London Fieldworks at Clumber Park
Spontaneous City In the Cedar of Lebanon
The lost country house of Clumber, displaced from its footing has finally settled in the high branches of a tree within the avenue of cedars; trees imported from the mountains of the Eastern Mediterranean. The Phoenicians used these trees to build their palaces and temples, and in the Epic of Gilgamesh – the earliest surviving work of literature from Mesopotamia – the cedar groves of Lebanon were the dwelling place of the gods. Within our sculptural assemblage in the cedar at Clumber, the rhythm of the arched entrances of what is now the dwelling place of birds and insects, evoke the light ionic columns of the former stately home – the dynastic seat of the Dukes of Newcastle.
The metamorphic library table, popular during the Regency period, unfolded to access books on the higher shelves. The books would have been collected by various family members over a number of Grand Tours. Another symbol of status and wealth, the Leopard (embodied in our installation as a reproduction of fine Regency furniture) is also changing its shape – not to access knowledge, but to adapt to its new environment: the thick branch of an Oak tree. The 4th Duke had the animal brought over from India in the tradition of the menagerie – aristocratic or royal animal collecting. Resistant to its containment at Clumber, the animal was eventually further displaced to a London zoological garden for the advancement of science and education of the masses.
It’s interesting that the French 18th century definition of menagerie as an “establishment of luxury and curiosity” becomes “a social group living together; a household” in the modern definition. This lexical morphology resonates with our artworks: a metamorphic table on the ground connects to a tree bound chaise longue which connects to a palace of the birds in the canopy of a tree; a hierarchy of historical, cultural and imaginative evocations.
Looming over The Leopard installation with its Regency references is the Gothic Revival Chapel commissioned by the 7th Duke of Newcastle. The Gothic Revival architects designed their buildings as a response to their perception of the Regency as a debauched and decadent regime, in an attempt to invoke the higher spiritual values of the medieval period.
June 19, 2012