Leah is working in Shropshire and is researching land ownership and histories to gain a deeper understanding of the enclosures act, the impact of the industrial revolution and in parallel the American and Caribbean plantation system. This historical past is vital to having a critical understanding of the systems and politics of now.
The enclosure acts describe the legal process through which common rights over land were terminated and the common land converted to the exclusive property and use of a landowner.
Due to the COVID pandemic, local archive offices were closed we found it easier to start by identifying, researching and discovering the stories of why these small pieces of land retained common land status and therefore tell the story of the enclosure through the remainders.
Leah has been working with people that still had common rights over land and discovering how they exercise these rights. She has been making portraits and interviewing people about their stories, commoners’ rights and to find any historic stories they knew about the land. These stories will be used for a small book based on this project as well as extended wall text for an exhibition using constructed portraits of commoners within the landscape along with an imaginative use of the archive and the poetry of John Clare, to intertwine the traces of history, Empire & the contemporary state of the land.
Leah Gordon (born 1959 Ellesmere Port) is a photographer, film-maker, curator, collector and writer. In the 1980’s she wrote lyrics, sang and played for the feminist folk punk band, ‘The Doonicans’. Leah makes work on Modernism and architecture; the slave trade and industrialisation; and grassroots religious, class and folk histories. Gordon’s film and photographic work has been exhibited internationally including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; the Dak’art Biennale; the National Portrait Gallery, UK and the Norton Museum of Art, Florida. Her photography book ‘Kanaval: Vodou, Politics and Revolution on the Streets of Haiti’ was published in June 2010. She is the co-director of the Ghetto Biennale in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; was a curator for the Haitian Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale; was the co-curator of ‘Kafou: Haiti, History & Art’ at Nottingham Contemporary, UK; on the curatorial team for ‘In Extremis: Death and Life in 21st Century Haitian Art’ at the Fowler Museum, UCLA and was the co-curator of ‘PÒTOPRENS: The Urban Artists of Port-au-Prince’ at Pioneer Works, NYC in 2018 and MOCA, Miami in 2019. In 2015 Leah Gordon was the recipient of the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Travel Award for Central America and the Caribbean.
Image Credit: Leah Gordon.