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26 January, 2009

No more land art on Clougha

Since October, Clougha and other quiet corners of landscape around Lancaster has been enhanced by the Andy Goldsworthy -inspired land art installations of 'Escher' (Richard Shilling).  My favourite is his 'Clougha Egg Cairn', a technically excellent dry stone stucture but also quite simply a beautiful object, well suited to its location on a ridge overlooking a popular path.

I'm sad to report that Escher has been contacted by the Westminster Estate, instructed to dismantle his installations and banned from making any more on the Duke's land – and I believe he happens to be the primary countryside landowner in Northern England.

I can't understand how someone could object to the artworks, but it has to be acknowledged that they are (were...) on privately-owned land to which the public only has a right of access, and the Estate is perfectly entitled to object to the artworks. I suspect they were making Clougha too popular: I know several people who have visited specifically to see the Egg Cairn, and though we have a statutory right to do so, that doesn't mean the Duke has to encourage the grubby general public to wander all over his grouse moors.

As I've mentioned before, there is a 'genuine' Andy Goldsworthy installation on Clougha, commissioned by the Estate, so it's not as if the Duke has an aesthetic aversion to land art or dry stone structures. However, I've also speculated on its odd location: well away from the main public footpaths and out of line-of-sight from the summit of Clougha Pike, but mere metres from a shooting track. It's as if the Duke wants the prestige of a Goldsworthy piece, but intended it to be 'exclusive', readily viewable by his shooting guests rather than any but the more determined members of the public.

I'm deeply disappointed, but I hope Escher isn't discouraged. Some of the best land art (indeed, some of Escher's) is ephemeral, and his photos are an excellent portfolio with which he could approach more amenable landowners.


oo ta for the heads-up re Escher-- didn't know him before. just had a quick rummage thru his flickr stream and immediately favourited several. lovely. particularly, as you say, the ephemerae.

Posted by Saltation at January 27, 2009 08:31 PM
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