The following excerpt is from the Google Hangout between Meridel Rubenstein and Krish Raghev on 16 December 2014. This conversation focused on Eden in Iraq, a wastewater garden/memorial site that aims to transform relics of war into art, and is part of the Artist-Writer Pair Series. Read more in BrackMag.
[On collaboration with multiple groups] (It’s the) design process — you guys know how egoistical artists are, right? The other thing you have to know is I’m the only woman. Mark and I are great friends, so we fight a lot! Jossen and I have developed something so extraordinary. First, we were just looking for human sewage, like shit, because people are so spread out, because they weren’t collecting it really until recently. And suddenly with Jossen, things changed.
On my last trip (in 2015), suddenly this region wanted to fund us. I was just trying to work with the Ministry of Resources in Baghdad.
With my team, we skype all the time. I have to figure out what we have to talk about! That’s a challenge. Sander Vanderloo—he’s really extraordinary—he’s totally involved with data and a forerunner of all this.
[On “environmental design being most potent when guided and shaped by art”] Most of the landscape architects are brilliant, where they are more “artist” than I am. That sentence has to do with the fact that engineers are all busy with volumes of shit, but I get my best ideas when they tell me exactly how the system works, how the pipes must lay, where the flowers could go. This has been the turnaround, to collaborate, to wait, (it’s) so totally new for me. Not me giving them ideas, but completely opposite!
My assistant said, you’re going to offend someone. Because everyone thinks they are an artist, right? Well, we have different kinds of training, My desire to be an artist, is that the artist track something internal that is different, new and makes people see differently. But artists are driven to do that, we don’t care about all this stuff. That’s my skill. I fail all the time.
[On deciding an “end-point” of Eden in Iraq] It’s my job to keep it going. It could be dealing with age, but I think I learnt to slow down. I thought the garden would be built by now. I have to put away these Iraq pictures, and need to lay that out. It’s OK that this work will take a few works. We won’t get to the next step of design until March 2015. All these steps…when you have a project, it has to get done. It just has to get done, and this is from Buddhist practice. I just make sure I practise twice a day, just breathing. But I have a feeling this will take two to three years. We need another year of prototype planning. It will take time not only to do the design planning — reed structures grow really fast — but the artisanal work and we need to work with paleo-botanists. We’re so close.