London-based artist Ruth Ewan brings to life the French Republican Calendar in a new work made for Camden Arts Centre’s Gallery 3. In use from 1793 until 1805, the calendar temporarily redefined and rationalised the Gregorian Calendar, stripping it of all religious references in post-revolutionary France. Months and weeks were restructured and seasons and days renamed in collaboration with artists, poets and horticulturalists to reflect nature and agriculture.
Bringing together all 365 items used to denote the days of the year - such as a lettuce, a cart, wax, a turnip, honey, a fir tree, ivy, figs, mercury, lava, moss, tuna, a pheasant, an axe – the gallery will be transformed into a tangible calendar. The title of the exhibition comes from the former title of the French folk song Il Pleut, Il Pleut, Bergère (It Rains, It Rains, Shepherdess) written by the Republican Calendar collaborator, Fabre d'Églantine, who allegedly recited the song’s lyrics calmly at his own execution.
For Ewan, the Republican Calendar is an inspiring and innovative example of collaboration between artists and the state. Often cited as a ‘failed utopianism’, Ewan reconsiders the calendar as a complete artwork in itself, asking what can now be gleaned from this bold reframing of our daily lives. Presenting strands of subversive histories, her work reflects on how radical ideas have been transferred, absorbed or lost within popular culture, whilst reopening their historic continuity to the present moment.
Ewan will present two other projects in sites around Camden Arts Centre, including her ongoing work A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World (started in 2003) in the Café. The CD jukebox invites visitors to choose tracks from its growing catalogue of over 2,200 politically and socially motivated songs. Ewan’s 2011 work We Could Have Been Anything We Wanted to Be, a decimal clock also relating to the Republican Calendar, will be shown outside Gallery 3.
Camden Arts Centre will launch its Instagram account in 2015 to coincide with Ruth Ewan: Back to the Fields. Follow @camdenartscentre #backtothefields to find out more in the forthcoming weeks.
Supported by The Henry Moore Foundation
Thanks to the support of: Agricultural Museum Brook; Julie Bixley; Chew Valley Trees; Crayfish Bob; Essex Rural Attractions; Field to Fork Organics Co-operative Limited; Franchi Seeds of Italy 1783; London Canal Museum; Mr Wood’s Fossils; Oxford University Museum of Natural History; Matthew Shaw; Will Summers; Tim Smith Stonemasonry; Rob Tufnell; and Woody’s Antiques.
The otter holt within the installation was built by families and members of the International Otter Survival Fund at a Family Day held on 18 January.