The Museum of Fine Arts’ collaboration with the Split artist Hrvoje Cokarić begins its participation in the multi-year project GARDENING OF SOUL that is conceived around an artistic interpretation of the garden and the gardening phenomenon understood in a broader social, economic, ecological and cultural context.

The themes related to ecology, with an emphasis on space, community, context, with the usage of new technologies, are some of the more significant determinants we associate with Hrvoje Cokarić’s artistic work. In recent years, he has shown an interest in the field of acoustic ecology and focuses his work on plants, that is, their ability to generate electrical signals depending on various environmental stimuli, such as light, temperature variation, wounding, water stress or responding to specific directions of gravity. These plant properties have been comprehensively researched and catalogued for commercial species, so it is possible to identify whether the plants lack nutrients, water, and whether the temperature is optimal for their development. Plants perhaps don’t have consciousness, cannot speak like humans, or make sounds like animals, but in their own way they can sense life around them and are able to convey it through special devices. This project provides a closer look at this dimension of plants that people, despite knowing about it, have yet to become fully aware of. Through insight into the complexity and value of life forms that surround us, man is better able to understand his value and place in this world. In order to bring this closer to the visitors, the artist uses equipment that receives electrical signals generated by the plants and converts them into an audio installation using a computer. This requires two electrodes, one that is attached to a leaf and the other that is inserted into the ground near the plant. Several devices are then placed next to them, which capture the plant’s internal energy waves, its electromagnetic vibrations. Just as the EEG monitors people’s brain impulses, so the artist’s device reads the internal impulse of plants and generates a signal from it, which enables communication via computers and synthesizers, that is, it enables the transformation of plant’s electrical impulse into music, tones, melody. The plants respond to pleasant stimuli with higher and more harmonious sounds, and to unpleasant stimuli with deeper and more abrasive sounds.

The Garden of Past and Future, a project initiated in 2015 by the then Museum director Branko Franceschi, which was coordinated and implemented by the Permaculture Association of Dalmatia, proved to be an ideal place for staging Cokarić’s latest work. Various Mediterranean plants (olive, strawberry tree, rosemary, agave, fig, laurel, oleander,…) were planted in seventeen recycled containers set-up in the form of a cosmogram, based on the idea of Marko and Marika Pogačnik and Simona Čudovan, which combines the form of a mandorla as the feminine principle and two arrows as a symbol of the male principle, representing the energy seed, the embryo of the new space and future contents of the Museum of Fine Arts. In the Museum Garden, Cokarić focuses on the reaction of individual plants to poetry, and selects several texts that he reads to the chosen plants (strawberry tree and oleander). The result is enchanting. A new kind of soundscape is created that brings nature to life with literal organic variations of notes, rhythms and tone. Recording these signals in such a context produces beautiful sounds which can be described as “organic electronic music” that achieves spontaneous communication and a casual ambient, giving a completely new dimension to the Museum Garden. Carefully designed, the performance concept is skilfully integrated into the previously defined space of the Museum Garden, thus achieving an organic connection between the two elements. The third, equally important element that the author draws attention to, is the visitor. On the eve of the exhibition opening and presentation of the project, the performance is staged again, but this time the artists gives the audience the opportunity to recite poetry to the plants, while he takes on the role of a programmer who matches the tone of the narrator from the audience with the harmonic pattern produced by the plants at that moment. The intersection of these three elements conditions the multiple dynamics of interaction. The casualness of the spatial concept enables unfettered and natural communication between the plants and the garden space, as well as the visitor’s experience of the ambience. With this project, which enables people to indirectly hear and experience the subtle, otherwise silent sounds of the plant world, Hrvoje Cokarić tries to deepen people’s connection with the natural world, to activate all layers of society and make an appeal to go back to nature, return to the roots. It is a call to a sustainable life in harmony with the environment and all its constituent parts.

A consideration of the scale of ecological problems, that is, a re-examination of the way in which people are connected to their environment have become extremely important issues. Art that provides compelling means of connecting with the natural world can certainly change attitudes, behaviours and ways of our co-existence with the natural environment. Ultimately, Cokarić wants to do just that, to enhance the role of art in society, because he is convinced that art can change the political, social and aesthetic practice.

After being staged at the Museum of Fine Arts, Hrvoje Cokarić’s ambiental audio visual installation will be presented in December of this year, in the large international exhibition at the Faculty of Art and Design in Ústí nad Labem, the Czech Republic, as the leader of this international project.

Hrvoje Cokarić (b. 1974), director, multimedia artist and performer who created a number of notable visual, performance art and theatrical projects. As a visual artist / performer, he mostly exhibits multimedia installations: Youth Salon – Zagreb 2001, Split Salon 2003-2009, ArtiST now 2004, Adria Art Annale 2004, solo exhibition as part of the series Sound-Object at the Multimedia Cultural Centre - Split 2010, Contemporary Art Moment in Split (Splitski likovni trenutak) at the Kazamat Gallery 2011, he staged performances at all editions of the Dopust - Days of Open Performance Festival in Split. As an artist and curator, he participates in the curatorial platform Symposiom, produced by HULU Split (2011-2015). He designs conceptual solutions for stage sets of all FFT plays since its foundation until today ( He is a member of the Croatian Association of Visual Artists (HULU Split).

Among his more significant projects, we should highlight the international art and new media project Toward Europe (2015). As part of this project, the goal of which was to revitalise the Dalmatian donkey, he developed, with the help of a team of engineers, a “solar saddle” – a donkey saddle that collects energy from the sun thus enabling the multimedia artists to do “off-grid” work. In addition, several solo and group exhibitions were realised by the curatorial platform that was formed as part of the project.