Liane Lang 2021-22

Liane Lang is the Festival’s second artist-in-residence, joining us in Wirksworth during the summer of 2021, she presented an exhibition of her work in progress ahead of plans for a larger exhibition in 2022.

Visual artist Liane Lang has a special interest in statues and historic monuments. Her practice is primarily photographic, often using alternative processes and printing on a variety of materials including stone, concrete and metals.

Ahead of Liane’s Wirksworth Festival residency, she talked about her excitement and main focus for the project:

“I am delighted to have been chosen as Wirksworth Festival’s artist-in-residence and plan to spend time looking at the idea of landscape as memorial. I am particularly interested in exploring the region for objects and features that retain and retell histories, both natural and man made and to talk to people about their experience of the landscape.

While researching Wirksworth I was excited to discover its history of lead mining. I have created work using lead as a material in the past, notably a photograph of the philosopher Hannah Arendt printed onto a sheet of lead. I will be using lead as a material in the project, exploring its unique qualities of pliability and strength.”

Liane wrote the following text to accompany her 2021 work in progress exhibition, The Monumental Landscape:

Derbyshire and the Peaks feels like a museum to human history. Tightly packed are traces and tracks of our activities going back thousands of years. Mounds and mines, quarries and caves, fields and rock faces.

And in the bucolic beauty rumble away vast machines extracting aggregate, milling sand, huge lorries roar down picturesque lanes, moving tons of rock.

From a vantage point at Alport Heights I could see the cooling towers of Radcliffe and Willington. Willington where also found remains of the Anglo Saxons and their rarely surviving Grubenhäuser, houses dug into the ground. Building, digging, hacking, cutting, eating, sleeping, carving and killing – the colossal effort of thousands of generations lie there, gently covered by grass, forming suggestive mounds and mysterious manifestations. All rock formations strangely morph into human forms, grimaces, dancers and reclining beauties.

The complexity of much of technology seems totally baffling sometimes. How did anyone come up with that process, think to extract lead ore, hack, smelt, foam, filter to create this material, which is endlessly pliable, almost indestructible, yet hard and incredibly heavy.

Harboro Rocks was the most salient place to feel this long history of endeavour, quarried and mined by the Romans, the factory nestled by its side roars and grinds until late into the evening. Around the picturesque mound of weathered rock lie the remains of lead smelting machines and engine rooms that point to the sky like lost Inka Cities. As you walk up the hill past the rock face scarred by lead veins scratched out meticulously, you find a cave door. Daniel Defoe visited this place in 1726 and met a family of seven who had lived in the cave for three generations.

Excavations have found it to have been used since the last Ice Age, ten thousand years ago. It even contains a flu above the fire pit. If you scale to the top of the mound, you find carved chairs that may date back to Neolithic times and afford a wonderful view across miles and miles of Derbyshire landscape.

We spent millions of years working stone, thousands working metal, hundreds working glass and the speed of our material discoveries and energy exploitation increases at a heart stopping speed. Perhaps in this ingenuity lies the possibility of inventing ourselves out of the precipice of environmental damage, the destruction of our own habitat.

It is easy to think that all our actions are there to generate profit, to exploit resources for fast wealth. But this isn’t entirely true. Much of what we have built and constructed is instead about memory. The mounds and pyramids, engraved and standing stones hold the remains of loved ones. In the face of the devastating knowledge of impending death, our own and those we love or admire, we have to find ways to keep them close, to hold them within our realm of influence, to invoke magic, to give a location, a space and ritual to that memory. Through the best in our nature this connects us across the millennia to all the people who came before.

During Liane’s residency, the Festival commissioned a up and coming, Derbyshire-based filmmaker to document her time in the area – Touch Stone is a beautifully shot short film by Tom Dwyer that you can watch here.

Images taken by Liane Lang of her work in progress exhibition, The Monumental Landscape, 2021.

The Festival’s artist in residence programme, also known as, the Lodge Project is funded by the Ampersand Trust and aims to give an established, UK-based artist 3-months of dedicated and funded studio time in Wirksworth to develop new directions in their work with an emphasis on life in and around the locality of the Festival, read more about the artist-in-residence programme here.

See more of Liane’s work on her website.

Photograph of Liane Lang in her Brickfield Studio

Liane in her studio in Brickfield