by Becky Ayre (Researcher, Inheritance Projects)
|Support Structure with a Clumber Spaniel and owners|
Clumber is a vast expanse of park, farm and woodland on the Northern borders of Nottinghamshire. Amongst the wildlife, the Serpentine Lake, the campsites and the cycle tracks, there lies a space that exists to remind visitors of what is no longer there. The mansion that once stood at Clumber was demolished in 1938, leaving only traces of itself behind in the landscape that The National Trust would later purchase in 1946 from the people of Worksop, who inherited the grounds from the previous owner, the Duke of Newcastle. Much of the collection of art and furniture was sold off and dispersed around the country and the world, while the bricks were made use of around Nottinghamshire. As the result of a recent period in residence at Clumber, the artists group Support Structure recently seized upon this notable gap in the landscape and the park’s history as an opportunity to invite users of the grounds to imagine new possibilities for the future of the park.
The Residents is a series of artists in residence programmes at three regional National Trust properties, curated by Inheritance Projects in partnership with Nottingham Contemporary, BALTIC and The National Media Museum. The challenge put to the artists/artists group by Inheritance Projects in considering their time in residence, while taking the opportunity to develop their own practice, was to engage critically with the historical and contemporary contexts of the designated properties in order to scrutinize the ways and means that The National Trust protects, preserves and promotes notions of English national heritage. How could an artist working in residence with The National Trust, an organization that holds something of a monopoly over, and responsibility for, the Country’s known social history, challenge or unsettle otherwise dominant narratives in national heritage? While in residence at Clumber, Support Structure (research-architect Celine Condorelli and artist-curator Gavin Wade) met with historians and various users of the park to learn more about the absent house, including how the building was utilised until it was demolished. They also spent time investigating various unrealised proposals for other buildings at Clumber Park and around the world. This led them to discover the story of a house designed by Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe for the Kröller-Müller family in the Netherlands. Although a full-scale fabric and wood structure was erected of the final design for this house, the Kröller-Müllers ultimately decided that the house was unsuitable and it was never built. Between a house that was but no longer is, and a house that never was, Support Structure have imagined new possibilities and stories that resonate in the unfinished histories of such social and architectural ambitions.
|Hazel Robinson, Gardener, 1:1000 model of Clumber House, 2011-12|
The research undertaken while in residence has accumulated in a series of proposals for changes to the future conditions of Clumber Park, on-site and at Nottingham Contemporary- the partner institution for the residency. These proposals are presented in a new publication, co-published by Nottingham Contemporary and distributed to all visitors at Clumber Park and are aimed at discovering and producing new stories, generating new ideas in a manner that seeks to support new social and communitarian potentials for the site where Clumber’s mansion once stood. The publication’s launch on February 24th at Nottingham Contemporary will be with a panel of presentations aimed at further illuminating the threads of research pulled out by Support Structure from Clumber’s varied history, and from the story of the unrealized house in the Netherlands. A weekend-long programme of events from Nottingham Contemporary and Clumber will follow.