Sam Durant: Scenes from the
Pil­grim Story: Nat­ural History

16 March–14 April 2007

Sam Durant

The exhi­bi­tion, Scenes from the Pil­grim Story: Nat­ural His­tory, by Los Angeles-based artist Sam Durant, marked the final phase of Durant’s “Merry Mount” project.

Works by Sam Durant fre­quently amplify the social and polit­i­cal res­o­nance of protest move­ments and charis­matic fig­ures in con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can his­tor­i­cal con­scious­ness. Durant’s method­ol­ogy of entropic logic, derived from Robert Smith­son, approaches his­tory as a dialec­ti­cal process which con­tin­u­ally dis­torts our lenses of past, present and future. Very often his pho­tographs, sculp­tures, draw­ings and instal­la­tions evoke this insta­bil­ity between sta­sis and flux. By select­ing out and col­lid­ing cer­tain cul­tur­ally loaded objects and icons, Durant’s works test the vol­ume of these fig­ures’ cur­rent social and polit­i­cal reverberations.

The exhi­bi­tion at Catri­ona Jef­fries brought together a series of pho­tographs and sculp­tural plat­forms based on a scene that Durant acquired from the now-defunct Ply­mouth National Wax Museum. The museum pur­ported to tell the story of the Eng­lish Pil­grims’ jour­ney to Mass­a­chu­setts and the estab­lish­ment of their Ply­mouth colony. Enti­tled “Merry Mount,” the par­tic­u­lar dis­play that Durant obtained depicts a dis­si­dent com­mu­nity led by social reformer Thomas Mor­ton. In 1626, Mor­ton learned that inden­tured servant-colonists were being sold into slav­ery on Vir­gin­ian tobacco plan­ta­tions and encour­aged the remain­ing ser­vants to become the free conso­ci­ates of a com­mu­nity he renamed Mount Ma-re (or sim­ply Mer­ry­mount). The Mer­ry­mount colony treated Indi­ans as equals, sought a degree of inte­gra­tion with the local Algo­nquin cul­ture, and prac­ticed rural folk tra­di­tions which out­raged the Puri­tans who viewed such prac­tices as pagan. Fol­low­ing the erec­tion of an 80 ft high antler-topped May­pole as part of Morton’s 1628 May­day ‘Rev­els of New Canaan’, the Ply­mouth Mili­tia invaded Mer­ry­mount, cut down the May­pole, destroyed the colony and marooned Mor­ton on the deserted Isles of Shoals until he was able to escape to England.

Durant’s Scenes from the Pil­grim Story: Nat­ural His­tory inves­ti­gates the objects, equip­ment and man­nequins that serve to frame and iconi­cize the story of Mer­ry­mount through this Amer­i­can colo­nial his­tory museum display.

For fur­ther infor­ma­tion or press enquires please con­tact Catri­ona Jef­fries or Anne Low at +1 604 736 1554.