Friday, June 30, 2006

Jo Coupe in 'Repatriating The Ark', at the Museum of Garden History, London

Jo Coupe 'eryngium' 2006 Bronze

Repatriating the Ark
Presented by Parabola
at the Museum of Garden History Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1

3 July - 29 October 2006

Private View Thursday 6 July 2006 6 - 9 pm

Rieko Akatsuka, Holly Antrum, Faye Claridge, Jo Coupe, Tessa Farmer, Andrea Gregson, Tania Kovats, Uriel Orlow, Paulette Phillips, Michael Samuels

Repatriating the Ark pays homage to 2006 as the 350th anniversary of the publication of the Musaeum Tradescantianum. A catalogue of the ‘rarities’ contained within the Tradescant Ark, the first public museum in England, the book was written by Tradescant the Younger with help and funding from Elias Ashmole. The tumultuous history of the John Tradescants, father and son gentlemen gardeners, explorers and collectors, who brought an impressive array of new species of flora to Britain from the Americas and Europe, is a tale of appropriation, ownership and authorship. The Cabinet of Curiosities at the heart of the story, comprised of celebrity paraphernalia, anthropological and naturally occurring oddities, passed from the Tradescant family to Elias Ashmole, who established the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford with the Tradescant collection at its ‘core’. Today, the remaining components of the Tradescant Collection, ‘exotic’ or ‘grotesque’ depending on one’s tastes, can be found at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, though this international collection has, somewhat fittingly, been re-distributed to several other museums in Britain.

Parabola’s exhibition is multi-layered: it brings pieces of the original Tradescant cabinet from the Ashmolean Museum and the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, back to Lambeth - after almost 350 years - to be considered by a new audience. Evolving ideas about ownership, identity and authorship will be considered in a critically engaged examination of the nature of collection and procurement.

10 artists working in sculpture, video, drawing and mixed media have been commissioned to investigate past, present and future notions of ownership, collection and assimilation. Performance-based artists Richard Dedomenici and Christian Nold and poet Karen McCarthy, working in collaboration with Parabola and Spread the Word, will also participate in the exhibition. Museological display will mingle with contemporary art production, both in the Museum and in Parabola’s comprehensive catalogue, which will document artworks and artists’ responses, commissioned essays and discussion of the Tradescant collection’s legacy and historical contexts.

Writers commissioned for the catalogue include: Jordan Kaplan, Parabola curator; Dr Arthur MacGregor, Keeper of Antiquities at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; Jon Newman, Lambeth Archives; Dr Andrea Phillips, Assistant Director, Goldsmiths MA, Creative Curating; Jennifer Potter, whose historical novel to be published in late 2006 is set to explore the Tradescant/Ashmole relationship; and Dr Peg Rawes, Departmental Tutor at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL.

A series of talks, walks and events are also planned for the exhibition. Walks led by artists, writers and historians, events featuring the display and discussion of contemporary collectors’ practices and talks dedicated to the emerging themes of the exhibition are all scheduled, including:

Tuesday 18 July: John Tradescant's Rest
A walk led by Jon Newman retracing John Tradescant The Elder's funeral cortege from the site of his house in South Lambeth Road to his tomb in the grounds of the Museum of Garden History.
Meeting: 12.30pm outside South Lambeth Library, 180 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 - Free, booking essential, see details below - a specially commissioned guidebook will be available funded by RCDT.

Thursday 20 July: Collectors' Evening
Invited collectors will discuss their passion and obsession in an informal presentation.
6.30 to 9pm at the Museum of Garden History - Free, booking essential, see details below

The exhibition and its associated programme have been curated by Danielle Arnaud, Jordan Kaplan and Philip Norman

For more information, bookings and images, please contact Danielle Arnaud on 020 7735 8292 or

Parabola is a commissioning and curatorial body dedicated to the production of contemporary art and critical debate. Through its exhibitions, publications and events, Parabola attempts to invigorate dialogues between different groups and disciplines, from architecture and new technologies, to museological practice and the interpretation of histories.

Parabola 123 Kennington Road London SE11 6SF t/f 0207 735 8292