Wish you Were Here: Micro Residency, Artist Researcher (Interpretation) Erddig House & Gardens

The Bridge in the Park, Erddig House & Gardens, Nr. Wrexham, Wales

The Bridge in the Park, Erddig House & Gardens, Nr. Wrexham, Wales

Micro Residency, Artist Researcher, National Trust, Archaeology Team, Erddig House & Gardens, Nr Wrexham, Wales 15th – 31st October.

In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Erddig like this:

“ERTHIG, or Erddig, a township in Gresford parish, Denbigh; on Offa’s Dyke, 2 miles SW of Wrexham. Pop., 117. Houses, 31. Erthig Hall is the seat of the Yorkes, -of whom was Philip -Yorke, author of “The Royal Tribes of Wales;” has, on the walls and ceilings of one of its rooms, the heraldic bearings of the tribes; and occupies a charming situation.” [1]

I have recently spent the week at the Yale Hostel about a mile from Erddig (pronounced Erthig) House & Gardens as Artist Researcher (Interpretation) assisting the monitoring of the Archaeological Monuments in the grounds of Erddig which has a formal walled garden and covers 485 hectares equalling 1,200 acres. The collection at Erddig is the 2nd largest in the UK, bequeathed to the Trust under the provision that no item be discarded. Supporting the Field Archaeology Team my remit is to contribute artistically to the undertaking of the Archaeological and Historic Landscape Survey at Erddig. My contribution includes A] Deep Mapping: Stories in the Landscape, B] The Map & The Territory: Utilising items in the collection to interpret the Landscape C] Documenting the Process: in a format that can be understood by the public D] Visualising and Representing the Data: making recommendations regarding the concrete representation of the Historic Buildings, Sites and Monuments Record which is essentially a digital database of the archaeological monuments in the historic parkland.

As a visual artist my artistic practice is site specific whether this site be actual, physical, textual, fictional or virtual. Both contextually and historically sensitive the role of place and place making is central to my work. Within this there is a tacit acknowledgement that the concept of place is constructed from a complex network of relations i.e symbolic, social, political, familial, local, national and historical. Place is central to the sensitive concept of belonging and home which contribute to a person’s autobiographical identity. This profoundly affects how that identity is situated and has significant impact on emotional wellbeing. Within my work I take a methodical, detailed, and extensively researched approach to the curation of material in order to construct comprehensive documents of place in the form of installed environments. In many respects I am a custodian or caretaker who respectfully recuperates, conserves and restores micro histories, narratives, objects and images that have been orphaned, discarded or forgotten. Legacy, whilst it may not always be visible, is a constant presence whether this relates to National Trust custodianship, archaeological practice, the historic parkland at Erddig, personal history or artistic practice. The rich tapestry that is art history, an artists’ conceptual trajectory, their historical timeline, the time of their work, the time of its making, the context in which one is making and their contemporaries all add up to what the literary critic Harold Bloom called, in the book of the same name, the anxiety of influence. Art does not occur in isolation, it is always made in ‘situ’. As a printmaker there is no such thing as a blank piece of paper, one always approaches it knowing that contextually, historically, artistically and technologically that it is already replete; it is a dialogue not a monologue.

Similarly the National Trust’s investment in significant cultural, historical and natural places, the people who populate them and the communities that surround them ensure our heritage is preserved as well as shared by enabling people to contribute and collaborate in its preservation. Personally speaking the research aims to investigate the intersection between art and archaeology, whereby art can also be a form of historiography that re-contextualises our relations to the past as a form of memorial or restoration. For that reason I will also be mining the art historical legacy relating to the site specific and the correlation between an aspect of historical archaeological practice and conceptual art, the concept of the grid. This concrete and in depth engagement with Erddig, generously facilitated by Kathy Laws: Archaeologist at the National Trust, will develop a more comprehensive understanding of what it means to be site specific, not just artistically & imaginatively, but historically, physically, technologically and contextually. This can only improve the depth of my work as an artist engaged with concepts of place, contexts, histories and heritage both private and public.

[1] http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/place/3124