Excavation Site

“Excavation Site” – An imaginary garden

State Horticultural Show, Jülich 1998

Ulrich Wagner

An outside project of “Paper Art 7”

Leopold Hoesch Museum, Düren and

Parks & Gardens Office of the Municipality of Düren

Size: 24m x 24m

Material: Privet hedges, rolled turf, newspaper, corrugated cardboard, basalt grit, fertiliser

© 1997 Ulrich Wagner

© 1997 Ulrich Wagner



The excavation site is an imaginary garden which is in a state of planned change. In phases, succeeding levels of the overall garden become visible. At first only faintly visible, they become increasingly clearer. The change over time and the many-layered structure of the individual components permit only a limited view at any one point during the process of change. This sets in motion the process of searching for connections between what really exists and what is still to be discovered or rediscovered. Paper and time play the leading part in the changes in this garden.

Phase I

Initial state of the garden after completion.

Situation of the excavated paths and signs, which are c. 75cm wide and c. 80cm deep.

The base of the excavated areas is gravelled with basalt.

The walls consist of superimposed layers of newspaper.

The whole garden is covered with slowly growing rolled turf.



Phase II

Appearance of a further level during the vegetation phase.

Location of the paper tubes containing slow-release fertiliser, laid beneath the turf in the form of a section of the Cretan labyrinth.

The continuous fertilising makes the labyrinth visible in the turf.


Phase III

Further alteration of the garden by sinking of the turf.

Situation of the structures which are rendered more and more clearly visible in the course of the year by sinking.

The excavated areas are filled with corrugated cardboard and newspaper, and covered over at ground level with earth and rolled turf.

The sinking of the areas concerned is caused by the softening and the process of rotting of the paper.


Coming from the main path, before entering the garden the visitor will find a noticeboard, as in a historical excavation. Together with a brief description of the project, the noticeboard contains a ground plan of the imaginary garden, in which are entered all the structures currently visible as well as those to appear later.

The visitor can enter the inner area of the garden by two obliquely descending paths of basalt grit, which drop to a depth of c. 80cm below the level of the lawn . By the lowering of the path, the observer automatically perceives the site from the perspective of a child. As the garden has a third entrance at ground level, two levels of observation are possible. All the paths, together with the excavated portions, are c. 80cm deep and c. 75cm wide. The walls are constructed with layers of newspaper. The layers of newspaper underground symbolize chronological layers, a documentation of the past, and strata of earth. The garden, with its relatively narrow paths, requires the visitor to reach agreement with persons approaching from the opposite direction, as the narrowness prevents passing two abreast. In view of the fact that history too can close paths, the fourth entrance/exit is closed off with a wall of newspaper level with the course of the privet hedge.

The whole ground-level surface of the garden is covered with a lawn of rolled turf with a homogeneous surface structure. On a further level, a section of the Cretan labyrinth will become apparent in the grass surface. This is caused by a tube of paper filled with fertiliser and laid out underneath the turf in the shape of the labyrinth. Because of the considerable over-fertilisation, the grass will grow clearly greener and faster in these places or, in very hot weather, burn and turn yellow. Mowing the grass surface will only obliterate the labyrinth temporarily, until it shows through again. This process will continue throughout the period of the exhibition.

Further structures are shown by a sinking of the lawn. In these areas, in constructing the garden corrugated cardboard and newspaper were dug in. The softening and rotting of the paper causes the ground to sink at these points. The depth of the prepared structures can be governed by using more densely or thinly packed blocks of paper.


Further pictures
















“Ein imaginärer Garten” (“An Imaginary Garden”)

Photo installation for Paper-Art 7, 1998, Materials: wood, paper, rolled turf

Leopold Hoesch Museum, Düren.


















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