Cultural Landscapes: Li Yuan-chia’s Cosmic Museum in Cumbria


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The LYC Museum and Art Gallery (1972-83) was founded by the artist Li Yuan-chia, who converted and extended an existing farmhouse in Cumbria into a functioning art and community space with international reach. Over its 10-year period, the Gallery hosted the work of more than 320 exhibitors, comprising a diverse mix of local, national and international artists. The LYC also had a popular children’s arts room, as well as a theatre, a printing press, a library and a sculpture garden. Alongside regular poetry readings, workshops and concerts, the Museum quickly made the remote hamlet of Banks, on Hadrian’s Wall, a unique hub of artistic activity in the area and the region.

The presentation by Professor Mark Wilson and PhD student Aaron Tan will introduce and expand upon the significance of the LYC Museum and its utopic impulse, and its continued relevance to artistic and cultural practice today. Animated through images, anecdotes and material from Li’s archive, the LYC Museum is considered in its complex relationship to questions of identity, its environment and social engagement, mediated through Li’s idea of the ‘Cosmic Point’.

Aaron’s bio:

 PhD student Aaron Tan - Arts,

Aaron Tan is an artist and PhD candidate at the University of Cumbria, undertaking practice-led research on the LYC Museum & Art Gallery by the artist Li Yuan-chia. His research examines the Museum's pioneering and radical programme as an embodiment of his practice, which centred around participation and hospitality in rural Cumbria. He is engaged in recovering and animating the critical possibilities of the museum as artwork in today's political and artistic currencies, using event or durational based installations, performances and choreographic methods as modes of inquiry.


Mark’s bio:

Fine Art Professor Mark Wilson,

Mark Wilson is an artist and Professor and researcher in Fine Art at the University of Cumbria, involved with undergraduate and postgraduate Fine Art students, PhD candidates and in facilitating and mentoring the development of staff research within the Department of Arts and Humanities. He is committed to the principle that Fine Art, with its unique and ever-expanding set of methodologies has a special and important contribution to make to knowledge production and indeed in identifying how knowledge itself is constituted. As an artist, his scope of interest spans Art and Ecology, Socially Engaged and Site-Specific Art and Art and Science. Since 2000, he has worked collaboratively with Icelandic artist Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir, building an international practice based on the complexity of human relationships to environment.

Spanning 20 years, our (Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson) art research projects and publications can be sampled here: