Reverse Sod Swap. Stage 1 – Community Seeding Hackney November 23 

In 1983, land artist David Nash transplanted a piece of rough North Wales countryside (10 m turf circle) into the lawn of the Serpentine Gallery as part of a sculptural commission. He took the pristine circle of London grass back to Wales where he continued to mow it for several years. He called it ‘Sod Swap’. A botanist counted 27 species in the Welsh turf and 3 species in the London turf. 

Lawn outside Serpentine Gallery London, 1983 
David mowing the London turf in N Wales 1983 

In 2024, 40 years on and with David Nash’s support, Perry will transplant a circle of wildflower meadow from an East London Park into a West Wales sheep grazed field. The Welsh ‘sheep mown’ turf will go to London where it will be mowed regularly. He’s called it ‘Reverse Sod Swap’. Mike is bringing a piece of inner city ‘wildness’ to the countryside and taking a piece of the degraded countryside into the inner city. 

Reverse Sod Swap drawing

Perry, wants to highlight the impacts of enlightened ‘wilding’ of our inner city parks with the damaging impact of monoculture farming in our National Parks, ‘Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty’. Much of the degradation of the rural Welsh landscape has happened in his lifetime, thus the relevance of revisiting David’s original work… and reversing it. He anticipates a 10 metre circle of ‘inner city’ wildflowers and beautiful grasses emerging in an overgrazed Welsh field, whilst the swapped circle of sheep eaten turf sits in a wilded park in Hackney, London, where it will be mown regularly. The work is designed to challenge the myth of the countryside as the only place of ‘wildness’, and to create debate about land use and biodiversity in Britain (Wales). 

Springfield House, Hackney E5, 2024 
Y Cae, Pembrokeshore National Park, Wales 2024 

Reverse Sod Swap (RSS) is a living sculpture about the beauty and importance of diversity in nature and the beauty of diversity in community. Working with Hackney Council, The London turf circle will be taken from Springfield Park, one of the most ethnically diverse areas of Britain. The Welsh turf will be taken from a sheep field adjacent to Perry’s studio at Ffynnonofi, North Pembrokeshire. The field is part of Y Cae, a new Art Ecology experimental project where he is working with artists and ecologists to help rewild 12 acres of degraded land. A botanist will count the species in both turf circles. David Nash beautifully archived his Sod Swap concept with drawings. Perry intends to document the project with a film and photography. 

David Nash Studio, 2023. Sod Swap drawings 

Hackney Council’s Culture and Parks Teams are really pleased to support Reverse Sod Swap and give it a home in Springfield Park. The temporary installation highlights changing perceptions and science around biodiversity and will provide a live and visual monument to reflect upon this. The 40-year time span between David Nash’s original Sod Swap and Mike Perry’s reinterpretation will be a stark reminder of the changing face of the environments we live in and the effects that human action and climate change has on our landscapes.

(Andrew Ellerby, Culture & Heritage manager, Hackney Council )

The project commences with a community seeding at Springfield Park E5, November 2nd/3rd 2024.

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