Collaborative Activism

Collaborative Activism

In a world where the average American spends just 7% of their life outdoors, it is more important than ever for societies to reconnect with natural spaces. A new exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP), Wakefield, tracks the work of Common Ground, a Dorset-based arts and environmental charity improving the relationship between individuals and the landscape.

Common Ground’s multidisciplinary practice brings communities together through activism, conversation and creative action. Using music, film, festivals, photography, building, sculpture and books to bring into focus overlooked aspects of the local topography, the charity encourages audiences to celebrate everyday sights such as garden wildlife or tree-lined suburban streets, foregrounding the idiosyncrasies that define regions.

The exhibition at YSP delves into the archives, highlighting a range of iconic campaigns from the last 35 years. For example, New Milestones provided communities in Dorset with the opportunity to commission sculptures by well-known artists including Andy Goldsworthy, Peter Randall-Page and John Maine, whilst Trees, Woods and the Green Man resulted in a publication featuring drawings by David Nash. Representing the cultural and ecological value of plants, the volume is accompanied by diary extracts from Goldsworthy’s 1986 residency on Hampstead Heath. A literary element is central to the display, as letterpress posters and pamphlets by Dennis Gould are positioned alongside art for the newspaper LEAF! and landmark publication England in Particular.

Looking into the future, the show highlights Common Ground’s recent engagement with emerging practitioners, emphasising the contemporary importance of environmental action. Throughout 2017, they invited Assemble, Owen Griffiths, Kurt Jackson, Christine Mackey, Alec Finlay and Harriet & Rob Fraser to create a collection of films and objects investigating the synthesis between forests and societies in Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England. Furthermore, an outdoor sound piece by South African artist James Webb celebrates the history and presence of natural forms by offering imaginative narratives about and between YSP’s trees, whilst a new video, Arcadia, offers timely dialogues about humanity’s contradictory interactions with the land.

From 5 May. Find out more here.

1. Simon Thomas, Grains of wheat, (New Milestones project), Dorset, 1986. Courtesy Yorkshire Sculpture Park.