MAP Magazine: MOTHER-SHIP

Studio Morison, 'MOTHER', 2020. Photo: Charles Emerson, Courtesy of Wysing Arts Centre and National Trust for New Geographies

 

I had been reading about bogs.

The wide, flat immutability of the landscape, the low horizon, the stillness and the intensity of silence—all of these qualities could persuade you that a bog is not just set outside of time, but set apart from life. [1]

I had been reading about bogs and was then expelled squint-eyed into wet land and a huge blue sky that reflected back in sticky grey clay pools. Of Celtic moor and bog, Sharon Blackie continues, ‘time works differently in the bog. Sometimes, in this disquieting liminal zone in which decay and decomposition are largely suspended, it hardly seems to pass at all.’

Bogs, as in fenlands, as in wetlands, are expanses of watery, saturated, peat-rich earth. Always wet, always fertile, they are ‘storm absorbing’ lands and on that day the ground had ingested Brendan, Gloria, Dennis. To experience The Fens is to feel both its permanence and the passing of time in its seasonal fluxes, in the land that has been drained and culled and farmed and conserved since the Romans. The sedge and grooves of dykes and drains bear the scars of its employment––its assault and immutability.

Against that blue sky, in what was once deemed the ‘Holy land of England’ on account of its many monasteries––Ely, Wisbeach, Peterborough––we became pilgrims, unthwarted by sticky clay-rich mud path and seeking a new work by Studio Morison, titled MOTHER.

This site-specific installation set in Wicken Fen is part of New Geographies, a project which maps the east of England through artists’ interpretations of unexplored and overlooked places. By way of an international open-call to practitioners, and using publicly-nominated sites, this three year project interjects an ancient landscape, that of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, with non-quotidian moments: queer rambling in Norwich; an army of neon-dressed artist-workers in a brown Peterborough quarry.

Like sun-shy moles or deranged urban foxes, we arrive at Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire, ready to be ‘rewilded’. We are beckoned across open landscape by the large hayrick nestling stalwart on a grassy ridge, and welcomed by Heather Morison clutching tea. Close by, a makeshift canopy serves earthy borscht and hearty bread.

This structure––building, vessel, and sculpture––by husband and wife duo Studio Morison speaks the vernacular of the landscape: a cylindrical space of timber frame from the artists’ own forest, tightly woven local straw thatching, a ceiling oculus cut into the high double layered conical roof and long slit-shaft openings that allow the surroundings to be seen one way, and then another, so that to experience MOTHER is to experience something personal and fleeting amidst the limitless open.

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