A garden of reason at Ham House

One of the figures in 'eight ſculptures' by Alan Kane and Simon Periton in the Wilderness at Ham. Courtesy the artists and Sadie Coles HQ and Ancient and Modern/Jamie Woodley

Ham House will be hosting a contemporary art exhibition called Garden of Reason between 28 April and 23 September 2012. Nine artists have been invited to create work inspired by the seventeenth-century garden of Ham House.

The south front of Ham House seen from the Wilderness, c. 1675-1679, by Henry Danckerts. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The title of the exhibition refers to the ‘age of reason’, the development of new philosophical systems in Europe in the seventeenth century based on strictly rational analysis and scientific research. The artists have been given access to the seventeenth-century archives relating to Ham and its owner, the feisty Elizabeth Murray, Countess of Dysart and Duchess of Lauderdale.

Portrait of Elizabeth Murray, later Countess of Dysart and Duchess of Lauderdale, by Sir Peter Lely. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

‘Eight ſculptures’ by Alan Kane and Simon Periton is an imaginative recreation of the sculptures (or ‘ſculptures’, as it was written at the time – with thanks to the helpful commenter below) that used to grace the Wilderness garden at Ham. Those sculptures were copies of famous Renaissance and antique works, and Kane and Periton are investigating issues of cultural plunder, copying and disappearance.

Part of 'Weight of air' by Ruth Proctor in the front colonnade of Ham House. ©National Trust

Ruth Proctor has inserted large helium balloons into the Wilderness and also into the front collonade of the house, as part of her work ‘Weight of air’. Proctor was inspired by Galileo’s investigations into the weight and speed of falling objects and the developing knowledge about atmospheric pressure.

Part of 'Weight of air' by Ruth Proctor, in the Wilderness at Ham. ©National Trust

The Garden of Reason project has its own blog where team members are posting updates, background information and images.

3 Responses to “A garden of reason at Ham House”

  1. flintcottageproject Says:

    Reblogged this on flintcottageproject and commented:
    on the subject of Ham House…

  2. Andrew Says:

    Is it really “fculptures” with an f or should that be a ſ (which should be a long s, if the unicode works)?

  3. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Andrew, I think you are right – I had unthinkingly copied the ‘f’ from a document I had been sent, but if the artists were indeed delving into the seventeenth-century documents relating to Ham they may well have seen ‘s’ spelled as ‘ſ’. Well spotted – I have now insterted the ſ-es. The logical next step would of course be to write an entire blog post using ſeventeenth-century ſpelling and orthography… :)

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