The Open Fields
MA summer shows
UAL, Camberwell College of Art, London
The Open Fields is the culminating exhibition from work made on the MA: Printmaking course at Camberwell College of Art. The installation of etchings, photography and audio create a single work that links to histories of land usage in Britain.
This body of work comes out of research into the history of The Commons, and Land Enclosures. This is a layered history that runs from around the 13th to the 20th century in which open shared common land was physically enclosed to allow for private ownership and controlled usage of land and resources.
The works presented in the exhibition are all from site visits to the small farming village of Laxton, in Nottinghamshire. Laxton is the last place in the country to keep this communal ‘Open Field’ system or farming. The farmers work side by side, working strips of land on the three main fields, where everyone gets a fair share of good and bad soil. Although they now use modern machinery, the methods of land distribution and usage have remained the same since medieval times.
The audio piece is from an interview with a locate farmer who describes his, and his family’s, intimate knowledge and connection to working the land in Laxton.
The etchings are of wooden pegs that are used every year on the ‘Jury Day’. This is when a jury of 12 farmers go around measuring the edges of the fields to check that no one has over farmed the land or ploughed into an area they shouldn’t have. This is very necessary as these historic ‘Open Fields’ do not have fencing or walls to physically mark out whose land is whose. The peg etchings are displayed, spread out across the gallery walls, low down to the ground, echoing how they are used in real life in Laxton to measure the land. Finally the photographic open book spreads are displayed on the floor, to emphasize the importance of the ground. The images are taken with analogue film cameras of Laxton’s fields. They show the traces and marks left on the land from the human processes of farming.