Working in Jersey can be painful for most immigrants, as they are assigned tasks that the local residents are no longer willing to do (cleaning, cooking, serving at the table, etc.) and are therefore labeled as second-class citizens. There are some honorable exceptions, associated, above all, with the degree of involvement of the worker in relation to the environment in which he/she works. The gardener is one such case. In his day-to-day he deals with nature (land, flora, fauna, climate) and culture (people, techniques, ideas, aesthetics) and often works side by side with his boss. It has a recognized function in the “British” system, it is “known” and has acceptable living conditions (house, salary, social recognition, etc.). The garden thus ends up, once again, being synonymous with perfection and ideal, even as a workplace, although rigidly framed by a very conditioned and protectionist social and legal system.
For the exhibition at the Jersey Museum, Sofia Arez glimpsed, precisely, in this reality the contradictory irony of this socio-cultural system. The garden (with the configuration of the island of Jersey) is exposed inside a greenhouse, representing a conditioned vision of paradise. The story of paradise, the garden of God, experiences the passage from man’s ideal world to the real world in which man was forced to pass from a life of simple and eternal perfection to one of sacrifice and conflict. God’s gardener, Adam, realized “that the Lord God was walking through the garden in the coolness of the evening,” before he and Eve were driven out of Eden for having eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge. All migrants are looking for paradise, the solution to all their problems. Could Jersey be the place of paradise? Who will be the gardener? What is the forbidden fruit? And what would happen without a greenhouse?
This exhibition was supported by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.