I LOVE YOU PIET
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Paul VanMeter of VIADUCTgreene, recently shared a Vimeo video on Facebook. It is a fundraising teaser for a feature-length documentary on Piet Oudolf and his work. Intrigued, I reached out to filmmaker Tom Piper to find out more. Below is Piper’s narrative explaining the project.
Fundraising will be broken into two phases- production and editing. At this time, Piper needs to raise roughly $100,000 by spring (March/April). The Checkerboard Film Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit institution. Please join me in supporting this important project.
Contributions can be sent to:Checkerboard Film Foundation1 East 53rd St, 14th FloorNew York, NY 10022
(Please note in a cover letter or the check memo that your funds are for the Piet Oudolf project).Questions? Please contact Tom Piper at email@example.com.Image: © 2013 Adam Woodruff + Associates
All Rights ReservedPIET OUDOLF: FALL, WINTER, SPRING, SUMMER, FALL A Feature-Length Documentary
“For me, garden design isn’t just about plants, it is about emotion, atmosphere, a sense of contemplation. You try to move people with what you do.”
In any of the visual arts, how often does someone infiltrate popular consciousness? Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol… once in a generation? With the astounding success of New York’s High Line and Chicago’s Lurie Garden, Piet Oudolf is approaching a rarified level of name-recognition. Consider that his medium is gardening, and his celebrity is all the more remarkable. He is one of a very few to define gardening as an art.
This feature documentary will follow Piet and a number of his most important gardens across five seasons, capturing, in beautiful high-definition cinematography, all the aspects that make his designs so unique and revolutionary: painterly compositions featuring forgotten or unheralded plants; the celebration of a plant’s full life cycle including death; and the orchestration of these elements in gardens that evoke the emotional responses of being in the wild – and are, in fact, fantastically bio-diverse – but done so by meticulous design. The film will be a vital record of a profoundly important figure. But perhaps most importantly it will be an education in the creative process, and its important ecological implications. As Noel Kingsbury, garden critic and co-author of Piet’s many books, says, “I want to see a new generation of lots of Piet Oudolfs.”
“A garden isn’t a landscape painting that you look at but a dynamic process that’s always changing.”
Beginning over 30 years ago, Piet consciously moved away from a reliance on the flower, particularly it’s high maintenance – staking, deadheading, all the efforts to fix a design in time. His shift instead to concentrating on perennials allowed him to design gardens that accentuate change. Plants sprout, then bloom, then die, then decay, always with intention in the design. It is a high-wire act emblematic of his mastery – he’s working in the fourth dimension of time as well. Even his widespread use of grasses is motivated by both form and movement. Time is marked not just by seasons, but in minute shifts in weather, or breeze.
For some time now Piet has been the equivalent of a rock star among plant people in Europe, where his break from the dominating ideal of the manicured English garden toward a more ecologically driven, interwoven style – complex layers of plants that are described more by form than color – helped shepherd an entire movement called New Wave Planting by his followers. But his star has exploded lately with the success of a string of major public commissions in addition to the High Line and the Lurie Garden, including the Olympic Park in London; the Battery Gardens in New York City; and installations at the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale, the Serpentine Pavilion in London, and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. The High Line is now New York City’s number one tourist attraction. It was born of an extraordinary collaboration between equally visionary civic organizers, architects, and landscape designers. But what arguably defines the High Line experience for most visitors? Piet Oudolf’s singular responsibility: the planting.
You look at this, and it goes deeper than what you see. It reminds you of something in the genes — nature, or the longing for nature.”
Like any artist, profound knowledge lies at the root of his talent. James Corner, Landscape Architect of the High Line, says, “he’s like a really good chef. He knows his ingredients in a much deeper way than an amateur. He’s a master of the medium.” In 1982, Piet moved his family from the Dutch city of Haarlem to a rural farmhouse in Hummelo. He opened a nursery and dedicated himself to intense study of plants, and began hybridizing for specific uses. He has, himself, named over 70 new plants. His one-acre garden at Hummelo is a showcase. It has all the raw, brimming energy of a great painter’s studio.
“Gardening has traditionally been about decoration. I wanted to do more… layers, depth, complexity. It is a composition, but also a performance.”
The documentary will convey Piet Oudolf’s artistry with particular attention paid to the cinematography. Immersive camera work will emulate, to the nearest extent possible through any medium, the experience of being present in the gardens and, to an extent impossible through any other medium, the experience of all four seasons. The production will deploy specially designed long-term time-lapse photography systems in multiple gardens to poetically capture the signature dynamism of his designs: the change of whole gardens within days and overseasons. The visual splendor of the film should be breathtaking.
Importantly, the film will capture Piet at work and in his own words. We will see him designing and installing a major new garden for a contemporary art center in England, Hauser & Wirth Somerset. Intimate discussions with Piet will take place in his own gardens at Hummelo as well as on visits to his works in New York, Chicago, Nantucket Island, Germany, Sweden and Holland. The film will also document candid conversations between Piet and collaborators such as the garden writer Noel Kingsbury, the landscape ethicist Rick Darke, the Pritzker Prize winning architect Peter Zumthor, and artists Thomas Struth and Jeff Koons. Key interviews will include Hans Ulrich Obrist, co-director of London’s Serpentine Gallery; Christopher Woodward, Director of the Garden Museum in London; and Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, the eminent landscape preservationist and former head of the Central Park Conservancy. Above all the film will be entertaining – a window into the mind and process of a true artist, working in a medium ideally suited to moving images.
“I want to work with plants that die beautifully. Brown is also a color.”
Filming has begun this fall, with an initial visit to Hummelo already recorded. Principal filming will continue through one full year with each of the following four seasons being used to frame aspects of Piet’s work. Editing will commence in Winter 2014 with an aim to complete the production in late Spring/early Summer 2015.
We expect the film to have broad appeal. In addition to the extensive audience of gardening enthusiasts, Piet’s work has drawn particular attention in the contemporary art world, with a number of gallery and museum commissions, all of whom should have an interest and audience for programming the documentary. The film will ultimately speak to anyone who marvels at innovation and beauty. Owing to Piet’s success both in the US and Europe, we also see potential for wide theatrical and broadcast distribution in both markets.
The film will be produced by the Checkerboard Film Foundation, a non-profit institution established in 1979 to document, through film and video, living artists who are making unique and important contributions to the arts. In 35 years, Checkerboard has produced over 50 films ranging in subjects from the visual arts to musicians, choreographers, writers and architects. They represent a visual time capsule of artistic achievements spanning the last half-Century. Titles include Brice Marden (1977), Aaron Siskind (1987), Roy Lichtenstein: Reflections (1993), Philip Johnson: Diary of an Eccentric Architect (1996), Billy Collins: On the Road with the U.S. Poet Laureate (2003), Ellsworth Kelly: Fragments (2007), James Salter: A Sport and a Pastime (2011), and Diller Scofidio + Renfro: Reimagining Lincoln Center and the High Line (2012).
The film will be directed and photographed by Thomas (Tom) Piper, Director of Production for the Checkerboard Film Foundation, and an award-winning non-fiction filmmaker. He has directed, photographed and edited more than 20 films including co-directing and editing Ellsworth Kelly: Fragments, which won the Best Film for Television award at the prestigious International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA) in Montreal. As an independent producer, he recently completed the film Art, Architecture, and Innovation: Celebrating the Guggenheim Museum, a documentary marking the 50th anniversary of the Frank Lloyd Wright museum building. His latest project is the one-hour film, Diller Scofidio + Renfro: Reimagining Lincoln Center and the High Line, recently broadcast on PBS affiliates in New York, and accepted for over 25 festivals around the world. Other recent subjects have included the artists Sol Lewitt and Kiki Smith, the writer James Salter, the art historian Vincent Scully, the architects Peter Eisenman, Steven Holl, and Thom Mayne, and MacArthur “genius” grant winner, Jeanne Gang.
- December 2013 -
Michael King has a series of eBooks available on his website- Perennial Meadows http://www.perennialmeadows.com/new-ebooks/. The books include planting formulas. I was fortunate to visit Lianne’s Siergrassen this summer on the Gardens Illustrated where owner Lianne Pot has installed several of King’s perennial meadows. My earlier post today included photos of Lianne’s display gardens, but check her website for later season pics. Don’t forget to use google translate. http://www.siergras.nl/Home. I really like King’s ideas!
In part one of this series (published three long months ago) I shared photos from my summer visit to Cassian Schmidt’s horticultural playground, Hermannshof in Weinheim, Germany and visionary Piet Oudolf’s seminal masterpiece in nearby Hummelo, Netherlands.
The primary purpose of my trip to Europe was to participate in an Oudolf lead planting design seminar hosted at his private home and garden, followed by a Gardens Illustrated tour of significant naturalistic gardens in the Northern Dutch Provinces. Noel Kingsbury was our well-informed guide.
Below are images of the many beautiful gardens we toured (images link through to Flickr photo sets).
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In late June I traveled back to Europe for what turned out to be one of the most inspiring experiences of my professional career. My trip centered around a Gardens Illustrated tour of the Northern Dutch Provinces, lead by Noel Kingsbury and his dynamic wife, Jo Eliot.
The tour began with a day-long planting design workshop at Piet & Anja Oudolf’s home and private garden in Hummelo. About twenty-five designers and avid gardeners from around the world attended the workshop (the first of its kind). We traveled on together for the next six days where we explored gardens and talked plants. It was quite special, connecting with people who share a passion for naturalism in planting design, in a part of the world where the style was perfected.
I arrived a couple of days early to take in Hermannshof, a botanical garden in nearby Weinheim, Germany and to have a day in the Oudolf’s garden without distraction. The two photos sets below document the pre-tour experience.
Hermannshof is a place to see successful examples of new directions in planting design, especially in naturalistic planting style. The plant combinations are inspired by plant societies in nature.
Cassian Schmidt leads the Hermannshof’s team with the following objectives: (1) investigating the competitive relationships between plants with different growth and site conditions, (2) design of plant combinations that are of high aesthetic appeal because of harmony and contrast of colors and shapes, (3) the establishment of permanent plantings with a low maintenance and a long-lasting appeal.
The Oudolf’s garden never disappoints! This visit was extra special though. I had not experienced the garden in summer, only fall. The light was nearly perfect. Grasses, like Deschampsia, Sporobolus and Panicum give the fall garden a specific ethereal feeling. In summer, however, before the grasses bloom or are at an early stage of bloom, the underlying perennial structure is more evident. I spent close to 8-hours documenting this sophisticated tapestry of intermingled plants. Piet’s work is living art!
Piet Oudolf & Noel Kingsbury’s new book is Planting: A New Perspective and speaks to the art of intermingling plants.
My next post in this series will include photos from the Gardens Illustrated tour.
Adam Woodruff (www.adamwoodruff.com)