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The Story

We tend to think, build and behave in ways that support human life, alone’.

To know more about Andy Merritt and Something & Son, visit

Future Fossil by Something & Son (Andy Merritt and Paul Smyth) is a new public artwork located in Oxley Park, Milton Keynes. Developed following an intensive and in-depth community engagement programme and inspired by archeology, the passing of time, our relationship to the natural world, home and future ways of living.

Future Fossil features a life-size section of a typical Oxley Park house. Rising out of the ground as if newly excavated from the future, the house has been fossilized through the passing of time, exposed to climatic disaster and environmental change.

On closer inspection, the interior walls, ceilings and floors of the house are flecked with an array of brightly coloured man-made materials, which have been subsumed into the sculpture, echoing the processes by which plastics are now polluting every corner of the planet.

Future Fossil will create a very special new public space for Oxley Park, where community activities and cultural programmes can be enjoyed by everyone.

Situated in a specially designed landscape reminiscent of an archeological site, the exterior of Future Fossil and the surrounding area will be self-seeded and planted with selected plants, indigenous to the local area for many centuries, creating a semi natural habitat for flora and fauna.

'Future Fossil takes our way of working and rather than putting it into a building we have created a sculpture. Like all of Something and Son's projects we want the sculpture to have a social and environmental use'.

A conversation with Something & Son artist Andy Merritt

Can you explain the relationship to Future Fossil in relation to previous works/projects by Something & Son? In particular it would be good to know more about your multidisciplinary approach to working and the idea of bringing together ideas, disciplines and skills from a wide variety of fields and sectors.

We take the familiar as a starting point from which to rethink our notions of physical and social structures – farm shops, oratory’s, bathhouses, fashion stores or hairdressers. We embed and elevate the everyday into our work twisting perceptions and making us re-evaluate the familiar, whilst subtly changing the structures that surround us.

We often work within architecture – re-purposing an existing building or designing a purpose-built form of architecture around a concept and create a function/experience that sits within and uses that structure. We also create the social and economic systems that help underpin the project and ensure its longevity.

We couldn’t create these projects without collaboration and a multidisciplinary team – in many ways we are like a film studio who bring together a huge variety of people to create a new film or in our case an artwork. Our first question is how do we make the project actually function, which entails working with experts depending on the specialist needs of the project – to name a few…horticulturalists, ornithologists, spa specialists, botanists, technicians, farmers, field philosophers, biologists, theologians. For most projects we will also work with structural engineers, acoustic technicians, website designers, architects, fabricators, producers in creating the actual artwork.

Future Fossil is taking this way of working and rather than putting it into a building we have created a sculpture. Like all our work we want the sculpture to have a social and environmental use, so we have explored how it can be functional as well as an aesthetic. We also really wanted the sculpture to bring people together in a simple way. At the beginning of the project, we learned that residents view Oxley Park as a village, so we researched traditional villages and towns which often have at their hearts a market cross or butter cross – these are covered stone structures which are open on the sides to the elements. They are situated on the crossroad of where people come together and trade, so we placed Future Fossil at the boundary between Oxley Park and Westcroft – the adjoining village as a nod to this heritage and tradition.

Materials Workshop Oxley Park
Materials Workshop Oxley Park

You have mentioned in past texts and conversations that you see a direct correlation between the building of a new town or Milton Keynes with the Anthropocene. Can you expand on this thinking and how you intend Future Fossil to exemplify man’s domination over nature?

We started developing Future Fossil nearly 4 years ago and the world has changed a lot in that time. We were/are interested in the general acceptance that we are now in a new geological age – the Anthropocene where ‘we now live in a world where human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.’ The Anthropocene might also be the final stage in our separation with nature – right now, we think, build and behave in ways that support human life, alone. How can a change of landscape and mindset turn the tide of environmental mass destruction, into mass construction that reconnects us with the natural world? We wanted the sculpture, in its own little way to start to bring the people and nature closer together – to build a house for all.

Before the dawn of agriculture, humans would have lived within natures system as in we would have lived from and in the forest, and as such were part of the closed loop of nature – everything we did, eat, travel, produce, waste would have fed back into the ecosystem. Now, nearly everything we do is outside of this loop – from our nutrient high poo which could be a fertilizer but instead is treated as waste, the pollution from the energy we use, the way we travel to the food we eat – resulting in monocultural landscapes where we suck energy and resources from the planet. We have essentially created a world within a world – we live on top of Earth we don’t live in it anymore. We can ignore and bulldoze through natures systems – we have the infrastructure and mechanisms to do what we want when we want and this ability and confidence is manifest in Milton Keynes – some planners decided to build a whole city from scratch so that is what was done.

In 10,000 years what will be left behind? Future Fossil imagines a future landscape where civilisation excavates the ground to reveal a still life of early 21st life captured in fossilized form. The work depicts a house from Oxley Park that has fossilized through the passage of time, being enveloped by the materials of now – plastic and concrete – manmade materials that nature has processed and reformed. The house has slowly decayed from the inside out leaving behind an imprint of the Anthropocene era.

The artwork will celebrate and question what this confidence means and how nature survives or thrives in this new age – questioning how people can live in coexistent with the natural world.

Visit the sculpture Click here

The form of a domestic house has been used throughout art history to convey a wide variety of ideas and theoretical positions. From Vermeer’s highly coded, empirically staged interiors to Whiteread’s politically motivated and emotionally charged ‘Ghost’ – the house has been a consistent and recurring motif. Can you explain your thinking behind the decision to use this familiar form within this context?

Future Fossil will be located within an area of predominantly private housing and we wanted to play with this, reflecting the context of the sculpture and turn the private into public – an open house in an increasingly privatised society. The form of the house is a hybrid, taking elements of the surrounding designs of the Oxley Park housing stock, it will be a familiar but an alien form.

We feel that longevity is an important area missing from our society – we are very much stuck in the present. Previous generations would have built across generations and as such they would have been looking beyond themselves into the future. That is why companies were called X and Son – it was about looking beyond yourself. The sculpture takes the form of a house to offer hospitality to see your neighbours – whether that is a person or another species.

Read more here about how to take part

The engagement of the community in relation to both construction of Future Fossil and its subsequent activation is a central facet to the use or functionality of what essentially will become a new public realm space for Milton Keynes. Could you describe the mechanisms for engaging the community and the importance of this process?

Within our work we provide people a platform – the artwork is essentially there for people and/or nature to use somehow. We often play around with everyday experiences that allows a way into communities. We also try to get a community involved in a project as early as possible and definitely before a project opens. For Future Fossil, we’ve taken the idea of our work providing a platform quite literally – the sculpture is a stage for people to use whilst also providing space for a self-determined ecology to grow. Most of our works have a door so we can open and shut the project – this will be open to people to use and more than any other project it’s very important that the community takes ownership of the artwork which is why we are setting up Friends of the Fossil.

Alongside the design of the physical structure we will also build systems of support – setting up online presence, company and economic structures, assembling a project team and jumping through all the hoops and knocking down doors to try and let something unusual to happen.

It’s important to us to do all the above because we aren’t interested in static artworks – we want them to live. So much of contemporary life is sterile and a large part of our work is really trying to add a diversity of experience for everyone to participate in.

Oxley Park Academy Workshop
Pupils own 'Future Fossils'
Workshop Materials

Often public art commissions and those artists that are working within public art are accused of falling prey to instrumentalisation – having to work within the strict confines of a commission brief and answerable to multiple partner and stakeholder groups. How do you navigate this landscape and ensure that the works that you conceive and deliver are true to your vision and thinking?

I don’t know if we are lucky, but we tend to be left to our own devices and even though there are some things that are set in stone like location, we generally present an idea for a project that we think would work. Maybe we find it easy because our work is generally site specific and focuses on community involvement so no real confines ever materialise.

A lot of our work has cultural partners who sit within the commissioning group and help to negotiate with the rules and regs side of the project. For Future Fossil, we are working with the Cultural Department at Milton Keynes Council and Aldo Rinaldi who has lots of experience of working within public realm artworks and they both supported and protected us to help ensure the artworks integrity wasn’t lost. We also often get commissioned by art institutions and triennials and again there is obviously the art driven people at the helm – which is needed because within large art institutions there are lots of rules and regs departments involved.

About Something & Son

Something & Son (Andy Merritt and Paul Smyth) are a collaborative artistic practice who explore social and environmental ideas and issues, within the context of everyday scenarios, working across visual arts, architecture and activism.

Their shared passions for community and the environment have led them to produce experimental, provocative and fully functioning works that address the social and environmental challenges of our time.

Recent projects have included A Common Ground at Tate Britain where they transformed the front lawns of Tate into a working garden for the stomach, the soul and society; 50M – An experimental concept store which is dedicated to sustainable fashion and supporting the careers of emerging designers, and Peckham Palms, a new Afrocentric space in the heart of Peckham designed to support and grow London’s Afro hair and beauty industry.

‘Right now, we tend to think, build and behave in ways that support human life, alone’.