Hans Op de Beeck’s ‘Garden of Whispers’ art installation sheds light on the refugee crisis





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A renowned Belgian artist by the name of Hans Op de Beeck created a ‘quintessentially site-specific’ work of art in the 13-century gothic church of the ‘Convent of the Jacobins’, in Toulouse, France. Created for the ‘Printemps de Septembre Festival’, this multi-sensory, immersive art installation is called ‘The Garden of Whispers’.

The 600 square metres of space has been re-imagined as a type of wasteland, where the terrain has been changed to sand dunes and lifeless trees. The sand used by Op de Beeck matches the same ochre colour of the building’s centuries-old brick walls. A wooden walkway winds through the sand dunes, lit only by a simple string of lights.

As you walk through the desolate landscape, whispers emerge from the sand all around you through 20 carefully concealed speakers, sharing secrets, confession of misdeeds and escapades. Women, men and children, all seem to be reaching out of the atmosphere to express themselves. The voices present in a mangled form, overlapping one another.

The area represents a kind of abandonment one feels while walking through an area which was previously occupied but has now been deserted, left to those who themselves are forgotten. While walking through the area, one can spot small makeshift campsites made, “cobbled together from scraps of canvas and wooden poles”, which serve as a visual reminder of the shelters built by nomads in the desert.

 

According to the artist, Hans Op de Beeck, this installation serves as an embodiment of “man as a being who stages the world around him in a tragi-comic way.” The Garden of Whispers employs a range of biblical and mystical references that touch on the issue of refugees. The visuals and the whispers of the installation create an atmosphere that is almost confessional in nature, but further than that, the artist leaves the installing to the interpretation of the viewers introspection.

 

More so, with the current world environment, the sense of desolation created by Hans Op de Beeck, is even more relevant as the conversation regarding this post-apocalyptic pandemic has become the new norm.

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