Postcard and seed package made for the Garden Marathon, Serpentine Gallery London, 2011.
Sur l’Herbe (homage to Domenico and Vincenzo Mancini) was created by Maria Thereza Alves to represent the historical journeys people have made when migrating throughout Europe: in this case, Alves traced the journeys of the Mancini family who, like many others, departed their rural mountain villages in the mid/late nineteenth century to take part in the building of the modern world that was flourishing throughout Europe’s cities.
Domenico and Vincenzo Mancini (father and son) traveled northwards through Italy, into France and settled in London, joining the community of new Londoners taking work where they found it, as manual labourers, selling produce in daily markets and as artists’s models for, amongst others, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Corot, Rodin, Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse and Cézanne.
Some of this vast, new pool of casual labour which served the short term needs of the economy of London stayed and put down roots in London, and others continued to travel to other opportunities or back to their place of origin.
These itinerant people are little-documented, yet their contribution lasts today in the enduring constructions and artworks of the time.
In 2011, Maria Thereza Alves was invited to produce a work for the Serpentine Gallery Garden Marathon. With Deirdre MacKenna, she collected seeds from Picinisco and Filignano, the Italian villages of origin of Dominico and Vincenzo Mancini, and produced a give-away postcard and seed package in homage to immigrant workers in London, inviting people to create a guerrilla garden around the statues of Peter Pan by Sir George Frampton (installed in 1912) and Physical Energy by George Frederic Watts (installed in 1907) which were modelled by Vincenzo Mancini and his father Domenico.
The 2011 Serpentine Gallery Garden Marathon was the sixth in the Gallery’s acclaimed Marathon series. The two-day event was an exploration of the concept of the garden, intended as a product of the creative encounter between the man-made and the natural, between order and disorder, the garden can offer productive metaphors for the interactions between human life and time, care, thought or space.
The event was directly inspired by the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011, designed by Peter Zumthor. The encounter of architecture and garden created a contemplative space that was both set within – and meditatively separated from – the wider surroundings of Kensington Gardens.
Participations ranged from the fields of horticulture, design and architecture to explore the creation of gardens and their spatial, urban and scientific importance, through to works by artists and readings by poets and writers exploring the significance of the garden in our experience of the world.
SATURDAY 15 OCTOBER 12pm – 5pm
Julia Peyton-Jones, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Steffi Czerny & Marcel Reichart: Introductions
Wolfgang Tillmans: Ursuppe and Other Garden Pictures
Rosie Atkins: A History of Garden Design in 20 Minutes
Jef Geys: Quadra Medicinale: Weeds and Biodiversity
Gianfranco Baruchello: The Coefficient – The Garden as a Joint Agent
Hélène Cixous: Un vrai jardin – A Real Garden
Etel Adnan: The Spring Flowers Own
Patrick Eyres: Ian Hamilton Finlay and Little Sparta
Cerith Wyn Evans: Reading: Poems by Ian Hamilton Finlay
Alice Rawsthorn: Interviews Adriaan Geuze, Something & Son and FIELDCLUB
Something & Son: Born in a Shed
FIELDCLUB: Some Aspects of Neo-Agrosophy
Dan Graham: Museum as Garden/Garden as Museum
SATURDAY 15 OCTOBER 5pm – 10pm
Brian Aldiss: Interviewed by Hans Ulrich Obrist
Rodney Graham: Lobbing Potatoes at a Gong
Günther Vogt: Reality as Model as Reality
Rüdiger Schöttle: Theatergarden Bestiarium
Alison Knowles and Meghan DellaCrosse: Loose Pages
Pascal Cribier: Garden, Nature or Landscape?
Zarina Hashmi: Invisible Gardens
Elizabeth Diller: Agri-tecture
Fritz Haeg & Denise Withers: How a Garden can Change Your Life
Christian Philipp Müller: The New World
muf architecture/art: The Rehearsal
Peter Saville & Anna Blessmann: TV Blumen
Gerry Bibby: No Picnic (A Promenade of the Hearts), performed with Sophie
Corin Sworn: Out of Range
Rodney Graham: Lobbing Potatoes at a Gong
Susan Stenger: Ryoanji by John Cage
SUNDAY 16 OCTOBER 11am – 5pm
Marcus du Sautoy: Exploring the Mathematical Garden
John Brockman in Conversation with Brian Eno
Jennifer Jacquet: Shame Totem v.2.0
Mark Pagel: Cities as Gardens
Jimmie Durham: Berlin, April 2000
Paul Smith: Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank: Supporting Innovation and Adaptation in Horticulture in a Changing World
Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster & Pablo León De La Barra: SAVAGE LAVA JUNGLES
David Rowan, Emer Coleman & Peter Murray-Rust: Walled Gardens vs. Open Spaces: The Tension at the Heart of the Internet
Stefano Boeri: A Planetary Kitchen Garden
Richard Sennett: Open and Closed: How Gardens Serve as Places for Reflection
Catherine Mosbach: Phase Shift Park
Giuseppe Penone: The Garden Begins when a Man Tramples the Soil
Silke Otto-Knapp: Recollections of a Happy Life, being the Autobiography of Marianne North, a reading
Charles Jencks: The Universe in the Landscape
Pablo Bronstein: In Conversation with Lizzie Carey-Thomas
SUNDAY 16 OCTOBER 5pm – 9pm
Sophie von Cundale: The Garden of Endemol
Jonas Mekas and David Ellis: Orvydas Garden
Adam Curtis: I Am not a Garden. I Am a Machine
Carissa Rodriguez & Avena Gallagher: Wowowee
Philippe Parreno & Bas Smets: CHZ
Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Transfer and Exchange: Proposal for 1 Million Participants to Participate in an Artwork for Freshkills Park, NYC: Public Offerings Made by All Redeemed by All
Yto Barrada & Sean Gullette: Sean Gullette Reads from Yto Barrada’s “A Guide to Trees for Governors and Gardeners”, with a Slideshow
Sophie Fiennes: 3a The Little House
Alex Waterman: Beacons of Ancestorship
With additional contributions by:
Maria Thereza Alves: Sur l’Herbe (homage à Domenico & Vincenzo Mancini)
David Deutsch: Why Are Flowers Beautiful?
Hans-Peter Feldmann: Christmas Tree
Will Holder: Pool
Koo Jeong-A: Undisturbed Pools
Reading by Hans Ulrich Obrist
More information at
image credit: Postcard and seed package made for the Garden Marathon, Serpentine Gallery London 2011; seeds from the towns of Filignano and of Picinisco in Italy were included in this give away postcard in homage to immigrant workers in London © Maria Thereza Alves and Serpentine