2020, Lockdown, News

Lockdown Land of Cockaigne

Painting 2 Cockaigne

It started on Facebook, I think from a site like board panda, who attributed the origins to Adobe: when booooom.com partnered with Adobe to create the Remake project, which invited students across the U.K. to recreate famous artworks with photography.

The Getty Museum in Los Angeles, locked down, creatively challenged people to recreate some of their favourite works at home and then share their artistic interpretations on social media. Or was it a tweet from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, aimed at kids, asking them to re-create Old Masters with three items from their cupboards?

The Land of Cockaigne came to me. The original is allegorical and based on the mythical land of plenty, an unflattering one, where Breugel finds a comic illustration of the spiritual emptiness  derived from gluttony and sloth. Gluttony and over eating,  many of us (unaffected by the virus) are experiencing in these lock down days and there is of course, the other gluttony of our social /political system needing more and more to satiate it’s mercantile appetite.

I’m lucky to have a wood to lockdown in, which happens to have a old cable drum, looking exactly like the table in Land of Cockaigne, and this became the point around which we turned.

Michael (a healthy 85 years) was up for it, although I think more interested in re-creating the Gainsburgh Mr and Mrs Andrews he was game for Cockaigne. We began on Sunday morning, and had assembled all ingredients by mid day – a surprising amount of detail in the original to find.  There are 3 main characters laid out in exhaustion from eating, each representing 3 spokes of the wheel, a clerk, a farmer, and a soldier. While I would be the clerk, Michael the soldier, and I’d find a dummy for the farmer.

An iPad replaced the ink and paper of the Clerk, and cookery books like Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi replaced the single black book. I found a gauntlet glove for the soldier. It looked like asparagus on the table, which by chance we had, and a few other delicacies such as a shell of a tortoise, a tiffin, salt and pepper. I had to chance a shop at Co-op to get a roast chicken and thought Chicken in a Bag relevant to the story. The egg on legs was more troublesome. We’d eaten eggs that morning so I took those egg shells, and placed inside a childs shoe that I’d found in the woods. I turned by back and all the egg shell was eaten by a dog. Same fate met the 2nd egg. The 3rd was guarded and lasted.  It was Michael’s idea to get the Buddha head as the man waiting with his mouth open for the pigeon to fly into it (the pigeon was removed accidentally during restoration  – that would have been an irreversible  moment!) As for the pig with the knife tied to it, that was impossible to find, so I persuaded Bobji to sit for a while with a knife tied to her. Yikes.

Sam took the photos, looking on at our madness.

Cockaign 2Cockaign 5 TableCockaign 4 eggCockaign 6 detail

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