Saskia Groneberg, born in Munich in 1985, studied Communication Design at the State Academy of Art and Design Stuttgart. After graduating, she completed a Masterclass (Meisterschülerstudium) for photography at the Academy of Fine Arts in Leipzig.
In her artistic work, she looks into the design of human environments. For the past several years, she has been particularly interested in artificially moulded nature, finding its expression in parks, landscapes and ornamental plants. She questions and interprets this artificial nature as projections of longings and needs which arise from certain cultural, political and social circumstances.
In her projects, Saskia Groneberg pursues her questions without making them a mere superficial subject of discussion. Instead, her observations and phenomenological investigations correspond to a search for traces that she finally puts into contexts and associates with other forms.
Her work Büropflanze (2012) is a seemingly scientific research project on German office fauna. In this extensive work that reminds one of old illustrated botany books, one can see precise black and white photographs of office plants in their natural environment and a herbarium collection of plant parts, archived with the help of a scanner. Accompanying texts by employees offer a glimpse into the plant owner’s psyche. The collected cuttings continue to exist as a living archive in a laboratory-like installation where they strike roots and grow. This work was awarded the German Prize "gute aussichten_new german photography 2012/2013" and was shown at exhibitions, nationally and internationally.
Her recently completed book and video project called Vesuv, Venus (2014–2015) is a fragmentary story in pictures in the setting of the first large landscape park in mainland Europe, the Wörlitzer Park. Tourists move like figures in a tableau vivant in the dreamlike, historic scenery of the park. In her mostly classically composed photographs, Saskia draws a connection to landscape painting and deliberately disguises the aspect of time. Winter follows spring, detail follows sequence, dream follows deconstruction. Idyll is an illusion, the park an artificially created, dynamic place which has to be continuously maintained, renovated and ploughed. This becomes evident when looking at details such as railings, growing aids and the traces made by agricultural vehicles.
In Bangalore, Saskia plans to visually deal with Bangalore’s sadly questionable image of a ‘garden city’. She will put the botanical garden Lalbagh, which has already sparked her interest during a previous visit in Bangalore, into focus. The historic park which has undergone continuous change in its 250-year history, is not only a place of botany but also in particular a local recreation area and tourist attraction. Saskia seeks to shed light on the role the park has played for the rapidly growing city of Bangalore. Conversely, she is interested in the role the city plays for this historic park. Exploring this controversy constitutes an exciting research opportunity!
Again, I am in India, the fourth time in my life. It feels familiar and yet completely different. This time, I will stay almost two months in this huge city and work on a project.
I am accommodated in a nice and very centrally located guest apartment of my host Naresh. I am on my own there, so initially I am confronted with simple questions. Where am I (in relation to the city)? Where can I find breakfast? And toilet paper? Is there any supermarket nearby? How do I come back home? Gradually I find solutions: supermarkets, food and my way through the city.
So I come for the first bangaloREsidency meeting hungry – but very curious: The opening with all the artists, organised and accompanied by Christoph, Maureen and our fabulous "buddies" – the interns. We visit and meet various hosts, everything from an art walk on the topic of waste to the visit to a theatre. We get to know each other and get a good impression of the city and its rich cultural life, of its potency and problems.
The wonderful week ends with our "pecha kucha" presentations in the packed Goethe-Institut auditorium. Afterwards there is a wonderful party at Christoph’s house. The groundwork for the next weeks is set, the first contacts established, and a thousand impressions collected.
The first four weeks of our stay the temperatures are over 40°C. Not only the pale Europeans, but also the Bangaloreans are lamenting. In the newspapers, the main topics are shortage of water and the sold-out A/Cs. Everybody is waiting for rain.
After my first research, conversations and field studies, I get more and more interested in the growth of the city and its visible consequences. I feel construction sites are growing even faster than the nature around. Everyday I pass by a huge garbage dump, which is at the crossroad to my house... and I wonder what happens to all that the garbage.
The city is bursting at the seams and in between you find the relics of the famous "garden city" Bangalore. Amazing old trees in the middle of the street, mirrored in glass facades or growing into buildings and construction sites. The two big gardens, Lalbagh and Cubbon Park, seem to be the last retreats for Bangaloreans and tourists. But even there it is hard to escape the sound of the city and the smog. Small neighborhood parks are quite popular, but they are fenced and closed most of the day. I sense surprise, frustration and hope when I talk to autorickshaw drivers, artists or my host Naresh, whom I visit from time to time in his office to talk about my project.
The days pass by. It starts to rain at last.. the first artists are leaving home, I get a fever... and suddenly it's mid-May, and I am in the middle of exhibition preparations. Bettina Lockemann(bangaloREsident@IIHS) and I are showing our photography and video works in the exhibition "Crossing the Jungle", at the Goethe-Institut. Two days after the opening I will go back to Germany. From my wonderful farewell I get into the cab – and sitting in the plane I already miss everybody I have left behind.
I am thankful for this intensive, exhausting but also magnificent time that I was allowed to be a bangaloREsident.