Opening Hours: Tue-Sat: 11am-12midnight, Sun-Mon: Closed

This Land is Your Land

Sat 6 June — Sat 25 July 2009

This Land is Your Land

This Land is Your Land was a two-part exhibition exploring everything from the pleasure of planting a seed to issues of territory and national boundaries, inviting us to consider our relationship to the land we live on.

The exhibition complemented CCA’s outreach work in Drumchapel, which included school gardening projects and community guerrilla gardening.

From 6 – 19 June, Part One of the exhibition was interactive, featuring a continuous series of talks, screenings and cookery, gardening and Seedboming workshops in the main gallery. There were architectural proposals for an allotment site, a conceptual road movie, a model court, a series of outings across the city and a visit to Ian Hamilton Finlay’s garden, Little Sparta. All of these projects concerned the land, or urban space, and questions of its ownership. Sustainability, the future of food production and the exploration of alternative models of social organisation are all themes that ran through the exhibition.

In Part One, works by artists and architects were placed in the wider context of these social issues. Opening the gallery to a broad range of events such as cookery and gardening workshops also invited viewers to consider whether these activities can be described as arts. This approach had implications for the CCA itself. As a meeting place for a wide array of art forms, events, and social issues, we have the potential to combine many of these and to investigate the boundaries between disciplines.

This Land is Your Land also marked the beginning of a longer engagement between CCA and ecological and environmental issues. Building on the research for this exhibition, CCA worked closely with artists throughout the year to commission new work and to extend our outreach programme.

Part Two of This Land is Your Land adopts a more conventional exhibition format to present the work of Ursula Biemann, Mark Boulos and Bouchra Khalili, exploring issues of mobility, land resources and migration. It will be open to the public from 20 June – 25 July 2009.

Essay by Francis Mckee

Certain gardens are described as retreats when they are really attacks.

Ian Hamilton Finlay

I started to reflect that the fun and pleasure of growing your own vegetables is not solely related to the satisfaction of pulling a turnip from the earth, although that is a marvellous feeling. There is more to it than that. There is a special, deep pleasure that comes from a sudden feeling of freedom. Growing your own means that in a small way you have escaped the constrictions of the wage economy, whereby we specialize in one activity to the exclusion of all others and then pay other people to specialize in something else. In maintaining your own patch of earth, you escape the world of money, governments, supermarkets and the industrial processes of food production. Suddenly Jack and the Beanstalk looks like a parable about self-sufficiency. The beans are indeed magic because they lead to independence for Jack and his mother. Start with a few beans and you will soon find bounty hanging from the branches and growing under the ground.

Tom Hodgkinson, Digging for Anarchy

Tom Hodgkinson and Ian Hamilton Finlay are approaching gardening from very different perspectives but both present their ideas in terms of opposition. Gardening isn’t just the lifestyle vision presented on TV shows or the consumerist dream of suburban garden centres. Hodgkinson and Finlay draw us back to the political, philosophical and aesthetic roots of the garden. Throughout history the garden has always played a central role in the formation of culture. Plato’s Academy was sited in a small garden he purchased outside the walls of Athens while Aristotle’s Lyceum was in a park near a temple of Apollo Lykeios. Epicurus created a school in the garden attached to his house and placed an inscription on the garden gate which read ‘Stranger, here you will do well to tarry; here our highest good is pleasure.’

In the Renaissance the garden became an early model for the museum as botanical plants were traded, categorised and displayed by kings and scientists. As medicine advanced, the botanical garden became a vital part of every university and as European power extended across the globe, botanic gardens became exchanges houses of empire, collecting and distributing plants and seeds across colonies that were transformed by this experience.

Political power could also be read in the strict geometrical gardens of Versailles and other continental palaces. In England, the flowing ‘natural’ gardens of writers such as Alexander Pope and Richard Steele set out a manifesto in opposition to the powers of Europe. When the French monarchy finally collapsed the new order could be seen in the new fashion for Romantic gardens and landscapes. Much of the influence on these romantic landscapes came from the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau who claimed "Everything is good when it leaves the hand of the creator," and that "Everything degenerates in the hands of man."

If Rousseau’s garden heralded a revolution they were still designed for the rich. In England the revolution was extended to the middle classes through gardeners like Gertrude Jekyll and Vita Sackville-West. In the early part of the 20th century Jekyll, influenced by the colour palette of the impressionists and JW Turner, created nearly 400 gardens across England. Sackville-West focused her attentions almost solely on her garden in Sissinghurst and her gardening column in The Observer. The Second World War, though, brought another tradition to the fore – the allotment.

The practice of small holdings and allotments to grow enough to live on has a long history in Britain. The Diggers lie within that history. Led by Gerrard Winstanley, the Diggers, or True Levellers, were former soldiers from Cromwell’s New Model Army who, in 1649, planted vegetables on St George’s Hill in Weybridge to create plots that could sustain their families. Local landowners forced them off this land using paid gangs to attack them and disrupt their efforts.

The idea of allotments found legal recognition later in Britain, particularly after the land enclosures acts and the commons act of 1876. Local authorities were required to make ‘adequate provision’ of land for allotments (each to be 40 square rods (1000 m²) for the cultivation of vegetables and fruit). By the Second World War, the number of allotments in Britain was nearing 1,500,000.

Although the number of allotment holders fell after 1945, it has begun to raise again more recently and waiting lists for allotments are now at an all time high. The combination of recession, disillusion with commercial food products, growing eco-awareness and a desire to eat healthily are all contributing factors to this phenomenon. Guerilla gardening – unofficial planting and cultivation in urban areas – has also accelerated as local communities take the initiative to improve the landscape around them.

This recent history draws on the heritage of the Diggers in the 17th century then links into the communes and the back-to-the-earth movement in the 1960s and 1970s, the new age travellers of the late ‘80s and the environmental groups in the 1990s.

The political edge this brings to growing your own vegetables is mirrored in eco battles being waged around seed diversity and food production. Indian activist Vandana Shiva, for instance, has raised awareness of the threats to seed diversity through the commercial development of gm crops and the licensing of plant varieties. Across Britain various groups such as Equinox, Ecoworks and Grow Sheffield are working in different ways to encourage organic growing, to raise awareness of carbon footprints, and to promote increased access to land use. Other organisations such as and the heritage seed library disseminate vegetable varieties that have been dropped from more mainstream seed catalogues, sustaining the diversity of plants available to us.