Healing Garden, A Virtual Reality Project by Pantea Karimi
FEATURED ARTIST, Pages 36-41
BY Katie Mcgowan & Nina Dietz
Healing Garden is a virtual reality project that I envisioned in 2017 after the medicinal botanical gardens of the Alhambra Palace in Andalusia, Spain. Andalusia was the birthplace of the Herbal, which is one of the most remarkable manuscripts of medicinal botany in the middle ages. The book was composed by the 12th c. Andalusian physician and scholar al-Ghafiqi and was copied and read by many healers and physicians throughout the following centuries.
Wearing VR headset, participants “enter” the Healing Garden, which is a courtyard with white arches, and ten plant beds around a water fountain on a floor that is covered with Moorish tiles. They use their own hands to pick a series of medicinal plants and arrange them in the plant beds. Thus, they create a virtual garden as a metaphor for reconnecting with nature for healing. The plants are modeled after my screen-printed images on paper, which were inspired by al-Ghafiqi’s illustrations in The Herbal. Water and fountains were integral parts of medieval Islamic gardens and palaces of Andalusia. The sound of water fountains and the moving reflections of buildings, trees and flowers on its rippling surface contributed to a unique, calming experience for the residents. Similarly, in my VR Healing Garden, participants have the opportunity to listen to the sound of water fountain. The participant can then “walk” on the glowing Moorish tiles under the sun and pass through the Moorish arcades and enjoy her/his handcrafted garden from a short distance.