Belgian artist Hans Op de Beeck has transformed the refectory of a Jacobian convent in Toulouse into a multi-sensory art installation for the Printemps de Septembre Festival. A wooden path leads visitors through sand dunes and camping outposts, with barren trees and a simple strand of light marking the route. Garden of Whispers is perfectly synchronized with Op de Beeck’s view of “man as a being who stages the world around him in a tragi-comic way.” The work stimulates the sense and invites viewers to experience the environment through the visual, olfactory, and auditory.
A soundtrack of whispering voices fills the space, which at once seems both empty and full. Visitors are encouraged to meditate on the space, and while they will find references to mythology, religion, and history in the small tableaus set up throughout the installation, the artist’s aim is to create a timeless experience outside known references. Performance is also incorporated into the work, with figures carrying out mundane acts staged throughout. Occasionally, these figures may offer tea to spectators.
The ephemera—pots, pans, glass bottles, bedding—that greets visitors as they make their way down the wooden path creates a sense of arriving in an inhabited space or perhaps a land recently abandoned. How the viewer fills that space is left to the imagination, as the artist leaves visitors room to interpret his creation.
Garden of Whispers is on view until November 27 at the Couvent des Jacobins in Toulouse, France.
All images via Studio Hans Op de Beeck