The Land We Live In – The Land We Left Behind

20 January – 7 May 2018, Hauser & Wirth Somerset

Curated by Adam Sutherland, Grizedale Arts

This ambitious survey exhibition explores the contradictory nature of society’s relationship to the rural. The presentation features over 50 international artists and creatives, as well as works on loan, by artists working from the 1500s to the present day, including Paul McCarthy, Beatrix Potter, Carsten Höller, Laure Prouvost, William Holman Hunt, Samuel Palmer, Frank Lloyd Wright, Marcus Coates, Fernando García-Dory, Mark Dion, Roni Horn, Aaron Angell and Mark Wallinger.

With protagonists ranging from 10th-century anchorites to 21st-century urban ruralists, ‘The Land We Live In – The Land We Left Behind’ tells the story of humanity’s evolving connection to the land, our perception of, and reliance upon it. The exhibition’s title refers to a toast used by migrants in the 18th and 19th centuries, which celebrated the land they had arrived in, followed by a riposte celebrating their country of origin – a place that for many embodied romantic longing. The selected works suggest the rural as a laboratory for the development of ideas, in particular the notion of a rural utopia, exploring the religious migrants, the industrial escapees, the metaphors of the flight from Egypt and the return to Eden, that are embedded in humanity’s collective unconscious. This vision is counter-balanced and punctuated by pieces of documentary and reportage, from works illustrating the reality of modern farming, to artefacts relating to boy racers’ car culture. The exhibition explores these tangible themes of territorial friction, procreation, death, and our primeval base instinct, against the backdrop of a more elusive and arcadian incarnation of the rural.

Gabriel Pierre Martin Dumont (1720–1791), Garden design following the ground plan of St Peter’s, Rome, 1769. Pen, ink, pencil and watercolour on two joined sheets of watermarked laid paper, 710 × 402 mm. DMC 2632.