WRIT IN WA­TER

Surrey Life - - Runnymede -

De­signed by lead­ing con­tem­po­rary artist Mark Wallinger in col­laboration with ar­chi­tects Stu­dio Oc­topi, this new pub­lic art­work at Run­nymede aims to pro­vide an im­mer­sive space for con­tem­pla­tion and re­flec­tion. De­signed like a sim­ple labyrinth and built in cu­bits, the most an­cient unit of mea­sure, it is made of rough tex­tured rammed stone taken from the site it­self.

“The cir­cu­lar build­ing drew from cas­tle keeps, forts, Ne­olithic build­ings, places where peo­ple were pro­tected and also the no­tion of con­cen­tric cir­cles; this is where Magna Carta was sealed and one can imag­ine the cir­cles spread­ing from that point,” ex­plains Mark.

The rim of the pool in the cen­tral cham­ber is in­scribed with the re­versed and in­verted let­ter­ing of Clause 39 of Magna Carta, which can be read in the re­flec­tion of the wa­ter; ‘No free man shall be seized or im­pris­oned, or stripped of his rights or pos­ses­sions, or out­lawed or ex­iled, or de­prived of his stand­ing in any way, nor will we pro­ceed with force against him, or send oth­ers to do so, ex­cept by the law­ful

judg­ment of his equals or by the law of the land.’ The ti­tle is taken from the in­scrip­tion on poet John Keats’ grave­stone which reads, ‘Here lies one whose name was writ in wa­ter’.

“Magna Carta was a kind of sec­u­lar writ against the ab­so­lute power of the sov­er­eign and the be­gin­ning of the sovereignty of the peo­ple,” says Mark. “When he was dy­ing, John Keats in­structed those words to be in­scribed on his grave­stone be­cause he was so de­spair­ing of his legacy, when in fact he be­came one of the im­mor­tals and his words live anew when learnt and re­peated by ev­ery suc­ceed­ing gen­er­a­tion. We have the Magna Carta but the United King­dom has no writ­ten con­sti­tu­tion, so what might seem to be a birthright is some­thing that has to be learned, re-learned and made sense of by each gen­er­a­tion.

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