Laura Harrington – The Liveliest of Elements, an Ordinary Extraordinary Material

October and November 2015

The Norman Chapel, Durham Castle and 
Walker Fan Drift, Woodhorn Museum, UK

Artist Laura Harrington works within mediums including film, drawing and installation and is interested in the natural world and how humans understand and interact with it. A shared interest in upland environments and peat as a lively and dynamic material, provided the impetus for a collaboration with physical scientist Prof. Jeff Warburton, Department of Geography, Durham University, as part of a Leverhulme Trust Artist Residency. Their collaboration focused on the upland bare peat moss flats in the North Pennines. Harrington evolved this research into an exploration of this dynamic ecosystem through moving image, words and sound. 

The title of the exhibition was inspired by artist Joseph Beuys who once described a European bog as ‘the liveliest of elements’ and scientist Noel Hobbs who referred to peat as an ‘ordinary extraordinary material’ due to its unusual characteristics and behaviour as an earth surface material. 

The exhibition included: ‘The Liveliest of Elements’, a film work that explores the nature of Moss Flats through image and sound – the supposed nothingness revealed in its entirety; dis/sonance, a new four channel sound installation consisting of five voices recorded at Moss Flats – aiming to capture the movement and rawness present on the surface of the site, translated through the most primitive and paired down instrument we have – the human voice; and Haggs and High Places, an artist’s book published by New Writing North as part of the Durham Book Festival 2015 – providing an insight into the research and ideas behind the exhibition and including contributions by Jeff Warburton and new writing by poet and shepherd Josephine Dickinson.

A specially commissioned text by Professor Mike Crang, Head of Department of Geography, Durham University was available at both venues.

The Liveliest of Elements, an Ordinary Extraordinary Material was commissioned by Invisible Dust and supported by Arts Council England, The Leverhulme Trust, Durham University, The North Pennines AONB Partnership, Woodhorn Museum and Durham Book Festival.

This project was part of ‘Invisible Dust in Museums’
Invisible Dust worked with three Museum’s nationally: Manchester Museum (North West), Woodhorn Museum, Northumberland (North East) and the National Maritime Museum (London). It is supported by Arts Council England. In 2014/15 we worked closely with our partners to support the creation of extraordinary artworks by artists connected to these Museums in addition to Laura Harrington this includes artists Elizabeth Price, Owl Project and Phil Coy.


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