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review: landscape

New Arcadian Journal

Published annually in a limited edition. Approx 120pp. £20. (Details 0113 230 4608)

In his review of the 'Landscape and Garden in Britain' conference organised recently by the Twentieth Century Society and the Garden History Society, Alan Powers singled out the contribution from Patrick Eyres, editor of the New Arcadian Journal (naj); a publication which, he added, was 'brilliant and offbeat' (aj 9.4.98).

The latest issue, No 45/46, has recently appeared. Entitled Four Purbeck Arcadias, it is (like its predecessors) in A5 format, on high-quality paper, with drawings on its green cover, its endpapers, and throughout the text - in all, a 'Fine Press' publication as the flyer claims. At a glance one might think that its ambitions are primarily aesthetic, but that is not the case. With what it calls an 'interdisciplinary mission to integrate scholarly and artistic practices', the journal's focus is on cultural landscape; so its perspectives prove as much social and political as artistic.

Four Purbeck Arcadias looks particularly at Durlston Park near Swanage, with its inscriptions and its architectural fragments from London, installed by George Burt (a partner in John Mowlem & Co) in the 1880s. Paul Nash seized on them for his 'Swanage or Seaside Surrealism' article in The Architectural Review (1936); the naj - treating Durlston as seriously as, say, Stowe - plays down Nash's emphasis on absurdity to recover the moral and educative purpose behind the park.

At Durlston and elsewhere on the Isle of Purbeck, the journal criticises 'official' site interpretation for favouring natural over cultural history - indeed, often omitting the latter. The MoD's 'conservation' of Tyneham is called 'a landscape lobotomy', depriving it of meaning and the opportunity for reflection; Lulworth Castle, in English Heritage hands, 'is, in a real sense, a new folly' - the much rebuilt castle treated simply as an object shorn of any cultural context.

Last year's issue of the naj, No 42/43, The Political Temples of Stowe, was just as inquisitive in more familiar terrain; before that, No 41/42, Landfall, revealed a taste for upland scenery, Ordnance Survey maps, and the poetic wastes of Dungeness.

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