Cornford and Cross
New Holland 1997

Steel agricultural structure, sound system
Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich
For East International, selected by Tacita Dean and Nicholas Logsdail. Norwich Gallery, England

New Holland considered the relationships between architecture, economic activity and cultural responses to the English landscape. The installation consisted of a steel structure, based on an industrial agricultural building, and positioned near a Henry Moore sculpture outside Norman Foster’s celebrated Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. In size and proportion, our structure referred to a ‘Bernard Matthews’ turkey breeder unit, though it had neither doors nor windows. Loud House and Garage music from CD compilations blasted out from the darkness inside.

New Holland exploited tensions between the English Romantic representations of landscape exemplified by Moore’s sculpture, the space age ‘functionalism’ of Foster’s architecture, and the realities of modern agriculture in Norfolk’s intensive turkey farms. The structure was entirely appropriate yet uncomfortably out of place in its physical setting and institutional context. We positioned the work to question the Sainsbury Centre, yet the piece was not created in terms of a simple opposition: instead, New Holland occupied a space of controlled rebellion.

Spatially, the piece divided and linked the Sainsbury Centre and the ‘reclining figure’ sculpture nearby. Foster’s building, which proposes a technocratic patriarchy, and Moore’s vision of nature as ‘Mother’ signify two sides of Modernist ideology in relation to the environment. Architecturally, the barn’s standardised components and system-built construction methods related to the functionalist rhetoric of the Sainsbury Centre. We visited a Bernard Matthews turkey farm, and connected it with Foster’s references to aviation in the Sainsbury Centre, since the barns are built directly on the old runways of a former US air base.

Visitors approaching the Sainsbury Centre were confronted with a bland but imposing structure clad in polyester-coated pressed steel (as preferred by planning committees). New Holland referred primarily to a modern farm building but would be equally acceptable in a retail park or industrial estate. However, in the beautiful grounds of the University of East Anglia it could be seen as the ‘country cousin’ at a garden party, or yet another infill development in an unspoilt rural idyll.

The House and Garage music played on the notions of rebellion in the piece, with the mechanistic succession of repetitive beats evoking the urban invasion of the countryside for illegal raves, a form of youthful dissent that was steadily becoming absorbed into the blind hedonism of mainstream consumer culture.

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