Alex Hartley | The world is still big

22 Nov 2011 - 21 Jan 2012
Victoria Miro Gallery I
16 Wharf Road, London N1 7RW

Victoria Miro is pleased to present Alex Hartley's most recent culmination of his on-going investigation into dystopian architecture, secular habitation and the construction of sanctuary as an inherent drive to form refuge from the world. Hartley returns to his previous lines of investigation; community, belonging and isolation, and counter culture versus establishment, however with a clear and decisive shift in presentation and form. Hartley's work has become much more focused on the complex and often contradictory attitudes toward the built environments. Gone are the idealised Case Study houses, to be replaced with architectural emblems of the counter culture movement, including the iconic Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome.  All this in an ever more desperate quest to occupy uninhabited landscapes and wilderness.

Hartley has referenced the mid-1960s experimental artists' community, and first rural hippie commune, Drop City. This iconic Colorado community was an early adopter of geodesic dome architecture, constructions that reflected the aspirations of a group of radical artists and filmmakers to create a live-in work of art. What resulted was the most famous countercultural experiment in communal living of the decade. Yet, for all its forward-thinking aspirations, Drop City was disbanded less than ten years later. Drop City has come to symbolise counter living rather than a Utopian ideal, an alternative way of engaging with the world, and was an attempt at perfect integration of the built and natural environment. In a confusion of place and context, on the garden terrace of Victoria Miro Gallery, Hartley will reconstruct his own Drop City dome, rusted, aged and out of time, which he will inhabit during the exhibition.

The main galleries will house nineteen new photographs made unique through the addition of intricately detailed sculptural interventions of scaled architectural models built directly into the surface of the prints. These painstakingly built structures and their photographic ground, present narratives alluding to the creation of something which has turned against us and become uninhabitable, rather than as intended sanctuary from the outside world.   These works are accompanied upstairs by a sculpture of a life sized one-man tent, half buried within a snowdrift. It is unclear as to whether the solitary occupant has survived the storm.

The project space will feature artefacts and objects from Alex Hartley's 2004 and 2011 expeditions to the High Arctic. These tell the story of the newly revealed island discovered by the artist and its declaration and transformation into the new nation: Nowhereisland. Included will be the weathered remains of the claim left during Hartley's first encounter and photographs documenting the fragility and changing nature of the island. Three maps will hang together detailing the accumulating number of Nowherian citizens, at present over 3000. Nowhereisland represents a significant expansion of Hartley's artistic practice into the public realm

In 2012, Nowhereisland will embark upon its 500-mile journey around the south west coast of England as part of the Cultural Olympiad. One landscape moving through another. Produced by the commissioning programme, Situations, Nowhereisland also involves a year-long online programme of Resident Thinkers at www.nowhereisland.org

I'm tired of travelling, 2011
Constructed mixed media on C-type photograph, Diptych, left panel 90 x 81.4 cm, right panel 90 x 110 cm