HAUSER & WIRTH, LONDON
This is classic Mark Wallinger: the eloquence of his ideas as condensed as a sonnet,
and expressed in the humblest of visions,
in this case an oak on an Essex roundabout.
Laura Cumming, Guardian 28.2.16
In his latest exhibition at Hauser & Wirth in Saville Row, Mark Wallinger has chosen to feature 4 silent video projections of a tree dancing in the middle of a traffic roundabout.
The Fulwell Cross roundabout could be anywhere or nowhere - surrounded by walkers and runners, prams and bikes, commuters and children, wanderers and visitors, wheel chairs and lorries. It's true that the tree is special. It has a name, the Fairlop Oak, planted in 1951 the year of the Festival of Britain. And it has a pedigree: the first Fairlop oak is said to have existed ‘from halfway up the Christian era’. It grew not on a roundabout but in Hanault Forest in a wooded area of some 3,000 acres. It is said that in the midday sun its branches cast a shadow 300ft in circumference. So it's not surprising that it was the venue chosen from about 1725 onwards for the Fairlop Fair, held under its branches every year on the first Friday in July.
The work was filmed by the artist using an iPhone Blu-tacked to his car window as he circumnavigated the roundabout where he once learned to drive. So standing in the centre of the gallery surrounded by endless revolutions of footage, we are encircled by Wallinger, who’s circling the tree. We encounter spring, summer, autumn, winter in the course of a few seconds. We are drawn into his universe where we may choose to reflect on the passing of time as it comes hurtling towards us. Wallinger has entitled the work Orrery a word describing a mechanical model of the solar system. With the oak tree at the centre of this particular universe, are we the still silent centre contemplating the orbit of our planet round the sun and its place in the universe?
The work has been described as a ‘cameo of Britain destined to rotate in its tiny orbit endlessly’.
The minutes pass, the sun shifts, the day turns, and with it the seasons. We turn on this little island, and in our lives, as our planet turns in time within the universe. But we are at the centre of it all.