Ed Herring



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Not on display

Ed Herring 1945–2003
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper, ink and map on paperboard, and 3 photographs, gelatin silver print on paper
Overall dimensions variable
Purchased 2012


Float 1969 is the photographic record and documentation of a conceptual work of the same name by the British artist Ed Herring. It consists of a photographic documentation board and two separate framed photographs. The documentation board has a large black and white photograph, beneath which are a printed text outlining the intervention and a map showing the location where it took place. The photograph on the documentation board shows a strip of fabric stretching across the surface of a small body of water in a near-straight line. The two other photographs show the strip after it has deviated from its original position to a lesser and greater extent.

For Float Herring positioned a length of cotton duck fabric, approximately twenty-two and a half metres long and ten centimetres wide, across a large pond, tethering it at each end. One end was then released and the strip was allowed to float free, its movement determined by the wind rippling across the water. The cloth also sank in places where it became saturated.

Alongside works such as Tea-bag Piece 1969 (Tate T13815), Oiled Earth 1969 (Tate T13817), Tie-Up 1969 (Tate T13820) and Zinc-Plated Wood 1969 (Tate T13818), Float is an early work which typifies Herring’s ‘environmental statements’, which were shown in two exhibitions in 1969: one at Manchester College of Art Gallery, where Herring was teaching; and in Survey 69. New Space at Camden Arts Centre, London, which can from October–November that year. His work in the late 1960s used photography and documentation to record interventions into the landscape made by him in primarily unpopulated areas. Like Oiled Earth 1969, Float was made near the home of the artist Keith Arnatt in Yorkshire; Tea-bag Piece and Zinc-Plated Wood were made near Belmont in Lancashire. The emphasis on recording and documenting his findings during interventions preoccupied his work for decades: here, measuring the movement of the fabric on the water; or measuring the quantities of oil absorbed by the earth via an array of implanted tubes in Oiled Earth 1969 (Tate T13817). Photography enabled Herring to develop new enquiries into duration: the duration of time it took for the oil to level out, to the time it took for the fabric to move around the pond and sink. These subtle forms of intervention questioned consumption, creation and the cultural responsibilities involved in their making, and were deeply rooted in ecological and environmental concerns.

Herring studied at Manchester College of Art from 1963–6 and then at Central School of Art and Design from 1966–7. In the late 1960s Herring collaborated with Arnatt, most notably as the photographer for Arnatt’s Self Burial (Television Interference Project) 1969 (Tate T01747).

Further reading
Idea Structures, exhibition catalogue, Camden Arts Centre, London 1970.
‘Ed Herring: An Interview with Alistair Mackintosh’, Art and Artists, August 1972, pp.36–41.

Helen Delaney
May 2012
Arthur Goodwin
December 2018

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