The island of Caprona appears in the science fiction trilogy The Land that Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It is a mythical place in which all the evolutionary stages of development are present, living simultaneously side by side…
Since July 2017, Leykauf has been carrying out research into the cultural histories of Essex landscapes. Specifically, how is it possible to represent a landscape – through images, ideas, politics or the natural world – and what is it that informs our understanding of the landscapes which we move through, both in our minds and our day to day lives? Unlike traditional gallery shows of completed works, this exhibition is a reflection of Leykauf’s thinking and responses to some of these questions: it is a work in progress, of ongoing research, and a manifestation of process.
For her Research Fellowship, Alexandra Leykauf has been visiting the landscapes libraries, museums and archives of Essex as part of her investigation into where the idea of a landscape comes from; how it can be represented and the ways in which writers and artists, academics and archaeologists such as JA Baker, Seamus Heaney and Ken Worpole have sought to make sense of our shared history through landscape. The ancient geography of Essex is one that holds within it the social and political history of our nation as a centre of trade and migration, a home of industry and innovation, radicalism and reaction. A watchful, sometimes war like, island shaped by the sea and the life of the people living at it’s edge. All this can be seen within the physical geography of the county of Essex, from the docks in the estuary to the ancient barrows and crops marks which appear fleetingly over the summer and can only be seen from the air as layers of history reaching back to the Bronze age.
Leykauf’s research has centred on these landscapes around Southend; the history of their documentation and the ways in which artists, writers and archaeologists have interpreted them in literature, art and science. Beyond the physical evidence there is also the landscape of the imagination – the how the idea of landscape came into being, how it has developed from ancient sagas to the writings of Seabald, Ackroyd and Lichtenstein. This exhibition brings together some of Leykauf’s thinking and discoveries made during the course of her fellowship from forgotten aerial photographs to annotated maps of the haunts of peregrines to the paintings of Alfred Munnings. It will also feature new film works, and an epic series of photograms made at night using the architecture of the Forum building itself to produce a vast new swirling monochrome landscape for Southend.
The exhibition, will be previewed by a live event, recorded with a studio audience in a rarely seen space within the Victorian museum in Southend. Recently stripped back for renovation and unseen for 40 years, the reading room of the old library will be the stage for a panel discussion on imagined landscapes, readings and a presentation from Leykauf on her research into the landscapes of the county.