Gardens are micro-landscapes, and gardening, like mapping, is a way of allocating territory. Over two years, I travelled across twenty-two Israeli settlements making photographs of public and private gardens, in order to explore the ways in which gardens and gardening may represent the Israeli State’s ongoing expansionist ambitions in the historic land of Palestine.
The Israeli State was formed in 1948, in a war that saw hundreds of Palestinian towns and villages destroyed and depopulated. It is referred to and remembered as Al-Nakba or ‘the catastrophe’ by Palestinians. Subsequently the Israeli State began ‘New Towning’, in an aim to move Israelis beyond the urban centre of Tel Aviv into land from which the Palestinian population had been displaced, and to create Israeli communities with their own industry.
My photographs trace details of the suburban settlement gardens as they extend from the coastal areas surrounding Tel Aviv, across the Green Line and into the Occupied Palestinian Territories, as they cover over Palestinian villages destroyed in 1948, and cut off Palestinian communities in the West Bank from one another.
After the Six Day War in 1967, Israel occupied further Palestinian territory in the West Bank and Gaza. New settlements were built on illegally confiscated Palestinian land and this process continues today. Unlike the ‘New Towns’ built within the 1948 boundary, these gated communities, classified as ‘Quality of Life’ settlements by the Israeli State, act as commuter suburbs. The creation of a network of roads (on which only Israeli or international document holders can travel) has connected the settlements to major urban centres, and provided the Israeli military with clear routes across the country. The diversion of water sources from Palestinian communities and agriculture to the settlements and their gardens is also part of this wider rerouting of the land.
The gardens in these occupied lands are both material and symbolic evidence of a continuing colonisation. Here, the practice of gardening and landscaping, planting and transplanting, seeding and reshaping, accessing and restricting, is linked to the construction of power, used to reinforce political, social and cultural ideologies.
Corinne Silva, 2015
Gardening the Suburbs, part of Silva’s Garden State exhibition, was co-produced by Ffotogallery, Cardiff, The Mosaic Rooms, London, and UAL Photography and the Archive Research Centre (PARC), London College of Communication, and supported by the Arts Council of Wales, A.M. Qattan Foundation and University of the Arts London. Garden State, with essays by Val Williams and Eyal Weizman, will be published by Ffotogallery and The Mosaic Rooms in 2016.