‘Gardens are, by definition, hermetic spaces that are closed to everything outside of them. Shakkei is a landscaping technique that permits this “outside” to enter the garden by integrating natural scenery, monuments or any other environmental features into the garden’s composition. Disrupting the points of reference between inside and outside, the border disappears, at least optically. Hence, in Japanese, we no longer speak of haikei (background), but ofshakkei (borrowed scenery).’ *
Shakkei is a curving of the threshold between order and disorder. The garden, a metaphor for the human control of nature, is at once undermined and epitomised by this technique. Shakkei is the movement that seeks to bring the outside in; the garden itself becomes defined by its ‘other’. The need to control thresholds is momentarily disturbed by the confounding of what is seen as external (disorder) and what is seen as internal (order) through the notion of ‘borrowing’. Here, in a sense, one must renounce the idea of ownership; the garden and surrounding landscape alike require us to let the outside (disorder) define us; a view borrowed from somewhere else changes our own.
To conceive of any thing, we try to hold its limits in our mind; we learn to think there is an end point, where it stops and something else begins. The garden has a fence; the person has skin; the box has a lid; the image has a frame. These limits are reinforced by language, but they are more precisely described by the ideology that things are primarily the products of human decisions towards matter. Hence, the interpretation of art and other material cultures through the lens of intention: it is the individual artist’s will, combined with inert matter, which produces the work of art. The assumption goes that humans possess agency, whereas matter does not, it only comes into being thanks to human touch. But this formulation forgets that we live in a world of life, that the human touch has no limits, for it does not exist per se. The human touch is germs and fingernails, skin falling away and dust gathered, the dried condensation from the drink you last held, a blade of grass; it is always affected by others.
Noémie Bablet’s work in installation, video, photography, drawing and textiles is interested in thresholds, covers, layers, privacy and ‘following’, in the sense described by anthropologist Timothy Ingold in his essay ‘The textility of making’. Unreservedly against the interpretation of art based on cause and effect, which takes a given outcome and reads backwards to the point of the agent’s novel idea, Ingold writes:
‘A work of art … is not an object but a thing and … the role of the artist—as that of any skilled practitioner—is not to give effect to a preconceived idea, novel or not, but to join with and follow the forces and flows of material that bring the form of the work into being. The work invites the viewer to join the artist as a fellow traveller, to look with it as it unfolds in the world, rather than behind it to an originating intention of which it is the final product.’ **
Born in France in 1987, Noémie Bablet received a Master of Arts from Université Paris 8 in 2011, and will graduate from the École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts de Paris-Cergy in 2015. Since 2012, she has assisted the Franco-Moroccan artist Yto Barrada, in Tangier, New York and Paris. Her research into the work of US-American artist Dike Blair resulted in an interview titled ‘Privacy Lovers’ in 2014. This year, Noémie received a Fondation de France grant to develop her practice at the Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn, NY, USA. In July she will participate in Piccole Baie, an annual residency organised by philosopher Federico Nicolao in Italy. Shakkei is her first solo exhibition in Paris.
* Emmanuel Marès, ‘Shakkei’, Vocabulaire de la spatialité japonaise (eds. P. Bonnin, Inaga S., Nishida M.), CNRS Editions, Paris 2014 (trad. E. Weber). Original: ‘Le jardin est, par définition, un espace clos et hermétique à tout ce qui se trouve à l’extérieur. Le shakkei est une technique paysagère qui permet de faire rentrer cet « extérieur », c’est-à-dire d’intégrer un paysage naturel, un monument ou tout autre élément environnant à l’intérieur de la composition du jardin. On brouille les repères et ainsi la frontière disparaît, au moins visuellement. En japonais, on ne parle plus alors de haikei (arrière-plan), mais de shakkei, (emprunt de paysage).’
** Timothy Ingold, ‘The textility of making’, Cambridge Journal of Economics, Vol. 34, Issue 1, 2010, pp. 91–102
Design: Ella Sutherland