British artist Peter Nadin arrived in New York in the late 1970s as a painter, and he then went on to undertake a series of key conceptual collaborations with other artists, including the Offices of Fend, Fitzgibbon, Holzer, Nadin, Prince, and Winters. By the 1990s, he had begun to merge his farming practice in upstate New York with his artwork. Here, he discusses The Delivery, 2017, a twenty-minute film premiering in his exhibition “Third Mark,” which is scheduled to travel around Cuba for two years, giving rise to collaborations with local artists, cooks, and farmers along the way. The show’s first stop is at the Centro de Desarrollo de las Artes Visuales in Havana, where it will be on view from February 17 through March 17, 2016.
I WAS TRYING TO MAKE A MOVIE about the reality of taking the pig to the city. It’s a very common thing that I do: We have the pig, we put him in the van, and we take the van down to the city. I suppose it started out almost like a documentary, just showing the pig; the pig going to the city; the pig being butchered; and then the pig being served. But as I thought about it, I realized that the reality of it was much more complex. The delivery was not just an external event; it was also an internal event, of thoughts, ideas, memories, and in including those, I realized the film would become a more realistic representation of that experience. Once I started thinking about what encompassed this experience, all kinds of things started to appear, mainly the idea that you’re not always conscious of the activity you’re engaged in—as in the moving in and out of dreams, thoughts, songs, musings.
I didn’t know when I started using the relationship of myself with the pig, about ten years ago for my project “The First Mark,” that it’s a fairly common subject throughout art history: It was a decorative motif on fifth-century Greek vases; there’s Giovanni Bologna’s sculpture at the Wallace Collection in London, of Hercules carrying the boar; and of course Saint Anthony, to whom the devil appeared as a pig. It’s fascinating. The beginning point for me was simply the relationship of myself to Abe, the pig, but that proved to be like a stone thrown in the water, rippling out in different ways.
The script of this movie is part of a longer prose poem and diary that’s going to be published by Edgewise, who also published my book Taxonomy Transplanted in 2013, on the occasion of my show at the Horticultural Society in New York. The new book is going to be called Third Mark, Me and Abe, Hercules and the Erymanthian Boar. All of the projects I’ve done have had an element of poetry in them. It’s the way I write, it’s how my thoughts occur. The film started off, like all of my films, with having the camera around like a paintbrush. It was put together the way I make paintings: I start with a set of intentions or ideas, and as I put one mark on the canvas, that suggests something back to me. There’s a continual response and dialogue as we move toward completion. We didn’t start with a script or a poem and then make the movie; the script or the poem evolved as we were filming. There are a lot of different elements in the work, shot by myself and various other people, my daughter included, in Super 8, 16 mm, and HD video. Rebecca Fourteau, a talented friend of my daughter’s, was the main cinematographer, and the sound was designed by Alex Wernquest, who set up a recording studio in Cairo down the road from us.
As for the relationship of farming to artistic endeavors, I would say that in farming the value is to create a state of equilibrium between the different species. The farm exists in equilibrium with the farming practice. The artistic practice is, if you like, the revelation from that equilibrium, or the possibility of revelation from that equilibrium. It’s not about wanting to call digging a field a piece of art. It might be art, who knows! But it has an aspect of revelation that then takes you into all these ten thousand years we’ve been working on the fields, or we’ve been making images of the pig, or we’ve been cooking the pig, or we’ve been thinking about the pig. All this layering of experience over what we still do is for me a very fertile area to be working artistically, and also agriculturally.