to neglect Italy as he calls it “The Empire’s Garden” and Goethe honoured our country by defining it the garden of the world.
The mighty of the land have entrusted gardens with the splendor of their setting to carry on to the outside the sumptuous living space inside. The most recent phenomenon of community gardens that have developed in many western cities, says a lot about the relationship between gardens and political activism.
An island of architectural perfection, representing eudaemonia and virtue, reminding us of utopian notions and lost paradises, gardens are not only material constructions but also the witness of an idea, a spiritual inspiration or a vision of the world. 

The metaphor of the garden, therefore, has much to say and to teach even in these times where “sad passions” seem to be stronger and not very reassuring for our planet. This does not mean suggesting similarities and crystallized symbolism on a par but rather rediscovering in them meanings and values that can speak of contemporaneity and its open wounds: technical supremacy, existential solitude and a suffering ecosystem that touches everything that is alive. It is not by chance that there is an air of renewed interest around the theme of gardens, probably aroused by an ecological awareness, more and more common, and by an instinctive mistrust in a foreboding technological supremacy that might in the future modify the concept itself of man. However, these interests have deeper meanings than those equally noble tied to a general respect for the environment, it is not only nature but also cities, roads, public spaces and shared areas, the way we live. The garden on the other hand, is not necessarily a physical space but often a place in the soul, a category of the spirit, a way of being and feeling.

This dimension of the garden-metaphor that is apparently solitary and private, is really influenced by some features that also belong to the garden as a physical place for the layering of meanings and functions that over time have settled in our collective memory. Painting, literature, cinema with images or imagination, keep the idea of the perfect garden alive, that which we all have, as the patrimony of our intellect and our aesthetic perception.

Its characteristic is a delimited space (hortus conclusus), an artificial creation, a project to assure our nourishment long before it is for cultivating ornamental plants. Even today citrus groves are called gardens and oases are examples of ingenuity in intensive cultivation, from the bottom upwards, irrigated by extraordinary, surprising hydraulic systems.

In this encounter with nature and knowledge, technology is not overpowering, rather it is an alliance between man and his environment: natura, non nisi parendo vincitur, recounts Bacone - you cannot win over nature if you do not obey her. Therefore the garden is a place that makes harmony possible between opposites but is not offered, it has to be constructed: not only between nature and culture but also between necessity and desire, between uncertainty and hope. What makes all this possible is care: the garden is ephemeral, it dies if it is not looked after, it can suffocate, dry out, fall ill, just as these things happen to people and to communities when bonds are broken and the sense of solitude, instead of drawing together, make us suspicious and distant. Taking care of a garden - real or imaginary - requires more unusual attitudes: observation, patience, presence, waiting and perseverance, humility and suffering fatigue. Without fatigue, there will be no hoped-for fruit. The garden is a place of proportions and right distances, of plurality and co-existence with others. Everything that makes a place a garden corresponds to what for the human soul is its nourishment and at the same time, the impression that it leaves interacting with others and the world. For this reason, self-care never refers simply to oneself in compliance with the narcissistic ‘I’, “orphan of us”. If the ethics of the garden has a sense for our times, this still lies in the construction of the greater good that, even if it is no longer part of the great ideologies, does not mean that it has to abandon the ideals that the inner garden, our soul, cultivates and guards for the benefit of all living beings. 
Marta Mancini,  has a degree in philosopy from the University of Florence, the city where she lives and works in her professional capacity as a philosophical practitioner . She presented her thesis on the Frankfurt School. Philosophical practice (Philisophische Praxis) is a discipline founded in Germany in 1981 by Gerd Achenbach and later spread to other countries and it is a service aimed at people and organizations as a reflective back up for facing up to problems in nature existential, decisional and relational, without a therapeutic scope. Phronesis - Italian Association for Philosophical Practice is the first net of professionals present in Italy since 2003  (www.phronesis-cf.com) 

text by Claudia Zanfi

Distant worlds that meet our glance amaze us. Tactility of rare objects that evoke sounds, perfumes, visions. Through a sequence of sculptures, Michele Fabbricatore describes natural and scenic elements, sometimes just hinted at, that seem to flutter in “magic” atmospheres. The greatness and beauty of nature is often found in the simple things, like in the tree behind your house, in a flower in a ditch, in the movement of an animal, in the profile of a mountain. The artist is trying to recover two moments that seem contradictory: immediate perception and meditated reflection. Michele’s sculptures are inspired by the vegetable world tied to the great themes of mythology, from Adam and Eve to the Garden of the Hesperides, up to The Baron in the Trees remembering Calvino. The author digs into our collective memory, searching for a dialogue with a hypothetical future where man can live in harmony in cities happily filled with nature. All this with irony and poetry.

Therefore, his work of art is found in a symbolic space where, to shape itself, requires a time, a language and common values. Escaping from the chaos of daily life and finding refuge in an intimate recess, independent. The Garden is in fact a place, but also a concept of human thought that has interested mankind since the dawn of civilization. It is a pause, an interval to rest between one contraction of life and the next, a moment of respite in a tiring march, quiet in the midst of daily noise. No place and no object “is”, rather it appears, it shows itself in an instant, in a glance, in the artist’s vision and as such, mute. In that pause, the contradictions, the anxieties and the fractures of humanity are reflected. It is the representation of the absolute through the simplicity of daily life.

 Overcoming temporal barriers, the author draws on the perception of the object, using a veiled image that eliminates every background and every context. The perusal of his works is so pronounced by the rhythmic appearance of vegetation, sometimes camouflaged, sometimes explicit. To be able to represent a landscape nowadays, either real or imaginary, does not mean great technical perfection, manual or formal ability, but rather the ability to recount a story, a glance, an event. In brief, the ability to understand the world.

A landscape not so much pastoral, longed for, nostalgic, as the landscape of man and his contemporary: with all his contradictions, but also with all his naked truth. No longer interpreting the world as a simple naturalistic reference but as a place of life. A place where plants germinate, shrubs flower but also where unexpected elements enter, that of man’s journey inside boundless universes.

In this way, human beings can reach their ideal “blossoming” that is that place (interior or exterior) where they give the best of themselves. This is how man expresses all his potential and frees himself from his destiny: to be “the best version of himself”.

Michele Fabbricatore’s works widen that research where each one of us tries to find the right nourishment, or rather the things that we are most passionate about and that make us happy. In this way, the world becomes a “better garden”.

Claudia Zanfi, is an art historian and has a passion for gardens, and collaborates with public and private institutions on cultural projects and editorials dedicated to art, society and landscapes. In 2001 she founded and manages the international programme GREEN ISLAND for the enhancement of public spaces and the new urban ecologies. In 2010 she founded the study of planning and spreading of green LANDSCAPE ATELIER, for the regeneration of abandoned urban areas, the creation of urban beehives and artist’s gardens. She has taught at the Domus Academy and at the Milan Polytechnic; in the Middlesex University of London. She collaborates with Unesco Heritage and Council of Europe. (www.atelierdelpaesaggio.wordpress.com)