Skip to main content

The Commons: Re-enchanting the World

Six Artists respond to the commons in The MERL Galleries

Museum opening hours

A new installation in The MERL Galleries.

The commons defines the natural capital that we all share: land, air, and water. It is a reciprocal social system that cares for and preserves these resources. It relies on relationships of shared knowledge and creativity, which bind us together with more-than-human processes, forces, and resources.

When the commons are enclosed, eroded, or made inaccessible, the effects are devastating. It leads to grave ecological changes and brings about the decline of communal life and subsistence living. In turn, this can impact environment, lifestyle, labour, gender rights, and the wage economy. Rural histories of enclosure provide a link between the commons and The MERL. Private ownership played a critical role in early capitalism and colonial expansion. Damage stemming from these processes has radiated around the world and into our future.

Six artists with responses to the commons have made installations for the Museum’s galleries. For them, this concept should not be confused with a simple or binary understanding of the links between humans and nature. Propelled into different areas of research, discussion, and collaboration, their diverse interpretations explore the notion that the commons is active and living, not a passive resource to be managed. They focus on how the many social and ecological challenges we now face link back to complex histories of ownership and enclosure.

Click here for more information about the artists.

The Commons: Re-Enchanting the World is generously funded by Arts Council England and the University for the Creative Arts and takes place at The MERL, from April 2021 to January 2022, with installations and interventions in The MERL galleries and gardens, a virtual launch event on 30th July, in-person events in September 2021, part of Heritage Open Days, workshops in the autumn term, and a symposium in January 2022. There will also be an accompanying publication.