Morag Myerscough erects a colourful gatehouse at the Hadrian’s Wall in England

Connecting people of 2022 back to AD 122, The Future Belongs To What Was As Much As What Is reveals a temporary contextual installation by the London-based artist.

by Zohra KhanPublished on : Aug 27, 2022

Around the historic remains of one of the best preserved Roman forts in Britain – the Housesteads Roman Fort on Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland, England - artist Morag Myerscough has created a colourful temporary art installation that reimagines the original stone gatehouse built around AD 122. Myerscough collaborated with the local community to create a place "where you could feel the past and the present in your body". The installation titled The Future Belongs To What Was As Much As What Is is where the London-based installation artist and designer seeks the understanding of what walls mean now, and what it meant in the past.

  • The 8.5 metre-high and 12.5 metre-wide installation at the Hadrian’s Wall by Morag Myerscough| Morag Myerscough | England | STIRworld
    The 8.5 metre-high and 12.5 metre-wide installation at the Hadrian’s Wall by Morag Myerscough Image: Chris Ison
  • The vast landscape surrounding the fortifications of the Roman gatehouse| Morag Myerscough | England | STIRworld
    The vast landscape surrounding the fortifications of the Roman gatehouse Image: Chris Ison

"When I was a child I was fascinated by the Romans and my father took me and my sister to Corbridge. I was fascinated that the Romans had underfloor heating as we did not have central heating at that time at home. That is my story; I am a visitor to the Wall as many people are but there are also many different stories from people who have different relationships with the Wall and that is what I wanted to discover,” Myerscough tells STIR in an email interview.

The installation is anchored on the exact site of the Housesteads Roman Fort | Morag Myerscough | England | STIRworld
The installation is anchored on the exact site of the Housesteads Roman Fort Image: Chris Ison

Echoing the original structure, the installation reimagines its original size and also allows visitors to climb up to its top to savour magnificent views of the landscape that were last seen by Roman soldiers over 1600 years ago. Myerscough was commissioned by the English Heritage – a charity that manages over 400 historic monuments and buildings of the national collection. The installation has been brought up to celebrate Hadrian Wall’s 1900th anniversary, with the aim to "create a meaningful way to connect people of 2022 back to AD 122," as per English Heritage’s Chief Executive, Kate Mavor.

Morag Myerscough posing in front of The Future Belongs To What Was As Much As What Is | Morag Myerscough | England | STIRworld
Morag Myerscough posing in front of The Future Belongs To What Was As Much As What Is Image: Chris Ison

The pavilion design features a large-scale scaffold frame whose outer shell displays brightly coloured placards sporting words such as People, Home, Spirit, and Freedom, in addition to phrases that include 'Just Get on With Life', 'Being on the Edge of Something', and 'It’s an Anchor But it is Spread Out', to name a few. The placards were created in collaboration with local poet Ellen Moran and developed together with community volunteers who helped in flushing the gatehouse's façade with a spirit of its own. The workshops where these meetings were held, according to the British designer, was where they shared stories and drank tea. "Every word and phrase on the structure has a story behind it. I wanted to make a piece of work that was co-created and empowering,” she says. Creating these placards also meant understanding how inscriptions were so important to the Romans and why certain patterns have lasted forever.

  • The colourful panels of the installation’s façade were created in collaboration with local poet Ellen Moran, and many community volunteers| Morag Myerscough | England | STIRworld
    The colourful panels of the installation’s façade were created in collaboration with local poet Ellen Moran, and many community volunteers Image: Chris Ison
  • People can climb up to the top of the installation to witness unparallel views of the landscape | Morag Myerscough | England | STIRworld
    People can climb up to the top of the installation to witness unparallel views of the landscape Image: Chris Ison
  • As per Morag Myerscough, the installation enables views of the surroundings that only the Roman soldiers witnessed over 1600 years ago | Morag Myerscough | England | STIRworld
    As per Morag Myerscough, the installation enables views of the surroundings that only the Roman soldiers witnessed over 1600 years ago Image: Chris Ison

The artist recalls the time when she visited Housesteads, and was given the opportunity to choose the location she likes for her contemporary artwork. Standing in the remains of the northern gatehouse and looking at the wilderness, she had a strong feeling that her work has to connect directly with the Wall. "The plan of the Gatehouse was there and I just knew I had to reimagine the Gatehouse. […] A Gatehouse was so important as it was a point along the wall of transition, an opening, a gateway, a portal, communication, questioning occupation and much more,” she adds.

The contextual intervention seeks to understand the meaning of a wall, then and now | Morag Myerscough | England | STIRworld
The contextual intervention seeks to understand the meaning of a wall, then and now Image: Chris Ison

A combination of ephemeral contextual architecture and multidisciplinary art that interprets the enduring beauty of an iconic Roman landmark, one sees a proliferation of intriguing contradictions in this project. I ask Myerscough whether through her work she intends to balance these opposites, or is the project a celebration of them all. While commenting that it is a hard inquiry to dig into, she goes on to say, “Housesteads Fort has become a static monument but it was an active society. My aim for the work was live voices on the outside and on the inside to give the visitor views that had only been seen by the Roman guards 1600+ years ago. The title of the work created in one of the workshops sums it up The Future Belongs To What Was As Much As What Is". She describes the many challenges of building the installation on such a complex site as the project’s most special aspect.

'The Future Belongs To What Was As Much As What Is' is open to public till October 30, 2022.

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