Tatton Park Biennial Celebrates Success Of Goodbye Dome

By Ben Miller | 08 January 2009
A view from the window of the dome, looking out over a clear lake and trees covered in snow

Pic courtesy Tatton Park Biennial

The curators of a mass art project featuring a giant dome crafted from trees have spoken of their pride after their work was heralded as one of 2008’s top exhibitions.

Tatton Park Biennial, an artistic response to the settings of the 1,000-acre deer park in Cheshire which took place between May and September last year, is one of three campaigns shortlisted for the prestigious Lever Prize. It has also been selected as one of the participants in the Cultural Olympiad programme in support of London’s 2012 Olympic year.

A close-up of the dome in bright weather, with triangular windows cut out from the panels of wood making up the rest of the structure and thin-branched trees towering behind it

Pic courtesy Tatton Park Biennial

“Our role as curators was a tricky one,” reflects Jordan Kaplan, whose ambitious plans alongside co-conspirator Danielle Arnauld were tempered by the practical demands of budgets, schedules and an already hard-pushed staff at the site. “The experience was an intense one – one day things could look very dark for a project and the next, somehow, disaster was averted.”

They juggled six semi-permanent works and 12 evolving commissions, the focal point of the season coming in the form of Goodbye (Vehicle No 4), an organic structure made of fallen larch, Scots Pine and sweet chestnut trees to create a skeletal, fragile dome overlooking a Japanese garden at the mansion.

A picture of the inside of the dome, as light floods in to the light wood structure

Pic courtesy Tatton Park Biennial

An attempt by Anglo-Turkish husband and wife team Heather and Ivan Morison to form "a record of our lives as its landscape slowly changes”, the piece was described as “a fantasy of post-apocalyptic survivalism” by William Shaw, whose RSA Arts & Ecology oracle named the piece as one of the world’s most inspiring artworks of the last 12 months.

“The work really pushes your imagination,” wrote Shaw. “At first you think you've come across some cosy yurt-ish new age traveller structure, but the more you dwell on it the less cosy it becomes.”

A picture of the wooden dome with makeshift windows looking out over a clear lake

Pic courtesy Tatton Park Biennial

“We commissioned the Morisons to develop a proposal based on their own experiences of travel and the confusion and miscommunication that can come about through transliteration,” says Kaplan, who recalls how the “pain and struggle” of realising such site-specific work gave way to “tremendous excitement” as the process developed.

When it moves to the Barbican later this year, the installation faces the daunting prospect of hurdling numerous health and safety and planning issues again, having worked with rangers at the park to take apart felled trees in a month-long building cycle.

A photo of a circular hut in a forest covered in snow

Pic courtesy Tatton Park Biennial

“The structure itself explored notions of utopia, referencing Buckminster Fuller and the Dome movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Visitors really loved the Vehicle and many wanted to see it continuing to live at Tatton Park," muses Kaplan. "But the work was never intended to stand permanently – like the Dome movement itself, the artists intended for it to degrade and become unusable.”

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