The Walled Garden begins at the gate. The Gate is mysterious but inviting; it does not demand attention, but it’s hard to look away once you’ve noticed it.
Inside the Gate is a Key: a legend of symbols that map out our code. In contrast with a set of rules, a code is more generous and optimistic; it’s a list of things to do, rather than not to do. This allows for more individualization, more spontaneous generation.
Spontaneous generation is the hinge that links botanical and technological growth. Inside the walled garden of Peridot Green, we foster a balance of organic and synthetic processes. Machine Learning is similar to Plant Learning in its cellular, unemotional efforts, inheriting what works, ignoring what doesn’t. They lean towards the light. Order multiplies itself.
A Walled Garden is cozy and self-contained, serene and nurturing. It is always growing, welcoming new ideas, visitors, and citizens. It is a place of contradictions: free yet secure, creative yet controlled. In network theory, the Walled Garden represents a space of open play without consequences; a closed ecosystem where control is centralized. It may be the proprietary network of a single firm — where only employees, logging in via their administrative permissions, may enter and talk to each other, generating quantifiable productivity metrics. It may be a video game, where the player is contained inside a vast playground of missions and side quests, where all actions have been pre-writ by the game’s programmers.
A social network is a Walled Garden, where users must sign in via one or two-factor authentication, exchanging notes and bits of stories with their fellow users, all path-determinant. A single entity dictates the walls of the space, who plays there, and what happens inside. Giving the appearance of safe participation, of happy inclusion, the digital infrastructures underpinning these inclusions make strict decisions about how participants may interact both with ideas and with each other. Algorithms make choices, privileging some participants and projects while sidelining others. Because the Walled Garden presents an image of open play, such algorithms are oft times invisible, building shadow regimes of dubious accountability.
This type of networked security, however, can provide a sense of safety, as experimental thought (that which is permitted) is shielded from those outside the walls, fostering a culture of constructive critique. Creative experimentation is encouraged. There is no danger of outside attack, or vulnerability to those who don’t belong inside the garden. Such a culture, this safe space, reverberates with the horticultural definition of a Walled Garden, where the walls are built high enough to protect the inside from damaging winds, creating a microclimate of supportive temperate conditions.
The metaphors we use to describe these environments shape the potentials we imagine for them.
Early Origins of Peridot Green
Centuries ago, the place where Peridot Green now stands was a quiet and lovely hollow in lush viridian forest. There was an ancient maple tree at the center, its branches always full of songbirds, its roots a secret nesting place for seabirds. Creeping myrtle snaked around the mossy floor, ivy crawled up the stone, wisteria spiraled tendrils up the canopy. A small waterfall led a stream to a scenic eddy on its way to the Hudson River. There was a large gray boulder with one side encrusted with small crystals in many shades of green; this became known as Peridot Rock.
Peridot Rock is where a native tribe, the Mosfet, met a tribe of sailors who had crossed the Atlantic on a ship named the Blanco Grande. Mosfet were great naturalists — they knew all the local flora and fauna, everything about how to help them thrive and grow. The crew of the Blanco Grande were great inventors – they had developed all the navigational and rigging mechanisms on their beautiful birch ship. For years the two tribes exchanged their expertises in affectionate symbiosis. Their languages blended naturally, as each had been developed to express different ideas and things.
The civilization the Mosfet had built began at Peridot Rock and crept into the verdure of the valley. Large steeply rising hills hugged the ancient people and their village creating the look of a large walled garden. Within these natural walls the Mosfet grew maize, beans and herbs of every variety imaginable. It was with these crops that the Mosfet traded with the settlers of the Blanco Grande, mostly for metal gardening tools. With these the Mosfet dug great irrigation channels in the steep hills surrounding Peridot Green, which afforded them even greater yield on their crops. The two peoples learned much from one another and developed a mutual respect. The Mosfet granted the new settlers the area of Peridot Rock where they could live as neighbors, while they contented themselves in the village, ensconced in their lovely Peridot Green. Although their differences were great the two peoples became friends and enjoying a thriving conviviality. Every three months they had great festivals together to share drink and art. However, this relationship was not to last. It wasn’t long until new ships arrived and with them came the catalyst.
The new settlers quickly found the affinity their people had with the Mosfet distasteful in their old world mouths. Their tongues lashed out and they condemned the settlers of the Blanco Grande. How dare they mix with these people of the greens, they would shout. The newly arrived leader, a man named Friedrich Kallstadt, decried that, ‘all relations with the Mosfet should hereby cease.’ He also set his people to constructing a wall to separate the Mosfet and Peridot Green from the settlers at Peridot Rock.
At the completion of this project, the settlers found themselves without crops and overloaded with unused tools. The wall cut them off not only from the Mosfet but also from fertile land that they could farm. Kallstadt in a fury blamed the Mosfet for the situation. He said that the Mosfet had tricked them into accepting this land and that it was their duty to take Peridot Green in response for such an egregious affront. The new settlers took the unused gardening tools and melted them down to fashion cannons which they affixed with wheels. They destroyed their own wall and proceeded to march on the Mosfet.
The night before the attack, the first settlers of the Blanco Grande snuck away to warn the Mosfet. They were accepted back as friends and the two peoples retreated into the surrounding hills of Peridot green to await the invaders together. When Kallstadt arrived he found nobody, and razed the village. As the Mosfet watched in the hills they began to cry and the sound came down to Kallstadt. He brought the cannons forward and ordered them to fire on the hills surrounding Peridot Green. As the cannonballs fell onto the steep hills, a strange thing happened. They ricocheted through the boulders, falling into the irrigation channels dug by the Mosfet. The channels redirected the cannonballs. They gathered speed, tumbling downward. The channels all led to Peridot Green. The cannonballs came rolling back, crashing through the defenses of Kallstadt and his people.* The uninjured picked up the cannonballs, reloaded their cannons, fired back. Those also came crashing back through the lines. This went on for quite a long time until Kallstadt and his army of settlers were thoroughly battered. The Mosfet and the settlers of the Blanco Grande then came down from the hills and forced Kallstadt and the remaining new settlers back to their boats and sent them away forever. The two peoples rebuilt their villages and helped each other once again. Of course more settlers arrived and the Mosfet were eventually forced to flee, but for a short while the friendly symbiosis between the two was able to thrive.
*A noteworthy result of this bit of history is found interestingly enough in the sport of bowling. The ball return is known to have been fashioned after the irrigation channels of the Mosfet that returned the cannonballs of Kallstadt’s invading army.
One of the few naturalists of the Blanco Grande settlers, Traci Page dedicated her time at Peridot Green to the study of flora. With much diligence she painted the lushness of the valley. Some say that the term ‘Green Thumb’ originated with Page, as she was frequently seen studying her plants with green paint upon her hands and holding up a thumb to capture the scene. The Mosfet saw with what tenderness Page painted her leafy subjects and were moved. Here was one that felt deeply of the earth, and so they imparted their knowledge of the tamed and untamed agriculture of Peridot Green to her. Page was also one of the first settlers to be taken in entirely by the Mosfet. After the arrival of the new ships and Kallstadt’s decry of the natives Page felt that she would not help this wickedness with her freshly acquired expertise. She fled to the Mosfet and was thereafter banished by her own people. Little is known of her whereabouts after this time, but we still have her work to show the beauty of the valley, of her consecration of the flora, and love of the Mosfet.
Robert Frank Rohr was originally known as Dush-kwo-ne'-she, which meant ‘dragonfly.’ A member of the Mosfet tribe, he was their most valued artist. His layered colorful paintings captured the true beauty of recursion in nature and were most revered by the settlers of the Blanco Grande. In the first of the art festivals held between the two civilizations his work was gobbled up by the settlers who traded whatever they had to attain them. The paintings adorned almost every home in Peridot Rock when the new settlers arrived with Kallstadt. They too were mesmerized by Dush-kwo-ne’-she’s work, who they renamed Robert Frank Rohr as most couldn’t pronounce his Mosfet name. Some of the new settlers decided that they could make a fortune by abducting him and capitalizing on the new craze for Wunderkammer (Cabinets of Wonder) in Europe, for which his paintings were perfect. Under the cover of night a small ship’s crew stole him away along with a number of Mosfet people to be sold as slaves. However, during the trip back to Europe, Robert Frank Rohr and the other Mosfet revolted and took the ship, setting the crew adrift on rowboats. They then went on to be the first native american pirate vessel with Robert Frank Rohr as their captain. It is said that although they lived a life at sea, Rohr and his crew stuck to their Mosfet ways. They were always surrounded by plants which were brought on board from every port. Rohr’s cabin on the ship was supposedly decorated floor to ceiling by his paintings and the entry was lined with bright pink and yellow flowers which we have tried to replicate in The Walled Garden.
From the very first meeting of the Mosfet with the settlers of the Blanco Grande, Christina Van Der Merwe was most interested in their culture. For hours upon hours she would watch their village with her spyglass, recording their day to day movements. She took particular interest in the amount of time each member of the tribe spent toiling with earth. “These beautiful people seem to commune with the Earth. They speak through their hands with the rolling of soil in dirty fingers and the trees curtsy to them like lovely ladies of court,” wrote Merwe in her journal. As the two cultures learned to live with each other, Merwe immersed in every moment that she could spend with the Mosfet. She was the first of the settlers to speak the native language. This afforded her much understanding. On the eve of Kallstadt’s attack on the Mosfet it was Merwe that convinced the settlers of the Blanco Grande to abscond and warn their native friends. She was a master jeweler and the work that we have of hers is what remains of the ornamental gorgets and badges worn on military uniforms of the settlers. The leaves and moon are dedicated to the Mosfet and their communion with nature. We think that it was these exact pieces shown here in The Walled Garden that were worn by Merwe on the day of the infamous attack by Kallstadt.
After the arrival of the Blanco Grande, the Mosfet were naturally apprehensive about approaching these new aliens. They were so different in every way from their own people that they thought perhaps the settlers to be demons. They trudged with heavy booted steps. They chopped down many trees to make homes. Their noise did not flow, did not move with the forest. Instead it fought the whisper of the leaves like fish swimming upstream. Chief Aiyana (eternal bloom) of the Mosfet had said, ‘I do not believe these sea people to be as we are. They are possibly different animals with very dangerous natures. They are partners with destruction. They cover their nature head to toe and should not be trusted.’ During one of the early meetings with the settlers Foster Wattles was the man responsible for uniting the two peoples and bridging the gap of trust between them. He had seen the Mosfet racing nude through fields of flowers, as was their custom of competition and also a perfuming device. At the moment when the Mosfet seemed most uncertain and uneasy in their meeting, Wattles in an instant of ingenuity and brilliance, stripped off his clothing and ran with the Mosfet. There was much cheering and whooping. The Mosfet for the first time saw the settlers as human as themselves, and finally accepted them as equals.
Famine was widespread during the first winter of the Blanco Grande settlers. They had begun a relationship with the Mosfet, but had yet to fully initiate trading. The settlers had no crops stored to last the winter and the people were starving. They appealed to the Mosfet to hold a meeting where they could trade for supplies to outlast the cold Manhattan winter. The Mosfet agreed, and on a cold and windy winter morning the historic meeting took place. Chief Aiyana stood in a cold skeletal dell as the wind blew her winter cloaks. Her hair obscured her face as William Ross, the governor of the settlers, trudged over the dead leaf bed to stand before her. In a sudden gust, her face was revealed and William Ross was shocked. ‘You’re nought but a wee girl!’ he yelled. ‘Go little one, and get your father so that we can conduct our business.’ Chief Aiyana turned and said that she would have nothing to do with this man, but if he would send his wife then the lives of the settlers might be spared.
William Ross in dismayed desperation returned to his village and called for his wife Chelsea. The Mosfet were a matrilineal tribe. The children belong to the clan of their mother — the leaders were mothers and their lineage ruled. The eldest mother had recently died, leaving Aiyana the Chief, at a young thirteen years of age. Chelsea Ross met with Chief Aiyana the very next morning and the two orchestrated the trade of much needed foodstuffs for the very tools that helped create the irrigation channels in the hills surrounding Peridot Green. When Chelsea Ross came back to the village with the essential supplies the settlers were much surprised, and in later times turned to her rather than her husband in important matters.
The history of the Mosfet and the people of the Blanco Grande was lost to the world until just recently. It came with the discovery of Bryan McGovern Wilson’s piece in The Walled Garden. Within its leaves and branches, its looping and eddies, and its labyrinthian center researchers found a map of ancient Peridot Green. The piece evinces a focus toward the center and indicates that at that center is a great reward. Researchers in an excited frenzy flew to the location of Peridot Green attempting to use the map. Wilson’s work revealed more and more as they searched. Leaves represented plotted flora, branches, the lost irrigation channels, and at the middle, the old village. Researchers became discouraged when they found at the absolute center not the treasure that they had hoped for but a hoary old Maple tree. They soon discovered the tree to be ancient and apparently very important to the Mosfet. This was when they saw the brilliance of Wilson’s work. Not only was his piece a map of the area, but a map of the tree as well. When they followed it to its center once again they found buried in the middle a carved string of pearls. After much inspection experts learned that the pearls revealed the history of the Mosfet.
Little is known of Bryan McGovern Wilson himself. An explorer and artist of the early ages, his movement is traced through his remaining work which has been found, remarkably, all over the world. It is believed that he lived with the Mosfet before their inevitable exodus of Peridot Green. How he made it to their civilization is a mystery. Consistency shows that he made all of his materials himself. His work becomes increasingly cerebral and intricate. Many are confused as to how an artist of his era could create such work without modern technology leading to some interesting speculations of the man. Many Wilson savants believe he was on a journey of enlightenment and that his work was the tool he used to achieve this as he trekked the globe. What is known is that our recent familiarity with the Mosfet and the origins of Peridot Green are due to his enigmatic work.