Coinciding with this year’s Chelsea Flower Show and London Festival of Architecture, The Mosaic Rooms, London, are pleased to present Garden State, a solo exhibition by British artist Corinne Silva. Offering an unexpected view on gardening, the show comprises photographic and sound installations exploring Israel’s suburban gardens, parks and public places. Silva encourages visitors to view gardening not simply as the act of nurturing a plot of land, but as something potentially far more sinister: a tool used in aggressive state expansion, territory marking and occupation.

Throughout history, occupying forces have sought to exert control over their territories through reshaping and re-naming landscapes, landmarks, cities and even countries. New governments have embarked on large-scale landscaping projects and public park building, creating sites of national pride. Settlers have introduced the native plants of their homelands, re-creating the familiar, displacing the indigenous, and stamping their own identities on the land. In this exhibition, Silva explores what gardening might represent in the context of Israel’s contemporary colonisation of Palestinian territories.

Garden State comprises two ambitious installations, created during a series of trips to sites between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River from 2010 and 2013. Wounded (2013) is a series of nine photographs, taken shortly after a devastating fire in the Carmel Forest in Northern Israel, accompanied by sound recordings made by the artist as she pushed her way through the waist-high foliage that had grown in its place three years later. Only a small percentage of Israel’s forests are natural, when the Aleppo pine forest was first planted, other indigenous flora was pushed out. This immersive audio-visual installation presents the destruction of this national park as a reversal of the Israeli state’s re-creation and occupation of this landscape.

Gardening the Suburbs (2014), is a large-scale undulating wall installation made up of clusters of photographs of Israeli suburban gardens. It loosely maps the way these settlements have wound their way across the Occupied Territories, cutting off Palestinian villages from one another and hugging the major roads and freeways. In this work Silva sculpts her own landscapes to show how the Israeli state progressively expands and marks out its land, encouraging people to settle, to make roots and grass over particular historical narratives.

As a metaphor for human connection to place, plants speak of rootedness, and like mapping, planting is a place-making activity. People plant gardens where they intend to stay. Seen in the context of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the continuing state-driven program of illegal settlement building, endorsed by recently re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, plants and gardens take on significant representational qualities. The practice of gardening and landscaping: planting and transplanting, seeding and reshaping, accessing and re-routing, is linked to the construction of power, used to reinforce political, social and cultural ideologies.

Silva is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Photography and the Archive Research Centre, University of the Arts London. She received an Arts and Humanities Research Council PhD Scholarship (2010 to 2013) and gained her PhD in 2014. In 2013 and 2014 she was artist in residence at A.M. Qattan Foundation Ramallah, and in 2014 received a Triangle International Fellowship.

Recent group and solo exhibitions include My Sister Who Travels, The Mosaic Rooms, London (2014); Gardening the Suburbs, Makan Art Space, Amman; I See Europe! Kunstbezirk, Stuttgart (2013); Brighton Photo Biennial (2012); The Photographer’s Gallery, (2012); Flash Forward festival, Toronto and Boston (2011/2012); Wandering Abroad, National Media Museum/Ways of Looking Festival, Bradford, UK (2011); Imported Landscapes, Manifesta 8, (2010); Badlands, Noorderlicht Photofestival (2010); Wandering Abroad, Leeds Art Gallery, UK (2009). The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of talks and events, and a specially commissioned popup sustainable garden by SmallWorld Urbanism, which shed further light on the issues covered in the show.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of talks and events, and a specially commissioned popup sustainable garden by SmallWorld Urbanism, which shed further light on the issues covered in the show.

Part of London Festival of Architecture, Open Garden Squares Weekend and Chelsea Fringe.