WRIT IN WATER
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.