In his celebrated maritime poem Cargoes, Britain’s former poet laureate John Masefield itemizes the freight carried on three ships from the past to his present. In each stanza, Masefield summarizes the zeitgeist of their respective times through each ship’s sundry cargo: from the quinquireme’s exotic animals and woods from Ophir destined for King Solomon’s purse, to the Spanish galleon’s amethysts and gold from the New World destined for the coffers of the King of Spain. The third and final stanza, which describes a salt-crusted British coaster’s everyday merchandise—pig-lead, iron, and “cheap tin trays,” the products of an industrial era—is markedly sober compared to the first two. It is a poignant image for our time, and perhaps Masefield wanted to re-imagine the ship—and its cargo—as something grander than the modern world has delivered. In his work Prose and Poetry of England (2013), Ian Carr-Harris deconstructs Masefield’s textured stanzas with three arrangements of austere table pieces in which he pairs a model of each ship with the poem. Each ship floats silently on the floor; the leaves of each book flutter wide, as though in the wind, allowing the text of the poem and the models of the ships to act as keys to cultural memory and to our imagination.
Similarly, an extrapolation from Carr-Harris’ and Yvonne Lammerich’s ongoing series The Ideal House Project, on view on the gallery’s second floor, investigates similar concerns. Comprised of a wooden model of a house—with a hinged, pitched roof that opens to reveal its interior—and an accompanying video, the installation positions the building’s model as both a noun and a verb, an object to be altered, displaced, and peered into. What is notable about Prose and Poetry of England and of Lammerich and Carr-Harris’ The Ideal House Project is that they are paradigmatic models for action as well as spaces into which we project our possible future. As the artists write about The Ideal House Project, “In the act of building there lies the basis of desire, of intention given form in an evolution of its spatial and aesthetic functions, and the concept of ideal form lies not in some finality, but in the play of possibilities that attends the process of living as becoming.” Through play and projection—the opening of walls, the intimate encounters with models, or the imagined excesses of undiscovered territories—we engage in a process of “living as becoming,” and reveal the remarkable imaginative dexterity of language, display, and childhood games.