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Vivian’s Garden

Rosalind Nashashibi


29 January 2022
2 – 4 pm
Cinema Middelburg (Map)

To festively mark the opening of the exhibition Worm in a Water Glass by Vivian Suter, Vleeshal screened Vivian's Garden, a film by Rosalind Nashashibi, at Cinema Middelburg.

Vivian’s Garden (2017) is a thirty-minute colour film with sound that depicts the relationship between two Swiss /Austrian émigré artists who are mother and daughter – Elisabeth Wild (born 1922) and Vivian Suter (born 1949). The film was shot and is set in the connected houses the two women share in a jungle garden in Panajachel, Guatemala, where they have developed a matriarchal compound in an environment that seems to be a site of both refuge and fear. The home and garden are places of terror as well as healing, and the film outlines how, for example, a recent problem with a criminal neighbour caused the pair to be under curfew and threats, while catastrophic floods, kidnappers and fear of intruders are ever-present. On the other hand, they lead an idyllic life, making art in beautiful surroundings, living simply, being taken care of and taking care of each other.

Elisabeth is in her nineties and Vivian in her sixties and they live with the constant company of two or more indigenous villagers as guardians and maids. The film takes a close and intimate look at their artistic, emotional and economic lives. Rituals of care and the intricate ambiguity of their colonial situation – which the film does not shy away from – are combined with images documenting the extremely close bond between mother and daughter, as well as the sensuous life of the garden itself. Nashashibi has commented: "Vivian Suter and her mother Elisabeth Wild are two artists in self-imposed exile in Panajachel, Guatemala. They are as close as maiden sisters; each is at times mother and daughter to the other, and sometimes they are my mother and my daughter too."