Cornford and Cross
This England 1998

Proposal for Times/Artangel Commissions

 

 

 

 

We proposed to build a 50-metre section of concrete ‘flyover’ in Green Park, London. Emerging from the trees would have been an imposing and apparently purposeful structure, a sweeping arc supported on tall piers. Yet as the viewer approached, it would have become clear that this is a fragment of infrastructure, displaced and unusable, which spans only a hollow of gently sloping parkland.

The term ‘bridge’ is often used to express the concept of exchange between two parties and transition from one state to another. If these parties are seen as the worlds which lie above and below the surface — perhaps the subconscious and subterranean flows on the one hand, and the conscious actions of rational beings on the other — then This England may have symbolised a connection between them.

Resolutely functional in design and construction, This England would have been grounded in the disciplines of civil engineering and landscape architecture. With its physical form determined by the properties of its materials and the demands of the site, This England would have wildly celebrated the Modernist faith in the civilizing power of reason to improve the public sphere.

However, part of the work’s aim as art would be to tap into the collective consciousness of a buried life force. Located in relation to the former course of the hidden river Tyburn, and to invisible patterns of energy such as the ‘desire lines’ expressed by people walking across the land, This England would raise a monument to a series of contradictions.

On one level, the piece presents a marriage of oppositions: the river operates as a sign for nature and the feminine, and the bridge as technology and the masculine. Yet the river is absent, perhaps even suppressed or denied, while the bridge would be out of reach and without practical function. The works engagement with its setting would remain poised between an ambitious public optimism and the private melancholy of a stalled dialectic or unfinished conversation.