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.