Here comes the future

03 May 2010

Not long now, and close enough to the opening to get lost in the process of imagining the biennial shape of things to come, how the proposals for the commissions (and my mind's eye view of them), will compare with the works in situ. It's a period of time that, even though I have had nothing to do with making the project, feels significant, as once past the marker of the 7th May the project will, for this blog, become a real point of reference as opposed to a floating set of images and ideas. And the small fact that it's the day after the general election.

A good time, perhaps, to (define some conceptual territories I can contradict at a later date) explore how the artists have chosen to travel between the various incarnations of Tatton (as visitor attraction, heritage site, rural idyll and former home), without bending any (real or virtual) corners of the books that tell the story of the past here or permanently altering any facet of the site itself. For I can imagine that initial contact with the art works in the landscape might give rise to the notion of artist as magician: conjurors of visions, objects and scenes that are in but not of this place.

Naturally, these projects are not all about obvious contrasts or opposing sensibilities and there are many ways to link or separate them. But I'm going to start with those made with invasion in mind: works that jolt one out of pastoral propriety and into some version of the here and now or proposed vision of the future.

Jimmie Durham's irreverent cluster of coloured oil drums appears something of a magnetic marker in the wake of the current disaster. The American artist, highlighting the public/private aspect of this site, siutates the land issues of his Cherokee heritage within a wider global picture of greed and spillage. On the maximal flip side of this rather simple but highly effective intervention sits Neville Gabie's block of Greenlandish ice, an extraordinary import currently sustained by solar- and water-powered technology (more about this in future post 'Sideshow').

The possibility of alien activity or the various cultural tropes this idea brings to mind, link the works of Steve Messam and Plastique Fantastique. Where Messam, with his giant synthetic lily pads, channels the issue of ecological balance through a crop-circle-type endeavour, David Burrows's and Simon O'Sullivan's colourful 'Modern' armature and props for an other-wordly performance speak of utopian endeavours past and the often-retro stylistics used to describe the unknown.

Fiona Curran's exploded-painting of a shed in a tree may, similarly, convey the possibility of having recently landed, yet, close-to the focus will very likely be on the awkward nature of this structural embrace: the ludicrous effort likely required to get it up and keep it there without incident or damage. Notions of craft -- whether the innate brilliance of nature's designs or traditional skills lost -- versus fine-art's conceptual wrangle with aesthetics are also close to the sculptural practice of Kate MccGwire. Her vomity, yet doubtlessly impressive explosion of feathers (of game birds traditionally found on site) from a kitchen oven in the house appears to wash through the space like a visibly avian virus. Is the past being infected by the present or the other way around?

Next up: 'Re-search'

Posted by Rebecca Geldard at 12:49 PM