The World is Still Big

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Clearing , 2011 © Courtesy of the Artist and Victoria Miro Gallery
The World is Still Big

16 Wharf Road
London N1 7RW
United Kingdom
November 22nd, 2011 - January 21st, 2012
Opening: November 22nd, 2011 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

shoreditch, hoxton
+44 020 7336 8109
Tuesday - Saturday 10am - 6pm; Monday by appointment


Victoria Miro is pleased to present Alex Hartley's most recent culmination of his on-going investigation into dystopian architecture, secular habitation and the construction of sanctuary as an inherent drive to form refuge from the world. Hartley returns to his previous lines of investigation; community, belonging and isolation, and counter culture versus establishment, however with a clear and decisive shift in presentation and form. Hartley's work has become much more focused on the complex and often contradictory attitudes toward the built environments. Gone are the idealised Case Study houses, to be replaced with architectural emblems of the counter culture movement, including the iconic Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome.  All this in an ever more desperate quest to occupy uninhabited landscapes and wilderness.

Hartley has referenced the mid-1960s experimental artists' community, and first rural hippie commune, Drop City. This iconic Colorado community was an early adopter of geodesic dome architecture, constructions that reflected the aspirations of a group of radical artists and filmmakers to create a live-in work of art, inspired by the happenings of Allan Kaprow and the impromptu performances of John Cage and others at the Black Mountain College. What resulted was the most famous countercultural experiment in communal living of the decade. Yet, for all its forward-thinking aspirations, Drop City was disbanded less than ten years later. Drop City has come to symbolize counter living, rather than Utopian ideal, an alternative way of engaging with the world and was an attempt at perfect integration of the built and natural environment.

In a confusion of place and context, on the garden terrace of Victoria Miro Gallery, Hartley will reconstruct his own Drop City dome, rusted, aged and out of time, which he will inhabit during the duration of the exhibition.

The main galleries will house nineteen new photographs made unique through the addition of intricately detailed sculptural interventions of scaled architectural models built directly into the surface of the prints. These painstakingly built structures and their photographic ground, present narratives alluding to the creation of something which has turned against us and become uninhabitable, rather than as intended sanctuary from the outside world.   

These works are accompanied upstairs by a sculpture of a life sized one-man tent, half buried within a snowdrift. The solitary occupant is presumably holed up within the tent waiting for the storm to pass.

In the project space will hang artifacts and images from Alex's 2004 and 2011 expeditions to the High Arctic. These tell a part of the story of the island he discovered there and it's transformation into the newly declared nation: Nowhereisland. Maps and counters detailing the number and location of citizens will be displayed alongside the remains of the claim he left within a cairn on the day he first set foot on the island.

In 2012 Hartley will commence Nowhereisland - his winning proposal for the Artists Taking the Lead 2012 Cultural Olympiad project, which will see him tour the ports and harbours of the South Coast moving one landscape through another.