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Ackroyd and Harvey's 'Cunningham'

Date uploaded: September 9, 2013

Void gallery is pleased to present the first public artwork in Northern Ireland by internationally renowned artists Ackroyd and Harvey: Cunningham.

Part of Artists' Gardens for Void Sites curated by Greg Mc Cartney
15th September
- 27th October, the Cunningham Building, Ebrington Barracks, Derry~Londonderry.

Cunningham is the second Artists' Gardens from the Void Sites program for 2013. The Cunningham building at Ebrington has been chosen as the site for a temporary art installation with the intention to plant and grow the facade with seedling grass. Nature and structure, control and randomness are juxtaposed in the artists work to reveal a time-based practice with intrinsic bias towards process and event. Through creating a surreal manifestation of a landmark building, enacting a transformation, the artists present a rare opportunity to open up new possibilities for interpretation and experience.

In the 23 years that they have worked together this is the 5th work where they have grown the façade of the building. The Cunningham building at Ebrington is from the Late Victorian period, austere in its presence and brooding over the contested site of a former military barracks, prior to this it was an orchard in the 17th century. The site was chosen for its architectural heritage, historical context and socio –politico associations. The artist’s intention is to cover the front façade of the building with a layer of clay into which will be planted millions of germinating grass seeds. The familiarity of living grass as a material and their artistic practice of ‘growing’ enacts powerful transformations. It encourages and creates new feeling for place, fresh imaginings and in the process temporarily reshapes monumental buildings.

The work is time based, changes daily and rapidly interfaces between germination and growth and the eventual demise of the grass skin. It becomes a living process and no longer a solid architectural site. Being covered by a grainy brown seed initially draws out the architectural contours of the building, this then morphs into a spectrum of change that occurs on several different levels. As the grass grows the inanimate building takes on a living presence; the grass can be seen as a living pelt fluctuating between beast and botany. There is a sense that the building is consumed by the verdant growth, the familiar architectural details becoming effaced. Clay, seed, water and light are deployed by the artists to explore the boundary between growth and decay in the urban space and by skilfully manipulating grass's properties and connotations, they articulate and actualize notions of ephemerality, landscape, and memory. 

Noirin McKinney Director of Arts Development at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland said: ‘Art is woven in to the fabric of our society. The Ackroyd and Harvey project places creativity beautifully in the centre of our lives. The opportunity to experience work from such highly acclaimed international artists is a reflection of the quality of work we have been exposed to throughout the UK City of Culture 2013. We hope such work engages audiences and encourages them to continue pursuing artistic experiences.’

The artists take up their residency at the building for three weeks and become temporal custodians of this consequential building. Aware of the contexts they are operating in, Ackroyd and Harvey offer an interstice inspired by aesthetics and poetics that becomes an abstract observation of what happens in space, through time and history.

Artists' Gardens is part of Void Sites; a new initiative in addition to Void's gallery programme that extends the gallery’s activities to various locations around the city and its hinterland involving three major off site projects; Artists' Gardens, Resonance FM and Partition.

Cunningham is a temporary public installation at the Cunningham Building, Ebrington Barracks, Derry~Londonderry. Ackroyd & Harvey’s artwork Cunningham is supported-in-kind through James Coburns Ltd, a grass seed production company based in Northern Ireland with a family history dating back to 1852.

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