Stroud’s Mucky and Wonderful Commons
Renowned performance artist Richard Layzell returns to Stroud this May with his new project Common as Muck. He will be found exploring, investigating and probing the boundaries of the extensive common land that surrounds the town. What secrets are there hidden in the commons? Finding out can be a mucky business.
From 10–15 May, London-based performer Richard Layzell will be sharing his project online in collaboration with Stroud Valley Artspace (SVA). Each day will present a new adventure as he explores the remarkable common land surrounding Stroud, including Rodborough, Minchinhampton and Selsey Commons. These great commons have been handed down to us through the ages as places of public ownership and access, but how free do they really feel on the ground? What are the obstacles to our ‘right to roam’? Are rules being broken? What about the cows, the SUVs, the golf course, the overnight camper vans, the surrounding grand houses, the footpaths, the prehistoric field systems, the Neolithic long barrow, the hang gliders and the brambles?
Layzell’s project continues his sixteen-year relationship with SVA and follows on from The Value of Mush, a ‘love letter to Stroud’s car parks’ and online project presented in January. The Value of Mush and Common as Muck are both part of Layzell’s umbrella project The Naming, in which he works with maverick environmentalist Kino Paxton to challenge the ways we distance ourselves from aspects of the natural world by categorising and naming things. Follow @LayzellPaxton on Facebook and @layzell_paxton on Instagram for daily updates of Layzell’s adventures.
Layzell’s relationship with SVA goes back to 2004, when he was resident artist for their first major building development in John Street. He worked with Jo Leahy, Neil Walker and architect Simon Jones on a small commission that he spun out until 2008, forming a strong attachment to SVA and to Stroud. Layzell returned to Stroud in 2009 to show his site-specific commission The Manifestation in the gallery and staircases of SVA, working then with his fictional collaborator Tania Koswycz. Since 2018, Layzell has been working with Kino Paxton on The Naming, an action research project that has taken him from the tidal reach of the River Avon to the highways of Seoul, via the misspelled shopping malls of Canada and the exquisite song of the pied butcherbird in Australia. Layzell and Paxton take a playful and intuitive approach to a subject that is hugely important to them: Deep ecology, an environmental philosophy that promotes the inherent worth of all living things regardless of their seeming usefulness to human beings.