Arcadia Redesigned, 1 & 2

'Arcadia Redesigned'
Ham House Garden’s: Garden of Reason Commission 2012

Commissioned for the National Trust’s Garden of Reason exhibition at Ham House and Gardens in Richmond, UK, 2012, the installation looked at the 17th century garden as a theatrical space. Offeh created ‘The Ham Hermit’s Grotto’ a scaled recreation of a rocky cave dwelling, and as resident hermit for the estate, staged a series of performance spectacles to animate the gardens.

The grotto, a symbol of solitude and reflection since antiquity has always provided a space for escapism. In 17th and 18th century European gardens, the grotto became a popular feature, creating a fantasy space for contemplation. As such the grotto can be seen as a prop, a performative object that absurdly collapses artifice and reality, decorative and functional elements.

Offeh’s artificially constructed grotto was in situ in the gardens and allowed visitors to enter, escape and find solitude. The performance spectacles were based on the history of outdoor garden spectacles and masques as performed in the mid 17th century. Each spectacle responded to a particular theme or season and featured groups of performers and visitor/participants in costume with props, music and movement. The events soundtrack featured tracks from Donna Summer’s concept album “Four Seasons of Love” and music from Henry Purcell.

'Arcadia Redesigned (again) & Le Ballet de Roches'
Object Theatre, Performance Installation. 2014
Presented at Howick Place as part of Paradigm Store, Curated by HS Projects

This new iteration used the grotto created for Ham House as the centrepiece for an animated rock garden, consisting of the grotto itself; the installation invited viewers to sit and reflect in the space as a series of mobile rocks animated the surrounding space. Inspiration for the new iteration came from Diane Arbus’ photograph ‘Rocks on Wheels, Disneyland’ depicting a group of fake rocks on trolleys over looking a vast mountainous landscape. Arbus’ image provided the catalyst for Arcadia Redesigned (again).