The artist Marc Samper’s Hanging Gardens is a walk-in video installation consisting of various devices for presenting film material. Viewers make their way between analogue CRT televisions, mobile phone displays, video recorders, and video projectors playing or projecting videos. Some of the smaller devices are hung from the ceiling, along with panels and optics-related objects, such as mirrors and magnifying glasses. Photographs are presented on the surrounding walls. The screens and panels show images shot in natural settings, but also parks, cemeteries, and urban landscapes as well as people. Samper filmed the images himself during the time he spent in Berlin; some consist of found material. A few recordings were done on 16mm film, others on VHS, and many were shot digitally. As viewers wander along this path of screens, losing themselves among the historical and contemporary devices and their images, they hear the individual films’ meditative sound, produced by Samper and Barcelonian music producer HoBo with nothing but analogue synthesizers, and the contribution of Theremin player Dorit Chrysler with the track „Requiem in D Major.“
Perhaps it was the peculiarity of the overall impression generated in this way that motivated the artist to refer back to the legendary “hanging gardens” of Babylon in the title of his work. It stirs the sense of a place that obeys laws of its own. The meditative character that emerges from immersion in Samper’s garden leads to a certain calm, to complete concentration and to a state that could be described as generally transcendental. With this quality, the installation deliberately contradicts the loudness, ephemerality, and overabundance of images in the globalized urban culture of the contemporary world. A few of the videos that are shown follow the principle of the haiku in their structure. The haiku is a Japanese form of poetry with a tradition stretching back to the seventeenth century; with its (usually) three lines with 5-7-5 syllables, it is considered the world’s shortest poetic genre. Like other artists before him, Samper was also fascinated by how haikus’ (verbal) images collectively generate a complex overall image that goes far beyond their individual significance. Samper builds on this form in his video works, which correspond to preferred Internet formats in their brevity and simultaneously strive to disrupt familiar forms of perception. We can additionally see films that present an approximately two-minute sequence featuring just a single shot. There are also videos that experiment with superimpositions and dissolves—sometimes featuring different formats and transformations as well. One image transitions into another, motifs permeate one another, some disappear. Elements that disrupt our perspective on landscapes or buildings emerge repeatedly (also in the photographs). Filmed mirrors lead to shimmering images, but also to empty surfaces. The reflections of plants on the water look like graphic elements drawn onto one of the photographs and then seem real in the next.
In this context, the artist is—obviously—concerned with images, although not just those that appear on the monitors and screens, but also those that emerge in viewers’ heads. Images that cannot be grasped, but are instead fleeting, sometimes resembling an atmosphere more than anything and merging into the stream of thought. The idea that we can also think in images seems entirely plausible as we walk through Samper’s garden. We would like to pause and arrange all the images together in an orderly manner, the way a film itself is always composed of x frames per second. However, the visual impressions remain fragmentary here. The difference between the images in our heads, the stream of images on the screens of the various devices, and a material world becomes blurred. At the same time, something flashes through the cracks and empty spaces, something that bothers us but, in doing so, also reveals something—a thought, perhaps, or a reflection. In this way, Marc Samper realizes what the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze had demanded: that the means of art be used to create new series of thoughts, concepts, and images from which to disrupt and reformulate our relationship with the world, language, and meaning.