I don’t think I’ve made a graveyard, I’ve made a sculptural work which uses a language which is taken from that vernacular. This is Jupiter Artlands. I have a new site-specific work here called In Memory. I walked off the path and found myself in a clearing of the trees, and rather to my surprise and to my friend who was with me, I kind of announced that I’ve got no idea what I’m going to make, but it’s going to be here. And for me, that’s a real departure.
We spent a great deal of time and a great deal of care maintaining the dead tree – that real beautiful moment where the dead tree touches the top of the concrete. It’s a really nice kind of meeting of materiality of something which was alive and is natural, which is now dead, and the concrete, which was a kind of fluid mud thing.
That entranceway is very particular to me. It’s the width of my shoulders, and the height of the wall is the height of my reach. The interesting thing, of course, is that it’s very specific, but it’s also a universal thing. Most cultures and most faiths bury their dead.
For the work not to be about the particular, but I want it to be about the general idea of the fact that we bury our dead, the big conceptual move of removing the names from the headstones is very important. So it’s not about the individual, it’s about you reading it and either imposing your own name there, or the name of your grandmother or the name of someone else.
I’m conscious that the audience is thinking and talking, and then the invitation is to stop and maybe not talk.
In Edinburgh I also have another major work on show this summer, which is There will be no miracles here. It needs a backdrop behind it, so here in Edinburgh, rather magically, we have Edinburgh Castle, and two spires of churches. So it locates itself in a medieval town, city. And then to the front of it there is a great deal of grass, which is kind of conceptual space – it’s the space which the proclamation governs. It’s like the fairground that’s come to town; it’s a little bit seedy, a little bit… but yet, the text is rather serious and profound, and you can read in a number of ways. So that contradiction, I think, is very important.
In Medieval France, the peasants of the day were misbehaving in this one particular village. I guess in a modern sense, we would call it mass hysteria, and then they didn’t know what to call it, so it was discussed that there were miracles happening. The estates and the authorities needed to control this – not least because the story goes that they needed… the harvest hadn’t been brought in yet. So one day the King of France erected a very large sign in the town square which stated, ‘There will be no miracles here by order of the King.’ And I’ve appropriated the text and importantly, taken the authorship out. I think we’re left not knowing who the author is – Edinburgh being the home of the Enlightenment, I think it’s wholly appropriate and an interesting context for that idea of state and church and knowledge.
I think of myself as somebody who makes objects, and I make objects because they can speak in my absence. I think that’s still a really interesting thing. Even more so now in the kind of digital age, and the speed in which we live, to have, to be confronted by something which has no purpose other than for you to look at it, is essentially still really exciting and really valuable, I think.