House of Beasts: Where the wild and wonderful art things are
Friday 08 July 2011
In the 18th-century mansion, stables and sprawling parkland of Attingham Park, in Shropshire, the former ancestral home of the Berwick family, there is a curious contemporary art exhibition.
An array of 45 animal-related works, including a taxidermy pigeon by Polly Morgan and an epic photograph of a moth by Mat Collishaw, are on show in House of Beasts, alongside new works commissioned by Meadow Arts in partnership with the National Trust. The works both explore the fascination with animals in art, and reflect the history of the former stately home.
Sophie Molins has been commissioned to create Sundial in Moonlight, an interactive web-based work, which she also documents in a video in the mansion. It tells the story of a music box in the form of a monkey with ruby eyes, chained to and conducting a golden harp that was given by the second Lord Berwick to his young wife Sophia as a wedding present. The digital work, about seduction and relationships, leads viewers on a journey through Attingham Park's male and female domains, centring on the crimson staircase designed by John Nash. The viewer moves objects – feathers, playing cards – in order to enter the site, choosing which path to follow. Meanwhile, glass domes spin and regency cartoons dance, with word bubbles that proclaim love at first sight.
"My work can be viewed from anywhere as long as you have a computer and wifi," says Molins, whose first interactive online art work, Deep Down Dark Horse, was part of Brighton Photo Fringe last year. "This is an extremely democratic way of viewing work. The interactivity is fun for the viewer but it is not the main point of the work. I very much work with the web designer to create a world that sucks you in."
Other commissions include Susie MacMurray's installation of antlers, which have been collected from the deer herd on the Attingham Estate. Tom Gallant has used shreds of magazines to create nests displayed in wood-panelled cabinets in the Octagon Room; Des Hughes has created a dog sculpture from woolly garments; and Ruth Claxton's outdoor exotic birds nest is crafted from metal rings filled with mirrors. Plus, Kate MccGwire reconfigures a piece made from thousands of game feathers for Attingham Park's kitchen.
House of Beasts, Attingham Park, Shropshire (www.meadowarts.org) to 15 July 2012. An interactive version of 'Sundial in Moonlight' is at www.sundialinmoonlight.com
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