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Mark Wallinger’s Writ in Water

With special thanks to Dr Claire Breay, Head of Medieval Manuscripts, British Library, and Marie Thomas and the staff of Salisbury Cathedral
Set in the greenery of Runnymede, Surrey, Mark Wallinger’s ‘Writ in Water’ provides an immersive space for contemplation and reflection. The major architectural artwork is named after the inscription on Keats‘ gravestone, for whom legacy in language was paramount. The work combines this literary reference with that of Magna Carta, the 1215 charter of rights agreed by King John at Runnymede. Magna Carta became a founding moment in shaping the basis of common law across the world. ‘Writ in Water’, commissioned by the National Trust in association with arts producers Situations, celebrates the enduring significance of Magna Carta.

‘Although Magna Carta established the law and the nascent principles of human rights’, the artist explains, ‘the United Kingdom has no written constitution. What seems like a birthright has to be learned over and over and made sense of. Whether the words are ephemeral or everlasting is up to us.’ A viewer has to peer into the reflection of the water in order for the words to take on legibility. The light and hues of the space are governed by the circular skylight, which cites the formalism found in the Light and Space movement.

Wallinger, Runnymede
Installation view, Mark Wallinger, Writ in Water, Runnymede, UK, 2018 © National Trust Images / Andrew Butler
Wallinger, Runnymede
Installation view, Mark Wallinger, Writ in Water, Runnymede, UK, 2018 © National Trust Images / Andrew Butler

‘No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.’—Clause 39, Magna Carta

Wallinger, Runnymede
Installation view, Mark Wallinger, Writ in Water, Runnymede, UK, 2018 © National Trust Images / Andrew Butler

Writ in Water is a collaboration between Mark Wallinger and Studio Octopi. It has been made possible with National Lottery funding through Arts Council England and the generous support of Art Fund, the Sigrid Rausing Trust, the Henry Moore Foundation and Lord and Lady Lupton. With additional support from Iwan and Manuela Wirth, Valeria and Rudolf Maag-Arrigoni and Harris Calnan.

Located on the meadows at Runnymede, Surrey, ‘Writ in Water’ is usually open seven days a week and is free to enter. For further information on current opening times please visit The National Trust.