Magazine article Art Monthly

Hester Reeve: YMEDACA

Magazine article Art Monthly

Hester Reeve: YMEDACA

Article excerpt

Hester Reeve is zooming around the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in a Gator truck dressed in a beige goddess-like artist's smock, hair streaming in the wind. She is dispensing flasks of tea and coffee to outlying groups participating in her project to transform the YSP into a contemporary version of Plato's 'Academos', YMEDACA. Plato was unforthcoming about the exact nature of his proto-academy except that it took place in a 'large garden'. Reeve has taken this blank template and mapped into it a one-day conceptual sculpture, proceeding from dawn to dusk. She has not added to YSP's already considerable complement of massive sculptures; rather, she has created a transparent overlay of assigned meeting places and other topographical synapses where knowledge could flourish. So, it's a 'pop-up academy', if we must call it that, though it has taken shape far from instantly.

One building in a cluster of otherwise empty 1960s structures at the park, once part of Bretton Hall College, still houses the National Arts Education Archive, now in the care of YSP. It is a valuable but curious aggregation of disparate historical collections, among which Reeve found the similarly unclassifiable private book collection of the polymath artist, curator and educator Philip Rawson (1924-1995). For this project, Reeve redesignated the Archive's exhibition space as a 'Temple of the Muses'. Here are invoked the spirits of Martin Heidegger, Raymond Roussel and Herbert Read in the form of further inspiring items she uncovered in the Archive. Reeves has also represented Rawson's books here for the public to read, as YMEDACA's 'central library'. They form a tower of bookshelves from the interior of which the sound of cicadas intermittently emerges (according to Plato, cicadas were inspired by the muses to sing ceaselessly).

Stationed around the park are the members of seven regional groups of enthusiasts and serious amateurs, all prepared to present actions and enter into discourse related to the Platonic question, 'how can education link to the joy of the soul?' Astronomers, naturists, traditional handtool users, stage magicians, the British Legion, pagans and a choir--each group's activities are matched with one of Plato's Academic precepts. The Handtool Users United, for example, are concerned with 'Practices of Transcendence over the Mundane', which in their case takes the form of the scything of reeds by the lake. But what sounded like a guest list of off-kilter British eccentrics was really not that at all. …

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