The Law of the Land

Root Event

6. Werkleitz Biennale Common Property / Allgemeingut
The Law of the Land
2002
Emma Kay, The Law of the Land, 2002, detail, seven panels of text, Courtesy of The Approach, London

“The Law of the Land” is one of a series of text works by Emma Kay that are written from memory. They are not demonstrations of the power of recall but illustrations of the way in which people identify themselves as much by their lack of knowledge as by knowledge itself. The seven panels contain everything that the artist could remember of the laws of Britain, without consulting any sources of reference. The work is an attempt to discover what any person might know of the laws by which their life as a citizen is regulated. The resulting text is typeset and structured as if it were a legal document. It is presented as an alphabetical list of acts of parliament, an entirely imagined presentation which nevertheless gives the impression of being official and correct. The acts include the Official Secrets Act or The Human Embryology and Fertilisation Act. They cover murder, civil rights, sports, terrorism and land law to name a few examples.

“The Law of the Land” reveals how the basics of government are absorbed by people as they go about their daily lives and how the law is inextricably bound up with a person’s moral and political thinking. It gives a physical existence to something that is never seen – the body of the law.

Emma Kay, The Law of the Land, 2002, detail, seven panels of text, Courtesy of The Approach, London

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