Lapland UK [Vic and Henry Moores]. 2008. Site-Specific performance installation.
From its title alone the nature of the confrontation that this piece is engaging in is rendered explicit. The paradox of the conflation of those two disparate locations resonates through the entire installation. How can Lapland exist in the UK? Here, of course, Lapland is a cipher not just for Christmas but for fantasy, mythology and imagination. Their place within the drizzly reality of modern Britain is at the heart of this darkly humorous piece.
And so it is that on first entering we are confronted with our childish dreams of Christmas undercut with a kind of brutish finesse reminiscent of the Chapman Brothers. Through a series of interlinked installations the piece painfully dissects the ways in which our Christmas mythology is ransacked in the name of relentless consumerism. Car parks and portacabins are poorly dressed up as fantastical Yuletide locations, potent symbols of late capitalism parading around as Father Christmas in the hope that you’ll buy something.
There is certainly a timeliness to this piece, just as the spirit of Christmas is being brandished as a means of reviving our ailing economy. Middle-aged helpers wander around uncomfortably in ill-fitting green costumes, a potent representation of the low-grade retails jobs that await many people as a consequence of downsizing during the credit-crunch. The artists possibly suggesting, with a Swiftian wryness, that anyone who is made unemployed could simply get a job as an elf.
Beautifully rendered through a series of interlinked muddy fields poorly sprayed white with the occasional plastic polar bear, the installation is a magnificent grotesque. Through its knowingly crude conflation of childish fantasy and crushing economic reality it lays bare the mechanisms by which our dreams are being sold back to us. It is the twisted logic of a December high street, it is the real face of Las Vegas, it is Disney when the apparatus of wonder has failed. A chilling portrayal of an economically and morally bankrupt nation still attempting to cling desperately to the last tattered fragments of its ruined Christmas.
[This exhibition has now finished.]