The New World
Christian Philipp Müller
plant sculpture in the water basin of the Melk Monastery gardens, Lower Austria
765 × 234 × 70 cm
Inv. No. EXT-1
In 2006, Christian Philipp Müller installed a living sculpture in the Baroque water basin on the uppermost level of the Melk Monastery’s gardens. A simple metal tub on a concrete plinth, its measurements and position calculated according to the ideal proportions of the golden section, Müller unfolded the aesthetics of Minimal Art in all its formal scope, presenting a vegetable bed as a changing processual sculpture.
Subject of the arrangement, which reminds us of a Dutch still life, are the plants European seafarers and, later, botanists brought back from their voyages of discovery and scientific expeditions: potatoes and melons, Indian corn and string beans, pumpkins, sunroot and amarant, as well as numerous tomato varieties. In its unpretentious beauty, Müller’s work obeys the cycle of nature, changes with the seasons, and opens up the historico-cultural geographical realm between past and present, Europe and America. Müller offers a wealth of references: monastery gardens as places providing people with food and medicinal herbs, the intellectual system of the Benedictine monks and their Baroque gesamtkunstwerk, Orientalism, and the yearning for faraway countries as articulated by Johann Wenzel Bergl in the garden pavilion in 1763/641, where a rampant flora merges all foreign things in a fantastic spatial illusion.
Müller adds further discursive layers to the level of the visually seductive tableau, of the organically natural aesthetic form. Basing his approach of the allegoric concept of the locus amoenus, the artist positions his garden island – out of reach like America – in a water basin which, according to Benedictine thinking, represents a counterpart to the cupola of the church and a heavenly paradise in its own right. On the other hand, Christian Philipp Müller shows himself concerned with issues of civilization, of trade, exchange, and taste, such as the food the American Indians received the European immigrants with in 1621. Thus, a parallel festive world manifests itself every year around the island. The fruits are reaped and consumed in a kind of collective performance.
After The New World had been commissioned by Kunst im öffentlichen Raum Niederösterreich for the monastery at Melk, the evn collection has seen to the necessary annual planting and organized the thanksgiving event with the artist since 2007.
Brigitte Huck, 2011 (translation: Wolfgang Astelbauer)
1) See also the work by Margherita Spiluttini, Gartenpavillon Stift Melk, Fresko von Johann Wenzel Bergl, Nr. 1–4, 2008Continue reading
Landmarks. Kunst im öffentlichen Raum Niederösterreich, Vienna 2018, p. 34 ff