Journeys with 'The Waste Land'
“On Margate Sands.
I can connect
Nothing with nothing.”
(T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land)
Journeys with ‘The Waste Land’ is a major exhibition exploring the significance of T.S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land through the visual arts.
In 1921, T.S. Eliot spent a few weeks in Margate at a crucial moment in his career. He arrived in a fragile state, physically and mentally, and worked on The Waste Land sitting in the Nayland Rock shelter on Margate Sands. The poem was published the following year, and proved to be a pivotal and influential modernist work, reflecting on the fractured world in the aftermath of the First World War as well as Eliot’s own personal crisis.
Presenting over 60 artists, and almost 100 objects, the exhibition includes works by Fiona Banner, Cecil Collins, Tacita Dean, Elisabeth Frink, Patrick Heron, Edward Hopper, Barbara Kruger, Helen Marten, Henry Moore, Paul Nash, Paula Rego, John Smith and JMW Turner. The exhibition explores how contemporary and historical art can enable us to reflect on the poem’s shifting flow of diverse voices, references, characters and places.
The exhibition is the culmination of a three year project designed to develop a pioneering approach to curating. Local residents, coming together as the Waste land Research Group, have developed the entire exhibition. Journeys with ‘The Waste Land’ is consequently the result of many months the group have spent discussing personal connections between art, poetry and life.
The Waste Land Research Group
The Waste Land Research Group formed through an open call issued by Turner Contemporary in 2015. Ranging from people in their 20s to their 70s, the group have brought a diverse range of interests and life experiences to bear on Eliot’s poem. Through weekly meetings, discussions, talks, workshops, walks, research trips, studio visits and individual inquiry, the group have developed their own methods for making decisions together and deciding on content.
All the artworks in the exhibition have been chosen by group members. They have also designed the layout of the show, written the exhibition texts, and devised the public programme.
The exhibition foregrounds the multiple perspectives of those involved. In doing so, it mirrors the form of the poem, where Eliot juxtaposes many different voices and references.
List of artists:
Berenice Abbot I Fiona Banner I Christiane Baumgartner I Sir Peter Blake I William Blake I Leonora Carrington I Cecil Collins I John Davies I Tacita Dean I Tess Denman-Cleaver I Benedict Drew & Nicholas Brooks I Jacob Epstein I Elisabeth Frink I Philip Guston I Henrik Håkansson I Rozanne Hawksley I Patrick Heron I Edward Holloway I Edward Hopper I David Jones I R.B Kitaj I Käthe Kollwitz I Winifred Knights I Barbara Kruger I Matt Lewis I Percy Wyndham Lewis I Nalini Malani I Helen Marten I Bernard Meadows I Ana Mendieta I Lee Miller I Henry Moore I Olive Mudie Cooke I Paul Nash I John Newling I Eduardo Paolozzi I Deanna Petherbridge I Man Ray I Paula Rego I Julia Riddiough I Martin Rowson I Rosalie Schweiker I Monir Sharoudy Farmanfarmaian I Walter Sickert I John Smith I Lalage Snow I John Stezaker I Jo Stockham I Graham Sutherland I Emma Talbot I Berny Tan I Vibeke Tandberg I William Turnbull I JMW Turner I Cy Twombly I Edward Wadsworth I Sally Waterman I Jane & Louise Wilson I William Lionel Wyllie I Carey Young
“Curated by amateurs and boosted by top-notch loans, this show is an inspired match for TS Eliot’s masterpiece poem.” – The Times. Read the article here.
“This is a lively, imaginative and evocative show that by revelling (just as Eliot did) in the collage of our culture with its vast cast of characters, dense overlay of references and polyphony of voices, captures the atmosphere of the poem to which it pays visual tribute.” – The Times. Read the article here.
“enthralling” – The Guardian. Read the article here.
“All these seemingly contradictory components are completely in the spirit of a poem that reverberates with strikingly contrasting voices and is laden with a multitude of different references and time frames.” – The Telegraph. Read the article here.
“Once read, certain images remain for ever; but perhaps uppermost is the overwhelming tenor. And this is where the show is at its best, choosing works that catch that deathless insomniac mood.” – The Guardian. Read the article here.
“a trip to Margate cannot fail to urge visitors back to the poem and its still rich resources for our understanding of art and life.” – The Financial Times. Read the article here.
“a brave and interesting show” – The Telegraph.
This is part of a series of 5 films made by Turner Contemporary with funding from BBC’s The Space in response to Journeys with ‘The Waste Land’. Watch the full series on Turner Contemporary’s YouTube channel here.