‘The Land We Live In - The Land We Left Behind’

Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Bruton, UK

'There was a boy / A very strange, enchanted boy / They say he wandered very far … very wise was he.' The lyrics of 'Nature Boy', penned by the American musician eden ahbez in 1947 and vocalized by Nat King Cole, hint at the singular ambition of ‘The Land We Live In - The Land We Left Behind’. The song was a tribute to ahbez's mentor Bill Pester, an advocate for the lebensreform (life reform) movement, which promoted a back-to-nature lifestyle of health foods, nudism and sexual liberation. Its utopian message produced socialist, apolitical and right-wing offshoots. Such ideological transformations are evident throughout the exhibition, an eccentric collection of more than 150 objects, artworks and documents – including the 'Nature Boy' score – relating to rural culture. The show spans some 500 years, and is curated by Adam Sutherland, director of Grizedale Arts, an organization based in the UK's Lake District with an ethos that promotes the use-value of art.

body_goaths8.jpg

Installation view: 'The Land We Live In - The Land We Left Behind' Hauser & Wirth Somerset, 20 January - 7 May 2018. Courtesy of Hauser & Wirth; photograph: Ken Adlard

‘The Land We Live In - The Land We Left Behind’, 2018, installation view, Hauser & Wirth Somerset. Courtesy: Hauser & Wirth; photograph: Ken Adlard

Many of the contemporary works on view were made at Grizedale or by artists connected to its programme. In one gallery, tableware by more than 20 artists, including Aaron Angell, Laure Prouvost and Francesca Ulivi, lavishly furnishes a banqueting table. Nearby, artist Marcus Coates and Sutherland Hussey Harris Architects' Anchorhold (2015) – a wooden structure based on a tenth-century Anchorite meditation chamber – is available as a retreat for one-to-one conversations, and doubles as an apple store with fruit for visitors to eat. Coates's ‘British Mammal Shits’ (2012), bronze casts of droppings from wild animals including foxes, Scottish wild cats and hedgehogs, serve as paperweights on archival documents. Fernando García-Dory, whose goat pavilion, designed with Hayatsu Architects, is stationed outside the main building, also introduces organic processes into the gallery, with a mobile cheese factory and Life-force / A Choir of Microorganisms Involved in Fermentation (2018): a heap of compost dumped next to four anthropomorphic fruit-and-plant allegories of the seasons painted by Giuseppe Arcimboldo in 1572. The proximity of these works exemplifies the radical egalitarianism with which Sutherland has treated the items in this exhibition.

References to William Morris and the ideals of the arts and crafts movement are dotted throughout, from a copy of his 1890 science-fiction novel News from Nowhere, set in a postindustrial socialist utopia, to a drawing by Edward Burne-Jones of Morris climbing a mountain in Iceland. With a wealth of esoteric material on show, juxtapositions are often interesting but they can also be obscure, and although gallery attendants have been briefed to answer questions, it's the kind of show where visitors end up following their noses.

int105.jpg

‘The Land We Live In - The Land We Left Behind’, 2018, installation view, Hauser & Wirth Somerset. Courtesy: Hauser & Wirth; photograph: Ken Adlard

Morris's influence, especially his championing of the handmade, is evident right up to the present day. The final room is devoted to transdisciplinary groups, including the Fairland Collective, which formed in 2016 after working with Grizedale Arts. Their idiosyncratic list of skills includes photography, anthropology, cheese-mongering and art. A series of arts and crafts-style posters by Kultivator, the Swedish organic farming and visual arts cooperative, came out of a meeting of artists from Scandinavia and the Middle East in Beirut in 2010. When they reconvened after the first wave of the Arab Spring, they drew on their experiences of the revolution to produce ‘Post (R)Evolutionary Exercises’ (2011): 12 illustrated posters with slogans such as ‘Disregard borders’, ‘Help a farmer’ or ‘Buy Nothing’, surrounded by a border featuring Morris’s 1874 ‘Vine’ pattern and a floating stamp of his head. They can be downloaded for free, enabling anyone to reclaim Morris's aesthetic from the bourgeois niche into which it has been pushed and put it to a use that is closer to its original radical and activist intent.

‘The Land We Live In - The Land We Left Behind’ curated by Adam Sutherland at Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Bruton, runs until 7 May.

Main image: Marcus Coates, Turtle Mountain, 2012, digital video still. © the artist

Ellen Mara De Wachter is a writer based in London, UK. Her book Co-Art: Artists on Creative Collaboration is published by Phaidon (2017).

Issue 194

First published in Issue 194

April 2018

Most Read

If artificial intelligence were ever to achieve sentience, could it feasibly produce art? (And would it be good?)
The punk activist-artists have been charged with disruption after they charged the field during the France vs Croatia...
27 educators are taking the London gallery to an employment tribunal, demanding that they be recognized as employees
In further news: Glasgow School of Art to be rebuilt; Philadelphia Museum of Art gets a Frank Gehry-designed restaurant
Highlights from Condo New York 2018 and Commonwealth and Council at 47 Canal: the summer shows to see
Knussen’s music laid out each component as ‘precarious, vulnerable, exposed’ – and his conducting similarly worked from...
Nods to the game in World Cup celebrations show how dance has gone viral – but unwittingly instrumentalized for...
‘You can’t reason with him but you can ridicule him’ – lightweight as it is, Trump Baby is a win for art as a...
Anderson and partner Juman Malouf are sorting through the treasures of the celebrated Kunsthistorisches Museum for...
From Capote to Basquiat, the pop artist’s glittering ‘visual diary’ of the last years of his life is seen for the first...
‘When I opened Monika Sprüth Galerie, only very few German gallerists represented women artists’
Can a ragtag cluster of artists, curators and critics really push back against our ‘bare’ art world?
In further news: German government buys Giambologna at the eleventh hour; LACMA’s new expansion delayed
Gucci and Frieze present film number two in the Second Summer of Love series, focusing on the history of acid house
Judges described the gallery’s GBP£20 million redevelopment by Jamie Fobert Architects as ‘deeply intelligent’ and a ‘...
Is the lack of social mobility in the arts due to a self-congratulatory conviction that the sector represents the...
The controversial intellectual suggests art would be better done at home – she should be careful what she wishes for
Previously unheard music on Both Directions At Once includes blues as imposing as the saxophonist would ever record
In further news: Macron reconsiders artist residencies; British Council accused of censorship; V&A to host largest...
In our devotion to computation and its predictive capabilities are we rushing blindly towards our own demise?
Arts subjects are increasingly marginalized in the UK curriculum – but the controversial intellectual suggests art is...
An exhibition of performances at Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw, unfolds the rituals of sexual encounters
An art historian explains what the Carters’s takeover of the Paris museum says about art, race and power
Artist Andrea Fraser’s 2016 in Museums, Money and Politics lifts the lid on US museum board members and...
The Ruhrtriennale arts festival disinvited the Scottish hip-hop trio for their pro-Palestinian politics, then u-turned
The Baltimore’s director on why correcting the art historical canon is not only right but urgent for museums to remain...
Serpentine swimmers complain about Christo’s floating pyramid; and Hermitage’s psychic cat is a World Cup oracle: the...
The largest mural in Europe by the artist has been hidden for 30 years in an old storage depot – until now
Alumni Martin Boyce, Karla Black, Duncan Campbell and Ciara Phillips on the past and future of Charles Rennie...
In further news: po-mo architecture in the UK gets heritage status; Kassel to buy Olu Oguibe’s monument to refugees
The frieze columnist's first novel is an homage to, and embodiment of, the late, great Kathy Acker
60 years after the celebrated Brutalist architect fell foul of local authorities, a Berlin Unité d’Habitation apartment...
The British artist and Turner Prize winner is taking on the gun advocacy group at a time of renewed debate around arms...
The central thrust of the exhibition positions Sicily as the fulcrum of geopolitical conflicts over migration, trade,...
The Carters’s museum takeover powers through art history’s greatest hits – with a serious message about how the canon...
The 20-metre-high Mastaba finally realizes the artist and his late wife Jeanne-Claude’s design
‘What is being exhibited at Manifesta, above all, is Palermo itself’
With the 12th edition of the itinerant European biennial opening in Palermo, what do local artists, curators and...
In the age of Brexit, why Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to return the ‘stolen’ Parthenon marbles has never been...
The curators seem set to ask, ‘how civilized is the world’s current state of affairs?’
US true crime series Unsolved takes two formative pop cultural events to explore their concealed human stories and...

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018