conquest of the garden

video, HD, 12min, 16:9, colour, stereo, sound: dominik traun, 2010
„Utopia, represents an ideal of the good, to contrast with the evils and ills of existing societies. The idea of utopia suggests a refuge from the troubles of this world as well as a hope for a better one.“ (Moss-Kanter 1972)

Conquest of the Garden is a video looking at the luxury residential complex Sobhan situated in the north of Tehran, Iran. It is characterized by its isolation from non-residents, physical barriers to prevent strangers from entering the settlement and a private infrastructure. At the end of the 80s the American sociologist Evan McKenzie coined the term Privatopia, which describes the longing for the American Dream in closed housing developments, through the privatization of public space and public life. In relation to Iran this is particularly applicable yet takes on quite a different relationship to the prevailing norms. As a result of the current political regime the lives of most Iranians is withdrawn geographically: The house represents a place of refuge, the closed housing estate a fortress.

Conquest of the Garden reflects the ambiguities of the closed housing estate. The video entangles general documentation and poetics of architecture with a network that refers to the specific location and its control schemes in relation to those outside the walls of the community. The norms inside and outside and their evident impact on behaviour. A space is created, composed of the juxtaposition and contradictions speaking of a denial approaching insanity in the urban condition. The idyllic image is thus increasingly paralyzed and the idea of a utopian, separate living space that can be split off from its growing relationships to the wider condition brought into question.