Turner Contemporary, Margate, U.K.
April 16 – September 4, 2011
Daniel Buren, Russell Crotty, Teresita Fernández, Douglas Gordon, Ellen Harvey, Conrad Shawcross
Inspired by art history and the expectations for art that it produces, Ellen Harvey frequently uses old-fashioned aesthetics and traditional genres of art production, such as the landscape, in surprising ways to highlight the social or physical context of her work. Harvey’s work has often directly engaged the museum as a subject in order to explore the ways in which our society defines art both as a physical object and as a social experience.
ARCADIA takes inspiration from JMW Turner’s persona, aesthetics, obsession with light, and love for Margate, inserting the Margate of today into his arcadian vision of its past. An amusement arcade sign reading “ARCADIA” next to a projection of the sea, welcomes visitors into a room of mirrors that is also a three-quarters scale reproduction of the gallery Turner built in the 1810s in London to promote his work (for a representation of the gallery, please see the drawing in the adjacent room). The size and arrangement of the plexi-glas mirrors in the gallery are based on the paintings in the gallery on Turner’s death in 1852 (all of which he donated to the nation). Here his paintings are replaced by a 360-degree panorama in light of contemporary Margate seen from the harbor, laboriously hand-engraved by the artist in the style of prints made after Turner’s paintings. Torn traces of the prints, whose production was obsessively supervised by Turner and which were the only reproductions of his painted work available in his lifetime for those who did not have access to the paintings themselves, can be seen pasted on the interior of the gallery walls. The font of the ARCADIA sign, is based on the sign for Margate’s currently shuttered Dreamland amusement park, which in turn was inspired by New York’s Coney Island’s Dreamland (burnt down in 1911) where Harvey filmed the video footage of the sea projected here. Commissioned by Turner Contemporary, Margate, U.K.