single screen video with sound
9 mins 14 secs
Legal contract drawn up by Stephen Elliott, from Denton Wilde Sapte, to manage the transfer of ownership of a square foot of land between its recipient, Kunal Singh, and Southwark Council.
Commissioned by the South London Gallery and The Contemporary Art Society Special Collection Scheme.
Collection of the South London Gallery.
Exhibited in, Perfectly Placed (2004), South London Gallery, curated by Donna Lynas.
Settlement, as low resolution on Vimeo.
Adam Chodzko organised the purchase of a square foot of land in Southwark and gave it as a gift to a stranger. In Chodzko’s video work, Settlement, this tiny patch of turf (the same dimensions as the camera frame that films it), is recorded, whilst the legal document that deals with its transaction acts as a script for the land’s new owner ; one from which they begin to explore the parameters of their new space. Shifting between a portrait and a landscape Settlement becomes a description of both a place and a person and the precarious and elaborate web of issues and rituals that attempts to connect them.
Journalist, Will Pavia, in an article for the Southwark News, August 12th, 2004 wrote:
‘In one of London’s smaller property deals, Southwark Council has flogged a square foot of land to an artist, who in turn has given it to a man currently squatting in Uxbridge…Kunal Singh, an Indian national was formerly a resident in the area, living in a warehouse beside the Old Kent Road, until he and his fellow land rights activists were evicted by a court order…According to the contract, Mr Singh has the right to the ground, as well as to the soil beneath it, from Peckham down to the earth’s core, although he is not permitted to make any excavations, or set up a mine.
He also has rights to the airspace, but as the land is protected open ground, he is not permitted to build on it, as it is part of a park, he is forbidden from holding small political meetings there.
…artist Adam Chodzko said…”it is about trying to give a stranger a gift, and all the potential and restrictions that always go with that act. A criteria was that they wouldn’t expect it and that they would be unlikely to become a UK landowner in any other way.” Mr Singh fitted the bill…his UK visa expires on the 31 of December. But wherever he travels, he can comfort himself with the thought: that there’s some corner of a foreign land that is for ever Singh’s land.’
Excerpt from: Brian Dillon ‘No Right of Light or Air,’ Annual, Kent Institute of Art and Design, pp.19–34:
Settlement The cartographer and essayist Tim Robinson, reflecting on the geometrical relationship between the coastal dweller and the space which he or she treads, has written: ‘The idea of freedom is associated in dozens of turns of phrase with that of the step…. With this freebooter’s licence there goes every likelihood of superficiality, restlessness, fickleness and transgression — and so, by contraries, goes the possibility of recurrency, of frequentation, of a deep, and ever-deeper, dwelling in and on a place, a sum of whims and fancies totalling a constancy as of stone.’ What, we might ask, is the depth of a settlement, when its width is only that of a step? In 2004, Adam Chodzko procured a plot of land in Burgess Park, London, measuring a scant 34 cm by 23 cm . He handed it over to a stranger, Kunal Singh, whose voice we hear in the DVD work Settlement (2004) as Chodzko’s camera frames the sun-bleached stretch of grass itself. Mr. Singh reads, and comments on, the terms of the agreement according to which the Mayor and Burgess of London cede certain rights to the plot’s new owner, while reserving others. The document is a record, as it were, of constancy and whim: its terms perform a peculiar territorial poetry: ‘loose items’, ‘ancillary matters’, ‘rights of light or air’.
Ownership of the land, it transpires, brings with it privileges which are immediately denied by the document which is their guarantee. Most startlingly, Mr. Singh seems to have ‘subsoil rights’ which extend to the very core of the earth, but is legally barred from disturbing the soil or grass which roof his narrow segment of the world. His commentary is by turns authoritative and bemused, quite unsure of his exact entitlements with regard to his little settlement. The viewer, meanwhile, is transfixed by the space itself, at the centre of which (in the film’s opening seconds) something is crawling. The territory, in fact, is alive with movement: dried grass drifts across the screen, and this tiny span of earth singularly refuses to settle into the assured and stable future which a lawyer’s document imagines for it. Settlement imagines a mobile cartography; it maps a place which is strictly nowhere, an interstice which threatens to slip away, confounding formal and legal efforts to mark its boundaries in space or time.
The notion of mud or earth containing knowledge, a guidance towards a future transformation is also explored in, for example, cell-a (2002), Sowmat (2007), A Hostile Environment (2019) and Holding the Earth this Way, (2022).
In 2009, Adam Chodzko was asked by the artist Cesare Pietroiusti to contribute an artwork which could be exchanged for an idea for an exhibition (Artworks That Ideas Can Buy) at Antony Wilkinson gallery’s project space (along with artists; Jeremy Deller, Lara Favaretto, Mario Garcia Torres, Liam Gillick, Joan Jonas, and Tania Bruguera.
For this exhibition, Chodzko made a poor pirate copy of Settlement, filmed playing on a TV monitor, and then offered this together with the area of topsoil (1″ deep) of the particular piece of land used in Settlement, by digging up this small amount of turf (which of course soon grew over always remaining the land in the Settlement contract)
In an email to Cesare Pietroiusti, Chodzko wrote: