Alastair & Fleur Mackie: Between The Dog and The Wolf / 8 March - 13 April 2019
Copperfield, London is pleased to present Between The Dog and The Wolf, Alastair Mackie’s (b.1977, Cornwall) first solo show with the gallery.
When early humans ceased their nomadic existence as hunter-gatherers and settled down to cultivate the earth and produce food, they believed that the success of their labours was dependent on deities who would oversee the fruitfulness of their crops. To this end, rites of great significance were held to propitiate the gods.
In Britain it was believed that a spirit lived amongst the crop and that at harvest time it retreated before the oncoming reapers, taking refuge in the last of the standing corn. These superstitions led some to wield their scythes blindfolded or throw their blades from a distance in order to cut the last sheaf. This final bundle was often given a name, personifying it as an animate being, and its fall was marked with a formal ceremony and display.
The sheaf was then fashioned into an effigy, a talisman believed to contain the spirit. This 'trophy' was taken into the farmer’s home and kept safe indoors throughout the winter, and only returned to the earth with the coming of the new season. Giving the spirit a refuge during the dark and cold winter months was believed to ensure good luck for the forthcoming crop. In some cases the bundle was ritualistically burnt at the end of the winter as a way of releasing the spirit.
As the earliest cultivated crops in human history, cereals continue to be among the most important food sources for us today, though the culture around them has changed dramatically. In recent years wheat production levels have not satisfied demand triggering a shortage in supplies and price instability. With a predicted world population of 9 billion by 2050, its demand is expected to increase by 60% while its vulnerability to climate change leaves us precariously exposed.
In keeping with historical convention Mackie has taken hold of the corn spirit and in collaboration with one of the few remaining true practitioners of the craft, has produced a traditional spiral plait which, in turn, has been encased within a mould, burnt out, and cast.
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