Disclosures II was part of Nottingham Contemporary’s Histories of the Present, our year long series of exhibitions and events in historically significant places in and around Nottingham during 2008. Our purpose is to understand the present by examining our past and to link the local and international. Disclosures II is also a sequel: the project is a continuation of Disclosures, an ambitious international project at Gasworks in London in 2008. For the project we teamed up with Gasworks, in particular their Exhibitions Curator, Anna Colin.
Disclosures II: The Middle Ages explored the idea of ‘commons’, both in the sense of agricultural commons (the grazing of animals and growing of crops on shared land) and what’s known as the ‘cultural commons’: the shared production and free distribution of knowledge online and in culture in general. Disclosures II was set in the unique Nottinghamshire village of Laxton: unique in that it is the last substantial surviving example of the medieval ‘open field’ system of farming in England. In Laxton farmers farm individual strips of land in shared fields, now owned by the Crown, as they have done for centuries.
What is the connection between a medieval farming system and a collaborative platform on the Internet?
In the 1990s, the Internet was heralded in utopian terms as a new and limitless frontier of information that one day would be equally accessible to all. Since then, corporations and governments have sought to control, appropriate and charge for content. This threat has been met with an increasingly inventive and elusive opposition, whose aim is to increase and democratise the digital commons.
To what extent does Laxton’s survival through centuries of enclosure of agricultural commons suggest precedents for the various ways cultural producers and activists seek to enlarge the public domain of today’s ‘knowledge economy’? Disclosures II: the Middle Ages spans the Agrarian Age and the Information Age through a rich and engaging day of talks, games, walks, conversations, artworks and socialising in Laxton, in parallel with an exhibition by artist Olivia Plender at Nottingham Castle. We are grateful to Anna and Gasworks for their collaboration, to Olivia and Disclosures II’s other contributors, to artist and local historian Chris Matthews, and to the residents of Laxton (particularly Stuart Rose) and our colleagues at Nottingham Castle for being our hosts.
Alex Farquharson, Director, Nottingham Contemporary
Disclosures is an ongoing project that scrutinises the notion of openness across fields of cultural production at large. Started in March 2008 at Gasworks by Anna Colin Mia Jankowicz.