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Friday 20 January 2023

Meet the Artist – Andrew Merritt from Something & Son

Orleans House Gallery will see a new, immersive installation take shape at the end of this January. The exhibition, titled SupermarketForest, is by Andrew Merritt from artist duo Something & Son. We met up with Andrew to ask him about his practice and the exhibition. 

Can you tell me a little about your art practice? 

The work I do is quite varied, so it can take different forms.  An overriding element is that the work is functional and provides a platform for other people and species.  I’ve done a lot of projects in cities and art institutions, but increasingly I want to do more work in landscapes, in places that have changed significantly for the worse and where ecosystems are depleted. I want to rethink these sites as places of change, I want to look to the future while also being aware of the past and understanding the extent of what we have lost. Scientists such as bioarchaeologists, archaeobotanists and ecologists have increasing knowledge of what past ecosystems were like and about people’s relationships with them, which were very different from the mass agriculture of today. Then, thinking of the present day and people’s relationship with food, I want to question and use these processes as a means to communicate other ways of viewing landscapes. For example, by using supermarkets as a starting point to think about how we get our daily needs. 

You mention depleted ecosystems.  How do you see the Orleans House Gallery ecosystem? 

The Orleans House Gallery grounds is in a reasonably good state – ecosystems can live in small areas of land – but it has the issue of being an oasis in the desert. The connection with the river ecosystem has been lost. In the past, it would have been an intertidal zone and the rich biodiversity that this would have created is lost. Then there is the nature of the landscape – it has a colonial past, when new species were brought here from other countries. How do we embrace this? As average temperatures rise some of these species from hotter climates may now thrive in the UK. 

What does Cultural Reforesting means to you? 

Cultural Reforesting is changing our cultural relationship to our surroundings, so this relationship goes beyond entertainment and leisure, and we benefit from the landscape while looking after it.  This is a symbiotic relationship between people and landscape.  At the moment we are like ghosts walking over the planet and we’ve lost ourselves.  One of the big questions is how do you manage this change in a megacity where land is so scarce? Can we learn from the past and rebuild from it?  

What can we expect to see at Orleans House Gallery during your exhibition? 

It will be a prototype for a new type of supermarket. Currently the supermarket is the end point of a heavily industrialised food system, but this installation will flip this idea on its head and propose a supermarket as the beginning of a food system that nourishes the soil and us. There will be seed kits (made of seeds, soil and mycelium) cast in moulds taken from everyday multipack items like cans or tins.  The seed kits will be produced during the exhibition and stacked onto the shelves, and in spring they will go into the landscape. 

SupermarketForest runs from 28 January to 30 June 2023.  Find out more about SupermarketForest. 

For the events programme, please visit our What’s On.  This will be updated throughout the exhibition. 

Find out more about the Cultural Reforesting Programming which SupermarketForest is part of. 

As well as working with Orleans House Gallery, Andrew was also in residence at the Delfina Foundation.  You can find out more about this project here: Delfina Foundation

Andrew’s biography: 

Andrew Merritt is one half of the artist duo Something & Son, his work explores social and environmental issues via everyday scenarios criss-crossing the boundaries between the visual arts, architecture and activism. Through permanent installations, functional sculptures and public performance that provide a framework or foundation for communities and ecologies to build upon. Works mimic the everyday to act as familiar starting point and then take the subject into new realms. 

The Seed Exchange at the V&A, Image courtesy of the artist

Something & Son have exhibited at Tate Britain; Tate Modern; V&A Museum; Manchester International Festival; Gwangju Biennale, South Korea; Deon Foundation, Netherlands; Vienna Biennale/MAK; Artangel; Milan Design Week; FACT, Liverpool; Cultural Olympia; Somerset House; Folkestone Art Triennial; Design Museum; Royal Botanical Gardens Kew; the Wellcome Collection; and Istanbul Design Biennial.   

A Common Ground at Tate Britain 2018, Image courtesy of the artist

Talks and workshops include the Serpentine Gallery, Kunst-Werke (Berlin), the Science Museum, SALT (Istanbul), Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute (Zurich), CIT (Ireland) Design, Royal College of Art, Central Saint Martins, Riga Technical University (Latvia), Design Indaba (Cape Town), British Council, ICA and the Barbican.   

Andrew’s current and upcoming projects include our largest sculpture to date Future Fossil which will fossilise a suburban house; Intertidal Allotment on the Isle of Sheppey with Cementfields; a project with Somerset House Studios and Kings College London about Human Wildlife Conflict and situated in India and Kenya; Future Amazonia with Museu Emilio Goeldi in Brazil looking at the 64 types of produce that grow in an intact Amazon; a residency at the Delfina Foundation’s Politics of Food programme and a commission with the South London Gallery.  

Find out more about SupermarketForest.