the placebo and the nocebo

FAITH and its cultivation are at stake in ’The Placebo and the Nocebo’, which brings ten weeping cedars to Saint Knud’s cloister garden in Odense. Two traditional cultivation techniques have shaped the trees’ growth – in radically different ways. One technique encourages the upward growth of the tree, which is bound to a stake in order to straighten its natural tendency to bend down. The other technique dictates that the tree be painstakingly pruned in order to tame its natural tendency to grow upward.

‘The Placebo and the Nocebo’ operates on the line between cultivation and constraint. Two structures stand over the cloister garden’s centre. One holds a 50 year-old cedar up above the garden’s fountain; in the Bible, the cedar tree is associated with virtuous strength and cleansing, its use advised in the treatment of leprosy. The other structure links the tree’s downward-growing shoot to its stunted bonsai partner, protecting it and holding up a tree whose growth has continually been held down.

Playing on horticultural habits, ‘The Placebo and the Nocebo’ asks questions of how our desires to control, cultivate, cull and cure have grown together.

Placebo, n. < classical Latin placēbō I shall be pleasing or acceptable […]>
Nocebo, n. < classical Latin nocēbō I shall cause harm or be harmful […]>
– Oxford English Dictionary