The Palacio de Cristal opened in 1887 with an exhibition on wildlife from the Philippines that formed part of a broader project dedicated to the then important Spanish colony. La saison des fêtes (The Season of Festivities) by Pierre Huyghe (Paris, 1962) was devised especially for the space, freely encompassing and framing its history and past uses. The original exhibition featured exuberant tropical plants with a colonialist ideology behind them; Huyghe's conception, however, distances itself from a strictly Eurocentric perspective.
The plants Huyghe includes in this landscape are associated with popular festivals and celebrations around the world, such as the red roses from Valentine's Day, the pumpkins from Halloween, or the cherry blossom that marks the start of spring. Huyghe's hope in this utopian cosmos is that everything can bloom simultaneously at some point during the exhibition, thus producing a blend of random dates, scattered intermittently along the annual calendar in a festival that combines a “bouquet of anniversaries”, with people from different corners of the globe united for a common cause while they share the experience.
Huyghe is concerned with what he calls “connective images”, images that do not attempt to represent the world, but rather place it both inside and outside the processes we use to visualise and construct our own reality. The chairs Huyghe provides visitors with are there to collectively ruminate on the scene, the space and the other people visiting, prompting complicity and self-reflection among the people present.
Inside this idyllic garden, their is the underlying consideration of the way in which commemorations have come to be closely associated with not only memories, but also either natural or artificial objects. Behind the growing compulsion to establish new popular customs and annual traditions lies the intent to favour conformism and readdress alienation, while the economic powers progressively infiltrate them. By taking on board these subtle forms of social conformity, reinforced by such economic pressures, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to withdraw and refuse to participate in a series of prescriptive dates that chart festivals, anniversaries and celebrations and which are so deeply rooted in today's native culture that they have an impact on individuals and collective memory alike whilst also shaping our own identities.