Lee Mingwei: "The Moving Garden"
An orchid-filled granite tabletop, The Moving Garden welcomes visitors to the Brooklyn Museum with its beauty and majestic presence. The large installation on view here, however, is only a small part of what constitutes this work of art. Over the course of a day, the individual orchid blossoms set around the channel that runs the length of the tabletop begin to disappear as visitors take them, one by one. In contrast, the stems of orchids in the center remain on view at all times.
Those of you who decide to take an orchid blossom are thereby agreeing to a condition set forth by the artist: if you take a flower, when you leave the Museum you promise to make a detour on the way to your next destination and give the flower to a stranger as a gift. This personal interaction, the offering and acceptance of a gift, is the most significant aspect of The Moving Garden. The act takes place beyond the walls of the Museum, and only the participants are aware that is is happening.
Invited to take part in the Lyon Biennale in 2009, Lee conceived of the piece while making a preliminary visit to the city during the spring, when flowers were blossoming. As he was sitting near the Rhône River, which runs through the city, he was delighted by the unexpected sight of hundreds of flowers floating downstream.
The Moving Garden is associated with relational or participatory art, forms in which the artist becomes a kind of stage producer who engages audience members in creating the work. Spectators become active participants. The work of art unfolds over time and manifests itself in an action, rather than in an object.
If you wish, you may document your gift of a flower to a stranger.
John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art