Inverted words: Writ in Water by Mark Wallinger and Studio Octopi
Client: National Trust’s Trust New Art Programme
Artist: Mark Wallinger and Studio Octopi
Location: Englefield Green, Egham TW20 0YU (GB)
Following a rebellion by the barons, King John Lackland signed the Magna Carta in Runnymede on 12 June 1215, laying the foundations of Britain's present-day constitutional state in the process. 'Writ in Water', a public artwork by Mark Wallinger and Studio Octopi, pays homage to the legacy – spanning over 800 years – of the first-ever written constitution.
'Writ in Water' was designed by Mark Wallinger to be an immersive environment for contemplation, a place in which the meeting of water, sky and light invites visitors to reflect on the written foundation of democratic principles. The entrance leads visitors through a circular labyrinth into the central chamber, where the open roof creates a mirror image of the sky in a pool of water.
The inner circumference of the pool is inscribed with the words of the famous Clause 39, which forms the foundation of present-day procedural law. As the words are shown in inverted form, they can only be deciphered by looking at their reflection – as if the text were written in water. "Whether the words are ephemeral or everlasting is up to us", states Wallinger, referring to the fact that to this day, Great Britain has no constitution set down in writing.