Juliana Engberg (Text from the catalogue "Signs of Life", Melbourne International Biennial 1999)
'While in the fields of his childhood the poet walks and doesn't want to forget anything'
- Jean Follian
NIKOLAJ RECKE'S FIELD OF CLOVER PROVIDES A JOYFUL, hopeful space; a romantic, optimistic zone of re-discovery which the viewer is invited to experience. Recke's field offers experiential sensuality for visitors who allow themselves the primary abandonment of walking with naked feet across the ticklish, soft and cool verdant carpet. And his planting is a mnemonic device to aid the memory of a landscape now so rare. As with any field of clover, there are perhaps some of the most coveted four-leaf types.
Recke is captivated by belief systems. One such system can be found in common superstition, such as the belief that a four-leaf clover can bring you luck. Recke uses the leaf as a form of found narrative. An idea or story which holds steady sway in folklore. He has used the forget-me-not in a similar way in previous installations to evoke a feeling of pre-existant romance. Art is also a belief system, and for Recke it is the one he pursues constantly for meaning and content. In using the idea of the clover field, and the reverie of its inherent optimism, Recke wants to explore what happens when you change the conditions of experience.
Because of course this is not a field of clover, but a highly organised installation which must rely upon many other systems for its existence. It is real clover, but condidtioned by its environment: it is a sample of clover; a discontinous terrain, dislocated from its normal environment. It has been culturalised: cultivated.
So can we still feel the same sense of happiness as we might experience if the clover were still in its outdoor field and we were in its environment, rather than the other way around. This is ultimately the Iynchpin of Recke's research. Can art still instill feeling and can content still have meaning?
In putting the installation together Recke thought of many different variables. For instance at one stage he considered the idea of making a field entirely of four-leaf clovers. A plant that would have to be genetically engineered, since the four-leaf clover is in fact an infrequently occuring mutant in its culture. He thought that it might be lovely to give everyone the chance of having certain luck. But realising that the narrative of luck is based on chance and on the reduced opportunities for the potential find, Recke decided to proceed with a sowing of ordinary clover seeds.
Of course the corollory to this decision is that Recke must accept the likelihood that Recke must accept the likelihood that there will be no four leaf-clovers in his field at all. This is also the risk for the artist. And as an artist who continues to seek ways of conveying meaning, Recke has had to content himself with the idea that the search for joy and luck, might be as significant as the find itself.