Heather & Ivan Morison: Luna Park and An Unreachable Country. A Long Way To Go
Chapter received the news that Luna Park by Heather and Ivan Morison has been burned down.
Southsea Common, Hampshire
Luna Park is a ‘life-size’ model of a dinosaur - the Ultrasauros – that was ‘discovered’ in the 1970s by Professor Jim Jensen. The bones that he found were originally believed to belong to the largest dinosaur that ever lived and the name was widely used by the press and in scientific literature. Jensen published a paper describing his discovery in 1985, but it was later revealed that the collection of fossils came from two different species — Ultrasauros was, in fact, a chimera.
The Ultrasauros sculpture currently on Southsea Common, takes its inspiration from this fiction, and from the forms that were used as traffic stoppers in the USA: large models that were erected on the side of highways to attract passing drivers, and to persuade them to pause in their journey. In stopping, the visitor was encouraged to become familiar with that particular and normally overlooked place in which the incongruous sculpture was sited.
Heather & Ivan Morison have, by introducing an ‘outsider’ to the traditional British seafront, in the same way asked the residents, tourists, and passers-by of Southsea to re-examine their seemingly familiar surroundings. To pause, reflect and perhaps revisit a forgotten memory.
The title Luna Park will be known to many as the name of dozens of now defunct amusement parks across the world. Once destinations for the masses seeking high-adrenalin entertainment now paradoxically deserted, melancholic and somewhat sinister, their empty shells can also be seen as an emblem of something lost – of disintegrating ideals.
In 2005 the Morison’s visited one such functioning but equally sorrowful place in Siberia and it later inspired a text in their novella ‘Akademgorodok’ which now appears at the foot of the Ultrasauros and provides an intriguing context in which to consider the sculpture. In Siberia, as in Southsea, Luna Park acts as a marker of time and place, a shelter, a platform for activity and an area in which to congregate.
It might also be seen as a temporary monument to those who are now invited to activate it and also to the collective efforts of those who built it. This interest in the process is further explored within Luna Park’s accompanying film that is being presented at aspex.
An Unreachable Country. A Long Way To Go charts the production of the sculpture in rural Serbia. The construction team of engineers, welders, assemblers and model makers are all ex-employees of the Zastava car factory that was the main employer of Kragujevac, making Yugo cars, before it closed.
The political and social backdrop – alongside the process for making the sculpture in Serbia – reflects many of the references that oscillate through the Morison’s practice: in working away from perceived centres, nurturing an active engagement with the resources and inhabitants of the locale to inform and produce the work.
The title of the film – taken from the seminal Chris Marker work La Jetée (1962) - reflects another area of interest for the artists: the difficult tenor of the times. The thirty-minute film cuts across factory activity, through the ritualistic preparation of a spit-roasted pig, to the lively conversations of the Serbian team. Often it lingers on the workers extended periods of inactivity within the exquisite, rural backdrop of the village – a metaphorical reflection on the social and environmental impact of the current global climate.
Heather & Ivan Morison are based in North Wales and Brighton, UK. They have exhibited extensively both in the UK and internationally. Recent projects include Frost King (2010) at Open Satellite, Seattle, USA; The Black Cloud, Bristol, UK (2009); One Day Sculpture, Wellington, New Zealand (2008); Wales at the Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2007) and the British Art Show 6, touring the UK (2006). They are represented by Danielle Arnaud contemporary art, London and Clint Roenisch, Toronto.
Luna Park will tour to Colchester and Cardiff during 2010 and 2011. The project is a CHAPTER initiative that has been commissioned in collaboration with aspex, Portsmouth, firstsite, Colchester and Safle. The project has received generous financial support from the Arts Council of Wales, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Arts Council of England and the European Union. We would like to express our thanks to Goran Krstic and his team, Dragana Jurisic, Alan Phelan, King Lifting Ltd and Vale Consultancy.