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We are introduced to Hugh, the hunter, as he awakens in his castle to study his day's quarry. Donning the heather-toned tweed created by his great-great-Grandfather, we learn about Hugh's family hunting traditions and the importance of 'fitting into the landscape, as had been learned from his forebears, generation to generation'. Along his journey towards the heather moors in which the elusive Red Grouse conceals itself, Hugh becomes suspicious of his surroundings, sensing a presence that is itself watching over him. The game he successfully shoots down along the way also turns out unexpectedly - a duck, for instance, in Hugh's hands is nothing more than a fleshy form coated in tree bark.
Raised in Dallas, Texas and trained as an architect, Hugh Hayden's work arises from a deep connection to nature and its organic materials. He utilizes wood as his primary medium, frequently loaded with multi-layered histories in their origin, including objects as varied as discarded trunks, rare indigenous timbers, or souvenir African sculptures. From these he saws, sculpts and sands the wood, often combining disparate species, creating new composite forms that also reflect their complex cultural backgrounds. Crafting metaphors for human existence and past experience, Hayden’s work questions the stasis of social dynamics and asks the viewer to examine their place within an ever-shifting ecosystem.
Upon finally entering the heathered clearing, Hugh's role and identity as the hunter shifts as he gains sight of the eyes that have followed him in the form of a Peregrine Falcon. From this point, the tale's primary figure, now 'seen', assumes a vulnerability that throws into question his prowess over his prey, and their presumed unconsciousness of his centuries' old tradition. Once Hugh catches sight of the Red Grouse, nestled almost imperceptibly amidst the foliage, his subtle tweed attire changes for a suit of the same coarse heather that the grouse itself hides amongst. The surreal fable's ending shot, with the hunter's dining table playing host to a group of feasting birds of prey, imparts a sense of shared history in which perceived identites of hunter or hunted, spectator or spectacle, are subverted.
This screening coincides with a live interview on Wednesday 8 July with Hugh Hayden and Elvira Dyangani Ose, Director of The Showroom, London. The artist will conduct a tour of his current exhibition 'American Food', now open in London by appointment, with reference to its themes of African identity and art history, communal or performative eating and the social values of cooking, as well as relating it to the current political upheaval in the US and beyond. He will also talk in depth about the Solomon B. Hayden Fellowship, a new partnership and student fund at Columbia University, named after his late father. Audience participants will be able to pose questions to Hugh and Elvira in real time.
Click here to see Hayden speak about his early works incorporating grouse feathers and wood in this film by Hayward Gallery, where his 2013 work 'Zelig' was featured in the group exhibition 'Among The Trees' earlier this year.