LUX is pleased to announce an exhibition of newly commissioned moving image works by Ufuoma Essi, Dan Guthrie and Arjuna Neuman exploring representations of the English rural landscape.
During the COVID-19 pandemic – as people realised anew the importance of nature and open spaces for our health and mental wellbeing – inequalities of access to rural land were being exposed, revealing the disconnect felt by millions of people towards the English countryside. A 2019 government review found that many Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people view the countryside as an ‘irrelevant white, middle-class club’, concluding that this divide is only going to widen as society changes and ‘the countryside will end up being irrelevant to the country that actually exists’. These new commissions interrupt and challenge the enduring perception of the rural idyll as an untouched and unchanging space where time stands still and asks how can our natural spaces be home to difference, protest, and activism.
Ufuoma Essi’s Pastoral Malaise explores the absences within the rural pastoral environments that are often framed by romanticism and picturesque conventions, constructed as tourist sites and refuges in rural landscapes across Britain.
Dan Guthrie’s Black Strangers seeks a man called ‘Daniel’ recorded on a bishop’s transcript held in Gloucestershire Archives, who was buried in Nympsfield in 1719 and described as ‘a black stranger’. Whilst walking, Dan talks directly to Daniel, speculating about the parallels between him and his namesake, and about how his experience in his hometown of Stroud mirrors that of ‘Daniel’.
Arjuna Neuman’s Syncopated Green reflects on the history of outdoor free parties in the English countryside, using rave music, past and present, to help forget the ‘official’ portrayal of England as picturesque, nostalgic, white, and rural. The film invites rave music into the English landscape – turning imperial history inside out. Somewhere between a music video, a memoir and an essay, it asks: how might our future be different if we had other histories to lean on – and dance with?
Right of Way has been commissioned with the Independent Cinema Office as part of an archival film touring project celebrating the history and legacy of the National Trails in England.
The exhibition is accompanied by a selection of related works from the LUX Collection.
Right of Way: Ufuoma Essi, Dan Guthrie, Arjuna Neuman press release