Magazine article Art Monthly

Tatton Park Biennial 2010: Framing Identity

Magazine article Art Monthly

Tatton Park Biennial 2010: Framing Identity

Article excerpt

Tatton Park Biennial 2010: Framing Identity

Tatton Park Knutsford 8 May to 26 September

An unassuming car thief ensured that this year's Tatton Park Biennial hit the headlines ahead of its opening last month when they made off with Clara Ursitti's Ghost (all works 2010), an L-registration Nissan Sunny imbued with the opulent scent of a Rolls-Royce interior. Fortunately, a replacement was found in time for the opening which, despite not being sound-proofed like the original version, still managed effectively to evoke the ambiance of the Silver Cloud. Riding around the Tatton Park estate in Ursitti's beat-up, chauffer-driven taxi, with its luxurious leather and hardwood fragrance, is one of several highlights in this hit-and-miss second edition of the Biennial, which has again been curated by Danielle Arnaud and Jordan Kaplan. Twenty artists have created new site- and context-specific artworks for the gardens and mansion, encompassing a ragbag of--rather loose--themes, including: identity, class, landscape and issues of sustainability.

Not only does Ursitti's tongue-in-cheek work address several of these themes, it also speaks of the British love for motoring. Indeed, Maurice Egerton, the last Baron of Tatton, was an enthusiastic early motorist. He can be seen roaring around the estate in his 1900 Benz in Annika Eriksson's The Last Lord, which, displayed in a dinky six-seater cinema, combines Egerton's home movies with her own footage to ostensibly examine the UK's class divide. Quite how this is achieved is unclear but Eriksson's compelling work does present an intriguing public insight into the private whims of an aristocratic playboy.

Also responding to the baron's ostentatious lifestyle is Ryan Gander, who spins a deliciously subversive fiction in The 4th Baron Egerton's 16 Plumed Bird of Paradise. The 4th Baron was a widely travelled hunter and, according to Gander, once acquired an extremely rare 16-plumed bird of paradise, which was adopted as the family emblem. Subsequently the taxidermied specimen was revealed to be a fake and the Egertons, in a fit of embarrassed consternation, supposedly resolved to banish all traces of it. Illustrating Gander's irreverent yet amusing narrative are several works scattered around the site: the bird itself (now consigned to the manager's office, along with other 'undisplayables') can be glimpsed through a window; while outside, the broken remnants of a statue once celebrating the infamous creature are strewn around the Arboretum; and in the gift shop, a supposedly old run of postcards featuring its image have 'accidentally' been put on display, ready to be sold to unsuspecting visitors.

The 4th Baron's genuine hunting exploits are well attested to in the Tenants' Hall, which is hung with myriad curiosities and big-game trophies. Outside, Neville Gabie's A Weight of Ice Carried from the North for You presents another kind of exotic trophy: an enormous hunk of ice harvested from Greenland's glacial ice field and housed inside a solar-powered freezer. Issues of sustainability and the environmental impact of transporting such objects and artworks may be in view here, but a more pressing concern is whether or not the British summer will allow this risky piece to survive until the end of the Biennial.

Elsewhere, environmental themes collide with identity politics in Jimmie Durham's Spring Fever, which comprises an assemblage of cordoned-off oil drums, apparently leaking all over the lawn. …

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