On the Way to Utopia is an excerpt from the title of an experimental feature film / documentary from the Amber collective of Newcastle that explores the Newcastle Council Leader T Dan Smith who, in 1974, was sent to prison for corruption. (T. Dan Smith: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Utopia)
Smith was a prominent figure in the Labour party and was the leader of Newcastle City Council from 1960 – 1965. His rise to prominence and subsequent downfall is well documented, as is his vision for the transformation of the slums and urban centre of the city.
Smith's era provided a legacy of modernism within Tyneside, much of which is now being demolished.
Under Smith, Newcastle’s was the first English council to have a planning department (headed by one Wilfred Burns) and much effort was put into the regeneration of the city to create a ‘Brasilia of the North’.
Much of the town centre was redesigned with the intention of completely separating pedestrian and car through a series of underpasses and ‘walkways in the sky’.
Part of this legacy was a massive transport infrastructure programme that included the development of a central motorway – a monolithic structure of ‘double decker’ roads and underground routes supported on massive concrete columns.
In the 1970s work began on the construction of the Central Motorway East.
In Diversion No 1: Newcastle upon Tyne Roadworks Report (April 1972), it is noted that the Town Moor will have a ski slope:
Spoil excavated during the construction of the Central Motorway East and other works will be used to provide a new facility for the city – a practice slope for skiers…The hill, made up of about 500,000 tons of spoil, will rise some 50 feet above the existing highest part of the Town Moor and provide an artificial ski slop of at least 150 yards
The plan for this leisure facility was never realised, although the hills are marked on OS maps as ski slopes.
On the Way to Utopia will create an imagined version of the unrealised ski lift as working model of a 1970s ski lift.
The structure will contain a single chair, that will ride on a continual loop between its supporting columns, without stopping, without a destination, on a continual endless journey.
Rather than returning the ski lift to its original location, the work is to be sited on the vast and exposed slopes to the west, where an area of the city called Scotswood has recently been completely demolished and sits waiting for its redevelopment.
Much of the demolition was to rows of Victorian terraces, in an area notorious for crime and poverty. However, it also included five of Tyneside’s most famous blocks, which were due for refurbishment, but were then demolished after private investors pulled out in the wake of the current economic crisis.
These high rise blocks of flats, known as Cruddas Park, were built as part Smith’s vision of a “city in the sky” to replace slum terraces, and one of the blocks of flats was also to be Smith’s home at the end of his life.
The resulting 60-hectare site currently sits empty, bare exposed ground scattered with industrial machines, grazed by the wind that sweeps up from the Tyne as it awaits the continually delayed construction of 2000 new homes as part of the city’s flagship regeneration programme.
On the Way to Utopia is a continuation of my interest in the socio-political meaning invested in an object when dislocated from its original surroundings and placed within a new context. This proposal builds upon my most recent installation where a working scale model of a cable car from Mount Hiei in Japan was installed within an empty lumber shed in Washington DC, USA.
The Artangel commission would allow the development of an installation larger in scale and much more technically demanding than previous works.
The Windmill has been listening to Brixton for almost 200 years, absorbing every rattle from the train tracks, every peal of laughter from the nearby playground and every seismic bass thump from the cars parked on the corner. Molinology is stream-of-consciousness radio for The Windmill, broadcasting every whisper it has heard back into the ether: to radios, into people’s homes and to other windmills around the world. It is a massively collaborative experience, inviting a community to tell its own story, listening to its echoes and reinterpreting it to fill the airwaves with 200 years of history.
Brixton is an urban palimpsest. Once a prosperous shopping centre, and home to London’s first electrically lit street, it became known in the late 20th century as a site of conflict, immigration and poverty – but even that layer is now wearing away, overlaid with the patina of renewal and mobile phone shops.
Situated just off Brixton Hill – between a playground and a waterworks – The Windmill (also known as Ashby Mill) looks above a crisscross of suburban streets, hugging a patch of grass that leads to Brixton Prison. Built in 1816, it’s the last remaining of the twelve Lambeth windmills, one of a network that stretched across the south of the city, from the current site of the Royal Festival Hall to Clapham Common. A tower mill with four sails, it was built to a 13th-century design, powered by wind (rather than water), to produce stoneground wholemeal flour for the local community.
Brixton sings to itself. Roadside gospel harmonies mingled with the surge of CD sellers’ subwoofers, the hum of the market, the noise of the trains; the charity muggers just audible above the sunny steel band. It’s the home of pirate radio, the airwaves full of shout outs and deep bass rumblings. And The Windmill stands among this, absorbing the sound, and marking time as if a metronome – its sails creaking through the air.
Molinology transforms The Windmill into an operational radio transmitter and creates a persistent audio artwork through the radio station’s content.
In becoming a radio transmitter The Windmill will distribute its significance throughout the community. Visitors will be able to listen at the Windmill iteself (via speakers at the site or on wireless headphones) but the content will also reach other, wider communities: via a short-term RSL on FM frequency in the local area, via the web to anyone with internet access, and to site-specific radios placed in other windmills, both in the UK and internationally.
Listening together and passing on stories are at the heart of community, and no medium achieves this more effectively than radio. Our use of the FM frequency explores the potential for serendipity and connection, creating an opportunity for accidental engagement (for instance, via the flicker of a car radio as it drives nearby).
By placing radios in other mills in other areas, we will create a unifying, wind-powered network that resonates the story and rhythm of one windmill in a dozen other connected spaces.
The experience of each listener – whether at The Windmill, at home in their kitchen or via an Internet stream late at night – will bring its own context, deepening and extending the narrative reach and possibilities.
The radio station is a collaborative platform, combining archive material with contemporary actuality, artist interventions and contributions from the local community. Bringing together these diverse voices will create a textured aural history that becomes a part of Brixton – inhabiting the airwaves and permeating the local environment. The sound world will connect communities and histories and replay them through story, song and oral history, combining contemporary and historical documentary with ambient and creative responses. By exploring layers and connections, the radio station will mimic the structure and sounds of Brixton, recreating 200 years of community and history.
Caper is a curator of collaboration, specialising in the creation of delightful and engaging experiences. Our network of previous collaborators includes practitioners from the fields of music, games, literature, theatre and digital art.
Molinology will encompass commissioned responses from across these art forms, integrated with new and archive community recordings. Collaborators for this project include novelist and playwright Stella Duffy; contemporary music ensemble London Sinfonietta; and oral history gathering specialists On the Record.
The radio station will take as its starting point the more than 1000 recordings of Brixton in the British Library Sound Archive and the collection of the Black Cultural Archive, including live music, interviews, and ambient actuality. These include recordings of historic importance and of everyday happenings, charting everything from the arrival of immigrants from the Windrush in the 1950s to the sound of trains passing overhead, giving a context and framework for the commissioned interventions and community contributions. This will also form the basis for a series of audio commissions.
We will also facilitate ongoing mass participation from local residents, businesses, and organisations, ensuring that the sound of the Windmill continues to reflect and permeate their experiences.
Programming will include ambient exploration of themes and connections in the community – songs and singing; play and leisure; food and trade; highs and lows; David Bowie and Van Gogh; wheat flour and patties – conveying the transition of one small area of London from a rural outpost to an urban destination.
The full-size, operational sculptures Mountaineer, Walking Pontoon and Atlas are the complete realisations of works developed over the past six years through sketches, technical drawings and experimental prototypes. This new project will allow me to draw on all my knowledge and experience, as well as industry connections developed during the making of large-scale pieces Ripper (2008), Tread Toe (2010), Exstenda Claw (2009–2013), Sea Light (2010) and Midi-Marker (2012) to build, refine and test these new works.
I work with industry standard materials and am trained as a mechanic, hydraulic engineer and welder. Collaborating with industrial suppliers and specialists would allow me to deepen my own skills but also to put together an experienced team that celebrates the points of commonality between artistic and industrial processes.
The ambitious operations of these mobile sculptures present the opportunity for public demonstrations as with my recent exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. These live events would be documented on film: small GoPro cameras would be installed on each sculpture to enable a live video stream to a dedicated website. The images captured by these cameras would also be incorporated into final video documentation and the event could broadcast live as audio.
The edited version of the film would be projected onto sites relating to the industrial elements in my practice. Examples include Battersea Power Station, the grade two listed Newham Brothers coffin factory in Birmingham’s jewellery quarter, the British Sugar factory at Bury St Edmunds, Dungeness Power Station, and St Peter’s Seminary near Bute, Scotland.
The wider objective is to engage local communities in post-industrial areas in the project and to reignite conversations in the media about the future of British engineering. The engagement of the audience with live demonstration of these mobile sculptures will provide a lasting legacy for the project. The sculptures themselves and accompanying films will also leave a lasting document of the missions for a wider public.
As an artist I do not consider art to be isolating: it informs and is informed by wider human activities, and it is through this that I hope people will engage with my mission. The works would need to be tested in live situations and various appropriate test locations up and down the country have already been earmarked.
I have long been fascinated by the work of Robert Gilmore Le Tourneau. He did not build according to the rules of mechanical engineering; to solve the problems with which he was presented he was forced to invent new approaches and techniques. His problem-solving capacities were extraordinary; it still shocks me looking through his archive that he could produce all of these ideas in one lifetime. He is a huge influence. He was an ideas man, putting thoughts into reality, setting templates and realising concepts that others would only refine. It would be incredibly useful to my practice to meet the custodian of the R.G. LeTourneau Memorial Museum Archives and to spend time at its holdings in Longview Texas, USA.
Mountaineer/Ben Nevis: Once constructed and operational, the machine would be demonstrated to the public before embarking on its journey. The machine includes an operator’s cabin from which I would drive and direct its motion up the mountainside. The journey would be the subject of a feature-length film documentary.
Atlas/Dilston Grove Church, Bermondsey: the ideal context for a public demonstration of the carving machine Atlas. The sculpture would be installed inside the large open plan room of the recently renovated Dilston Grove church. Built in 1911, Architects Journal reports that the church was ‘something of a wonder when under construction’. The machine would be positioned on top of a roughly two and a half metre cubed block of pre-cast concrete, which it then carves into a vase-shaped sculpture using a rock wheel cutting head. When the process is finished, the machine levers itself from the carved plinth and climbs onto a new block, where it repeats the action.
Walking Pontoon/Sandwich: Sandwich a village on the coast of Kent that I have briefly lived in as a child it was historically famous geographically for reclaiming land from the River Stour and Sea. There are still a number of small boatyards around the area that would aid the project. The beach itself is private and without sea barriers, giving it the perfect setting to make the film.
The catalyst for the search for Barbara A. Brine and her fellow artists was the discovery of a list of ‘missing artists’ in the catalogue of a national art collection handed out at a Late Night at the Museum evening. The list was accompanied by a request for help in tracing them or their estates. Romantically responding to the idea of the lost artist, it resonated for me, with its nod to the mutable nature of status and success.
I undertook a period of research, including interviews with staff at the collection, and contemplated a project based around Artist as Detective, staking out the building in which the Government Art Collection is housed armed with a camera and wearing a trench coat, mulling over investigative methods. I realised, however, that in a contemporary world of Google, catalogues and databases my efforts would be neither more fruitful nor more engaging than the work of the person within the Collection currently dedicated to the pursuit of estates in order to obtain copyright permissions. I have decided, therefore, to utilise a more left field approach by increasing the profile of those missing through a series of dedicated artforms and structures through which I can place the search in the wider reaches of society. By incorporating the involvement of both practitioners and their audiences in the process these communities of cultural and communal social interaction might reach a person who now lives beyond the contemporary artworld.
According to calculations, the list of lost artists* currently numbers just under 500. During the original research process, I reduced the search to a single person, Barbara A. Brine, whose work in the collection is Cyprus Green Sea, a watercolour on paper purchased from the London Group Exhibition in December 1973.
The process of selection was determined by a combination of knee-jerk instinct (sisterhood and a reading of the Guerilla Girls), quasi-scientific reduction (numerology and Venn diagrams) and a decision that the person should not have been active recently but within the last half century so there was a fighting chance that they’d still be alive – this left me ultimately with Brine. I wanted to look for someone whose moment had possibly passed, whose career was dormant.
In the process of developing my thinking, however, I’ve listened to an inner concern. Barbara A. Brine may not want to be found. Others, however, may and so my solution is to broaden my search. I’m now hoping to raise the profile of all women artists who, like Brine, were active in the 1970–1975 window and who would like to come forward and be recognised. Let them determine their inclusion. This has become a project that is not about tracking down a specific individual but about an artist reclaiming her place, staking a claim to a moment of acknowledgement.
*It should be stressed that no artworks are missing, merely that in the pre-digital era contact details were not so easily maintained.
Where and how:
My practice frequently invites the involvement of a group of people united by a passion for an object, location or activity. I act as director and catalyst giving a clear outline of the framework I am inviting them to occupy but once their involvement is instigated I don’t censor or impose control on their contribution beyond the natural necessities of structuring or editing. I’m interested in a genuine response, and how that becomes altered or flavoured by my constructed context yet remains true to the collaborator’s input. It is not an equal relationship but there is an intention of integrity and collaborative purpose.
My proposal, therefore, is to seed specific information about the missing artists around the country using pre-existing formats that encompass both a geographic and occupational reach. I aim to commission a number of activities, events and products that occur outside of mainstream (high) cultural activity and engage with multiple existing communities of practitioners and their audiences. This may include short story and poetry competitions, watercolour weekends, crossword and acrostic puzzles, folk songs and dance. Other formats will be researched and included in order to create a dynamic series of diverse events and original work. The aim is to utilise the enthusiasm and energy of amateurs and I am using that word in its original unbastardised form as meaning ‘lover of’. The participants will volunteer their involvement through engagement in structures they already pursue, and with their pre-existing audiences, but framed in this case by the search.
Through the competitions, events, and open calls participants will be invited to create new works in their field that incorporate a number of key facts. First name*, artworks, known dates, known locations. The information provided will be specific enough to alert attention and broad enough that many women artists may come forward and choose to be recognised regardless of whether it is their work in the collection or not. It is up to the amateur contributor to flesh out the detail, to construct a narrative that invites inclusion. The invitations will be advertised in libraries, local and dedicated press and specialist websites.
* First names only will be used. Practically this will allow easier avoidance by those who wish to remain anonymous but also references the still practiced usage of men’s surnames and women’s first names despite equal professional status.
This project is itself an ‘open’. Those that participate will be self-selecting, and the audience can engage either with the concept of the search or take the new works at face value. In terms of the lost artists, it is an avowal of respect and recognition that the word ‘active’ is relative.
Escalator – width 12 m x height 7 m approximately
Proposed location for the installation: Marble Arch – south side facing the Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, London.
Who Goes Up Must Come Down will be a large-scale installation that consists of a single custom designed ascending and descending escalator that will be installed outdoors on the south side of Marble Arch facing the Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, London.
Marble Arch is a ceremonial gate, which was designed by John Nash to celebrate Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington’s victories during the Napoleonic wars (1803–1815). The original model, presumably commissioned by Nash himself and currently in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s collection, shows separate square panel reliefs above the arches to the right and left that illustrate episodes from the lives of Nelson and Wellington respectively. The design therein contains a form of dichotomy built into it, which reflects from one perspective on Nelson’s maritime achievements at ‘sea’ and the other celebrates Wellington’s success as a field marshal on ‘land’. In that respect I am interested in the simple cyclic function of the escalator to ascend from land to sky and descend back to earth.
Traditionally the upward and downward flows of the escalators are constructed using two escalators in either a criss-cross or a parallel layout. For my project, I propose the building of a single escalator, which simultaneously goes up and down in a singular continuous movement. The arched form of the escalator will mirror the design of Marble Arch itself. Furthermore, I am interested in visually and contextually relating the design of the escalator to the various stepladders used by the speakers in the park opposite to elevate themselves above the crowd in order to deliver their speech and to reach a wider audience.
Conceptually the work will be multifaceted and it will reflect on the temporality of the notions of victory and failure or ascent and descent, which is also very much evident in the emblematic reading of the ancient Wheel of Fortune symbol. Elevating will also allow for a closer scrutiny of the upper panels on Marble Arch from a different perspective not intended by the original design of the arch.
Another layer of connotation is the remote but nevertheless considerate correlation to Bruce Nauman’s piece from 1984 entitled A Model for Stadium. Furthermore, the design I am proposing is remniscent of the first patented revolving stairs by Nathan Ames from 1859.
In addition, I would also like to propose another more performative function for the escalator as a practicing platform for the speakers. I intend to invite them to present a short introduction or a summary of their speech, which will only last for the duration of the escalator going up and down. I am planning to introduce variable speeds for the movement of the escalator, which will alter the preconceived conception of the everyday experience. This will be for instance parable to the movement of the London Eye, which revolves at a very slow speed thus allowing the viewers to experience the surrounding cityscape fully.
In technical terms, I have conducted some initial research and discussed the feasibility of such a design with Prof J.C. Levy OBE FIMechE from City University London, whose invention called Levytator allows for a continuous flow in a single direction on various levels. Please see attached drawing for Levytator and you can also view a 3D functioning model.
Please note that the suggestion to locate the work in a very public space such as Marble Arch is preliminary and purely based on the contextual and conceptual relationship of the work to the location. However, I will be happy to explore other options and sites for the installation of the work. For instance locating it in the park by the Speaker’s Corner will equally validate the contextual framework of the project. Moreover, I am aware of the complexities in terms of obtaining permissions, the legal parameters and security measures, the technical challenges, budgetary issues and so on, but however I truly believe that this project could resonate best if located in a public space.
The proposal is ostentatiously a painting in the Valence House Museum in Dagenham. Which painting, it doesn’t matter too much, but it is a portrait, one where the sitter looks straight at you (and the eyes follow you around the room). So let’s take Unknown Lady attributed to Charles Jervas.
Yet the artwork proposed here is not sited in Valence House Museum, it does not take place in Dagenham.
The work is situated in the press, on the internet, on social medias, at home, on the district line to the forgotten east of London, if, perhaps people travel to the source material of the work. But we are not interested in the painting, but rather in the engagement with art, the raising of consciousness it allows, where one stands in relation to art’s purported powers.
Barking and Dagenham has some of the lowest prospects in London amongst all boroughs, the lowest levels of qualification for young people in London, the highest teenage pregnancy levels in England, the 9th highest level of child poverty with 36% living below the poverty line. This is an area where the utter lack of hope and confidence in the future expresses itself through votes for the BNP. For most Londoners, it is an area where they will never set foot.
The Barking university campus, A&E at King George’s Hospital, three police stations, the 750-strong Ford Dagenham stamping operation, libraries, B&D is not in a unique situation in having suffered, or facing, the closures of amenities. Whilst parts of Inner London might be immune from the recession, outer London is slowly drained from its cultural and social infrastructure, and with it, the loss of opportunities and the inability to escape from the patterns of deprivation.
The Becontree Estate where Valence House sits, was built in 1921 by the LCC as part of the Homes for Heroes scheme after WWI. It remains the largest public housing development in the world, harking from a time when the provision of affordable housing was seen as a public service.
This is the context and the site-specificity in which we want to work.
What the work seeks to create and to examine is hope, how we look to art to provide us hope in despair, belief in life, and understanding outside rationality.
Art is accessed to provide hope on mythological, rational and mystical levels. All we have is hope and art is one major conduit of hope: that we are not alone; that we existed; that things can change; or that some things will never change.
On our visit to the Valence House in Dagenham, we hear an odd and remarkable story about a painting in the collection; a painting with apparent miraculous and healing properties, a woman’s husband cured from TB, the Daggers’ progression into Football league, a lad finding his ideal job, a single mother getting accommodation after years of wait, a girl cured from cancer.
Feelings of powerlessness can lead people to invest art with unverifiable qualities and extraordinary myths, hoping that it is not just a dead, inert thing.
The recurrence of such past and recent stories around the painting have made that, very recently, the portrait has become something of a shrine.
Some candles, flowers, messages are often left by the painting, images of the work circulate on the internet, it is debated on discussion forums and in the local press. It has its detractors and its believers.
This is a scenario proposal – not to the gallery visitor (the work does not take place there, the history and art context of the painting is irrelevant) – but the communities in the Thames Gateway, for Londoners, for people interested in art, as well as for people who think art is not for them.
The work recalls one which we carried out in 2006 in Limerick, called The Miracle of Limerick, which aimed to create a work without any physical fabrication, using an existing artwork as its base material to generate its own virtual existence (see attachments 3 and 4). In Limerick, we were interested in:
Here, we are seeking to remake a more ambitious version of the work in London because:
Let everything that's been planned come true. Let them believe. And let them have a laugh at their passions. Because what they call passion actually is not some emotional energy, but just the friction between their souls and the outside world. And most important, let them believe in themselves – Andrei Tarkovsky
Belief Pavilion is an architecturally-designed structure, that will act as an agency for an aural archive of people’s thoughts around their beliefs, sourced on a national scale in collaboration with BBC Radio 4. The itinerant pavilion, simultaneously a sanctum and a library, will have the flexibility to be a freestanding or floating structure as it travels to urban and rural sites.
The Belief Pavilion is not about positing or communicating any one belief but acting as a portal for the many and possibly conflicting voices and their beliefs, that exist in the world. It aims also to connect with sites that have a palimpsest of different and competing narratives.
My interest lies in how our beliefs shape architecture and how architecture, in turn, shapes our beliefs. Light, shadow, and sound will be important elements in this pavilion. To emphasise the notion of immateriality, transience, and plurality, the appearance of the building will appear to change as the sun moves across the sky.
I envisage the pavilion being made from a lightweight timber or metal skeletal structure, clad in translucent, reflective, soft and hard materials that absorb or reflect sounds, to create curved labyrinthine spaces. The outer shell will have a lattice, geometric lace-like cut out pattern, so that shapes of filtered light would be cast in the outermost corridor. The peripheral corridors will draw the viewer inwards and openings will offer multiple routes towards the central chamber. The interior labyrinth will have more than one configuration, so that it can be reassembled differently for the next site. The central chamber will have hard, mirrored walls that reflect sounds to create a disorientating visual and sonic experience.
The project is as much about belief as it is about the expression of belief, through voice and language. I am interested in foregrounding people who have a story to tell about their belief. Contributors will represent a broad section of the population.
Belief in a contemporary context can sometimes mean a rigid and immutable way of thinking, often irrational and unscientific. It can be authoritative or dogmatic, opposing or excluding the validity of other values and concepts. Belief Pavilion investigates belief as a propositional attitude. Everyone believes in something. It is a driving force. But what is the relationship between belief and knowledge – are they compatible?
The project explores the unique ways in which an individual develops their set of beliefs today. Just a few generations ago people might have belonged to one religion or tradition; today many people’s beliefs are influenced by a myriad of sources – different, and competing religions, cultures, traditions, superstitions, folklore, politics, education, sciences, technology, philosophy and other personal experiences.
The etymology of the English word ‘bible’ has its roots in Latin and ancient Greek: biblia, means books, bibliothēkē means a collection of books or a library. Yet The Bible itself contains many oracles, languages, different opinions and convictions – beliefs that have been handed down and in turn retold. The Belief Pavilion will energise such multiple retellings of people's beliefs, to create a complex, aural pattern.
I will explore architectural structures that affect the ambiance in sacred spaces: whispering walls, the way light is sculpted and mediated, rose windows or Arabic latticework screens, and prehistoric monuments that are aligned upon the cardinal points of the sun. There might be an ocular in the centre to draw our attention upwards and beyond and to create a beam of light that would shine down directly into the central chamber at a certain time of the day.
A sequence of disembodied voices will be heard along semi-translucent corridors, as visitors move through the space, enabling them to meander through to the next corridor, as if opening a set of Russian matryoshka dolls and seeing through to the layers nestled within one another.
Initially, the voices will appear to have their own spatial position; one voice can be discerned easily from another, one belief from another. Human movement through the pavilion will be directed by the choreography of the voices and the audio installation will change as the viewers’ perception of the space changes. There will be no visual references to link the voices; they are intended to be ephemeral, to appear to float, intermingle and fade away.
As the viewer becomes more aware of their inability to see through to the next space, they will also find it harder to differentiate one voice from another and one belief from another. The voices will seem more disparate and discordant and it will become increasingly difficult to hear any one point of view as they enter the innermost part of the pavilion. After the crescendo of voices, silence will follow.
The project would be produced in three phases:
The timescale for the sourcing of the voices and the sitings of the nomadic pavilion can coincide with seasonal customs in England. The Pagan festival of sun-worship was appropriated for Christian use, and Christmas has more or less absorbed and extinguished the former pre-Christian festival that celebrated the winter solstice. Belief Pavilion explores this process of appropriation both physically and temporally.
My proposal aims to celebrate the influx of immigration in the UK and the longevity of its cultural influence, historic legacy, and present realities in London.
I would like to recreate Handel’s Water Music performed by a fifty-piece orchestra made up of immigrant musicians who live and work in London. They would be musicians who specialise in traditional musical instruments of their birthplace, bringing their specific individual style, techniques, and sounds to make up the orchestra. Their collective objective would be to collaborate within the theme and context of the project, to recreate Handel’s Water Music.
George Frideric Handel (1685 – 1759), created Water Music in 1717 for King George 1 as a collection of orchestral scores, often considered three suites (Suite in F major (HWV 348), D major (HWV 349) and G major (HWV 350). The piece was performed by fifty musicians on a barge on the River Thames at the King’s request.
I would also like to expand on and visually merge the theme of water in the work to articulate and expand the symbolism of the element to support and frame the installation.
Until 1844 a foreign-born resident in the UK could only become a British citizen by means of an Act of Parliament. This process was known as Naturalisation and required individuals to take the oaths of supremacy and allegiance.
Born 23 February 1685 in Halle, Germany, Handel, a German immigrant, made London his permanent home in 1712. He became a British citizen 15 years later in February 1727 by royal consent granted by King George 1.
Handel’s legacy extends beyond his own compositions. His contributions to the late Baroque period are still relevant with long-standing effects, as are his adaptations of imported Italian opera for British audiences. His oratorios, inexpensive and written in English, were innovative in their introduction and deeply appreciated in London for their accessibility and translations. His influence went on to inspire many other composers including greats such as Haydn and Beethoven and continue to inspire us in other fields and practices.
Handel was buried at Westminster Abbey. A marble monument commemorates his legacy amongst other burials of individuals of esteem, honoured and celebrated for their contributions to Britain. The Abbey also hosted its first ever, live concert to commemorate Handel’s death.
I would like this project to reverberate some of these themes and their historic legacies in current political and contemporary contexts.
I am interested in the Abbey’s remarkable architecture and its acoustic values to transmit the music with dramatic effects. There is also the scope of experimenting with the presentation of the orchestra by either presenting it in a formal, traditional structure or distributing/scattering the musicians over and around the space. Dependant on the method, the audience is then able to hear the work projected from either one place or walkabout and hear fragmented sounds of the various instruments. In the case of the latter, a central point would be established to hear the score in its collective entirety.
The floors of the aisles and surrounding areas would be used as projection surfaces. The project would require to temporarily line these areas with white vinyl to use as video screens. This, and of course, all other installation procedures, would be non-invasive to respect and protect the site.
The projections would be of running streams and rivers to create waterscapes throughout the Abbey’s floors. I am also interested in utilising the exterior of the Abbey as a further projection surface so that there is an external visual experience of the work.
The moving images of water would be filmed across London’s running streams, rivers, and canals and would be shown in real-time with very little digital manipulation.
The symbolism of water is vast. However, in the context of this project, I would like to reflect on the structures of maps, borders, crossings, islands, the symbolism of water in Christianity as an element of renewal and baptism, and indeed the inspiration of Handel’s score.
The sheet music for Handel’s Water Music is readily available; therefore, this aspect of the work is easy to access. However, the project would require a composer’s input to help construct and conduct the sound for the project. I would initiate, direct and supervise all aspects of this process to ensure that the commitment to the overall vision of the work is always at the fore.
Potentially, the composer could also be the mentor for the project. I’m still researching the ideal possible collaborator for this element of the work, whose interests may extend beyond formal, classical forms. One possibility is composer and artist, Heiner Goebbels. Goebbels mixture of styles and varied sources of inspiration from classical music, jazz, and rock and with his sense of theatre would make him or an individual of similar background, ideal for this project.
The audible nature of this project makes it perfect for Radio 4. In addition to broadcasting the live concert, the radio station may also want to air the process and development of the project alongside hosting talks and discussions about contemporary adaptations of the arts, the history of immigration in London, current realities and legislations and the history of art and celebrations at Westminster Abbey.
Handel’s Water Music has a rich past and a relevant presence in London’s cultural landscape. I am very excited about the possibilities and the unknown elements in the outcome of the reworking of the score. I am also sure that Westminster Abbey, as well as being a city-specific site, is also historically, architecturally and thematically specific to install the audio and visuals of the work.
Beyond the Medium (A Rake’s Dream) is a kaleidoscopic, socially engaged project, which will incorporate a series of collaborative artworks/projects taking a playful approach to the late British artist William Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress and its intention as a series of cautionary tales.
Using A Rake’s Progress as a point of reference, I have developed a framework for a project that includes working in collaboration with artists to realise briefs in eight regions. I shall work with spiritual mediums to contact the spirit of Hogarth in order to develop the briefs for these artists, who will include writers, musicians, and comedians as well as visual artists. In this way, I intend to create a contemporary exemplification rather than a literal translation of A Rake’s Progress as a series of dialogic and socially engaged artworks.
The project will take place in eight regions chosen for their relevance to A Rake’s Progress. Each work will exist in its own right and will vary in the nature of its realisation, with artists and local businesses working together to create fashion designs, consumables, stand-up comedy nights and so on. A fly-on-the-wall documentary will record the entire process of each work from conception to realisation. The series of documentaries will be hosted digitally online and produced to broadcast quality for both TV and radio.
The documentary footage will be given to a novelist/art critic such as Michael Bracewell to translate into a critical novella of eight chapters. I will rework digital stills from the footage into compositions based on Hogarth’s originals and these will then be laser-etched onto marine ply as a limited-edition series. Photographs of the works will be included in the published novella. To conclude, an artist such as Jamie Shovlin, Len Horsey or Alejandro Jodorowsky will be invited to rework a script of the novella into a Hollywood-blockbuster-style film trailer or a full-length feature.
Making it happen:
Working with local spiritual mediums in each location will help further the project's connection with those locales. The eight works will take place in different locations selected to create correlations with the eight stages of A Rake’s Progress. For example, the work connected with Hogarth’s first plate The Heir, which depicts the inheritance of money and status, might look into London as a world-renowned centre of aspirational living, financial status and success. We might see artists such as Doug Fishbone and Kenny Schachter situating themselves in the renowned Savile Row in order to produce a fashion collection for the upwardly mobile Rake.
Working across the infrastructures of both commercial and public institutions, I intend to embrace the qualities of these diverse organisations while acknowledging, and potentially exposing, the challenges faced by this kind of practice, in order to maintain a critically aware project.
Artists approached might include: Ellie Harrison, Bill Drummond, Spartacus Chetwyn, Owl Project, Peter Saville, Keith Farquar, Neil Mulholland, Mark Leckey, Linder, Bedwyn Williams, Adam Chodzko and Billy Childish (all artists I have worked with at some point in my career).
The potential geographical areas and artists that might be linked with Hogarth’s plates are:
Beyond the Medium (A Rake’s Dream) is a natural successor to my current body of work, which explores the gap between the artist’s intention and the audience’s perception. This is exemplified in the 2010–11 group collaborative show Unrealised Potential (Unrealised Potential 2010 is the incorporation of Mike Chavez-Dawson’s Potential Hits 2003 into Sam Ely & Lynn Harris’s Unrealised Projects 2003), where the creative nature of artists’ unrealised projects provided an opportunity for the public to purchase the rights to interpret and realise the artists’ ideas. This was reinforced by the realisation of Liam Gillick’s unrealised project Planta De Anodizado by artists Brian Reed and Len Horsey .
I continued my pursuit of participation and collaboration during the recent David Shrigley show How Are You Feeling?. Apart from curating the overall show, I worked particularly closely with him to develop a life-drawing project/performance installation and brokered collaborations with local businesses beyond the institute to create limited-edition David Shrigley brain bread and anti-psychotic tea.
For the recent commission The Specter of Derrida I instigated a series of collaborations and workshops with Dr. John Rowe, Trifecta films, and musicians Jah Wobble and Stratton Barrett culminating in an essay-cum-pop-video as a critical response to The Rule of Three artist residency and online resource. This piece will now function as an introduction to a forthcoming art conference.
The boundaries of my practice and its curatorial engagement in the light of digital mediatization are things I am hoping to develop further with the Artangel team, esteemed directors, seminal artists Clio Bernard and Roger Hiorns and Open mentors (such as Adam Curtis).
Building upon these previous projects Beyond The Medium (A Rake’s Dream) intends to employ a curatorial dynamic that is critically engaged yet playfully intuitive, in order to formulate an intelligent dialogue between the modes of its production, the work produced and its potential consumption.
A traditional mechanical orrery displays the motions of the planets around the sun in a heliocentric model, as a clockwork. In the 18th century Eise Eisinga famously made an orrey that incorporated features of his living room. Many new, still contested features of the universe defy easy visualisation. We are doing a contemporary version of Eisinga’s idea. Instead of showing planets orbiting around the sun, we are showing imaginative interpretations of these ‘dark’ new features of the universe. This will not be a scientific model or illustration but a visionary wonder. Rooms will be fitted with rotating platforms or devices and each corner and feature of the building will be incorporated into the totality. Unlike a Newtonian model of the universe that relies on the neutral observer, the spectators are here participating observers, walking into and around aspects of the total installation. The installation will also include rotating mirrors at regular intervals. As all the parts of the installation are rotating, this means that the impression or experience a visitor has of the totality at any given point is never the same. Instead the totality is made up of many points of view that are reflected and mirrored by the whole. The whole is continually reconfigured by the movement of its parts, and each part is reconfigured by the whole. To do this, we are aiming to link every room, staircase, lift or whatever other feature of the building there is, through different modes of windows, so that nowhere will there be any isolated room or corner of the building. We are flexible in relation to which building we are working with, but it would make sense to use a modern building from after 1920 (the theory or relativity). But in any case we are working with emerging ideas that will be newer than any building. We would like a building that is safe to walk in, but where we are free to drill holes anywhere. This project goes right to the heart of the relationship between abstract thought and visual thinking. It will be an imaginary and visionary display, referencing sculptural inventions, light, mirrors and movement above multi-media solutions, because it is all about the challenge of making the invisible visible. It is important that the project is not ‘art and science’ in the sense that it illustrates ‘facts’. Instead the project highlights such problems as whether our ideas about reality is limited by the habits of our perception, whether visual models distorts information or whether visual ideas can give rise to new theories. There should be room for fun and reflection. Two artists, Ole Hagen and David Cheeseman will be collaborating with astrophysicist Roberto Trotta from the Imperial College’s Astrophysics Group. We are aiming for artistic invention, but whish to collaborate with a scientist to locate what the new or possibly still to come features of the universe are, and what the problems are of thinking these features visually. It is not just about giving form to an idea, but about what ‘thinking visually’ could mean. Therefore, while the installation is still under construction, it can function as a research laboratory where we can try out visual ideas in response to input from Roberto Trotta and other members of the Astrophysics Group.
The Behemoth Banquet is a single enormous metaphoric communal ‘banquet’, deconstructed and spread out over time and space as a series of installations, soundworks, sensory activities, and meal events, held at historic locations of food production, consumption and waste throughout the United Kingdom - from houses, factories, landfill sites, farms, gardens, streets, to compost sites, hilltops and beaches. Each fragment of the banquet will recall and remember the sensory history of a specific place: linking and layering collectively to create a shared experience which connects people, place, process and the past; whilst focusing awareness on pressing contemporary issues of food scarcity, sharing, production and waste. Brought together at the end of the project as a sound-work and film of one continuous and entire setting and sitting of The Behemoth Banquet, the work is constructed out of the constituent parts of its making - from the preparation, cooking, serving, eating, clearing, and the disposing of waste. These parts would be articulated through specific details in the history of the ‘banquet’, such as: the rituals surrounding the presentation of precious exotic foods like sugar and spices; the setting and props which framed the social experience; the sounds - of music, conversation, cooking, serving, and eating - and smells integral to the banquet; dessert as a pause in the meal in relation to the ‘clearing of the void’; and the architectural sculptural constructions of certain ceremonial dishes.
People will be invited to attend events at specified notable sites and locations, which form a kind of skeletal sensory map of the United Kingdom’s culinary history, upon which the flesh will be added as the project develops and by its participants. These initial meal events will be hosted by the artist in collaboration with local people connected to the site and history, with invitations being sent to community groups, food groups, gardeners associations, local history associations, and through churches, schools, libraries and sports centres. As the project develops participants will also be able to propose hosting meal events of their own in settings which they determine of personal, collective or national importance, which will be selected to be developed. These meal events may range from a meal celebrating the history of the Kardomah Gang at Cafe Kardomah in Swansea; a marmalade tasting event at the contemporary location of where Janet Keiller sold jam in Dundee, said to have been invented by her in 1797, the preparation of pies according to Medieval recipes on the site of the golden figure of the fat boy in Pie Corner in London, where an inscription once read ‘This boy is in memory put up of the late fire of London, occasioned by the sin of gluttony, 1666’; an installation recreating a backdrop scene from an historic meal, sited in and created out of waste food packaging gathered from the UK’s largest landfill site in Greengairs, Scotland; to a seaweed picking session on the shores of Pembrokeshire, West Wales, to gather the ingredients for making traditional Welsh laverbread.
The Behemoth Banquet may be epic and plural in scale and ambition but it would resolutely focus on the details, the overlooked, the personal, the unusual, the forgotten, the mythical, the theatrical, as well as the lost and forgotten histories and memories. The breath and complexity of The Behemoth Banquet also references and reflects the scale, complexity, and nature of food production, consumption and waste – where it is difficult if not impossible to even track the food we eat to where it is grown or reared, let alone get a true handle on the entirety of the cycle.
In developing the project the artist would drawn upon and involve specialists and groups involved in relevant issues and themes, with whom she has worked with on previous projects – including food and social historians, chefs, cross-modal researchers, ‘waste’ food re-distribution projects, and specialists in smell and taste medical conditions.
Working with a filmmaker and sound specialists, the banquet would be filmed and recorded throughout its development – focusing on individual details and moments, from the close-up footage of cutting and preparing ingredients to the amplified sound of crunching of a particular dish – with the resulting editing bringing them together as one banquet, which may be viewed online, screened or as a sound work on the radio. The exact form and narrative of this sound and film work will develop in response to and out of the development of the project itself. A fold-out map of the final overall banquet table could also be made available to download or as a printed version, in which the histories, participants, locations, experiences and particularities of the different parts are further detailed.
The Behemoth Banquet brings together personal, communal and national memories and histories into one unwieldy, overbearing and impossible metaphoric single banquet which explores our complex relationship with food and location - that of the production, farming, processing, consumption, and waste, as well as our embodied realities, memories, and hope.
Memoria Technica is a performance installation in which an audience find themselves exploring an impossible internal space that is in conflict with its outer appearance. While they occupy this space they become an intrinsic part of a memory. They are both themselves and also a reminder of a detail in somebody else’s history.
The space is a collection of apparently separate shipping containers that secretly open up and connect with each other.
The main theme that this performance installation will explore is memory - specifically the memory of a building and even more specifically the memory of a person who has imagined this building as an aide-memoire.
It is also the creation of an impossible internal space that defies the preconception of the viewer.
This dynamic structure draws on our fascination with an external experience of a space in conflict with the interior. This is a powerful and universal theme that plays with our deep desire to have our rationality shaken.
We are looking at architecture as a mnemonic device.
A memory palace in which all physical elements of the structure relate to particular memories. This is the imagined memory palace that exists in the head of another. So when you enter this space you are also entering the physicalisation of somebody else's imagination with its own characteristics and desires.
The audience understand that now they too exist in this memory and therefore they too become part of the mnemonic. They are both themselves and also a reminder of a detail in somebody else’s history.
The audience are caught in a strange loop like an Escher drawing in which they can see the body that contains the mind that holds the memory that now they are a part of.
The sound within this space will explore another example of a strange loop. Sounds consisting of a superposition of tones separated by octaves called Shepard Tones.
This creates the auditory illusion of a tone that continually ascends or descends in pitch, yet which ultimately seems to get no higher or lower.
The sound will also guide the audience and contextualise the visual environment.
Shipping containers are the most prosaic objects - an architectural unit whose dimensions are so familiar; we overtake them on highways, we see them parked up at gas stations. With few exceptions we only see these containers from the outside and we usually don’t give a moments thought to what might be inside.
What if there was a whole other world inside - where the physical laws that govern our own world do not apply.
From the outside the audience see a collection of distinct containers that are all separate, set apart form each other, with no connections between them.
The audience’s external route is guided between these closed containers. They enter through the traditional end doors of a single container that is unmodified - the internal dimensions of which they can understand. While they are enclosed in this first container the others secretly open out to create a surprising internal space that the audience will then navigate through. The audience do not see or hear this transformation and when it is complete a hidden door opens and they are encouraged to explore.
There are 26 audience members at a time - to fit comfortably in a single 40 foot container.
The architecture and texture of the interior contrasts completely with the exterior: curves, colours, organic material, softness, with disorientating views that all work against the perceived limits of a series of adjacent boxes. The space is domestic and every detail relates to part of a memory.
Within this internal space there is one character played by several identical performers. It will never be possible to see more than one performer at the same time - and it should be assumed by the audience that there is only one. The character does not interact with the audience but can see them.
It is this character who has created the space in her imagination. Although we can see her we are also inside her. It is in her memory we are trespassing.
Eventually the audience all seat themselves around a long thin table within a large hall. Their position around the table is indicated by name cards with the audience’s actual names (these names would have been collected subtly at registration so there is still some surprise when the audience see them marking their place) . The audience are now like the people who pass by a significant event but are oblivious to it. However they are noticed by those involved in the event and their presence forms part of the memory of it.
While they are sat around this table (placed centrally in one container) the walls fold in and they are now once again in a single container. (Meanwhile all the other containers are secretly closed too.)
The audience leave from the end doors of this container and then follow a similar external route in which it becomes even clearer that the space they occupied doesn’t exist.
They emerge as though from a dream; perhaps this odd interval in their chronological existence didn’t even happen.
How containers transform
1. Side walls hinged along their long sides open up or down creating ceilings and floors.
2. Sliding or folding walls enclose the ends of the new internal volumes
3. Container end walls open up creating walls
Smaller sections of side wall open making smaller ceiling and floor sections
Roof sections rise to give surprising height.
There is a spectrum of scale for this piece that could expand or contract. We are currently working with the idea of ten 40 ft High Cube containers and two 20 ft containers that have a total foot print of 30 meters by 35 meters.
In 2010 we worked in collaboration with Urban Space Management (Eric Reynolds) to build a prototype of one unit: two 20 foot containers that opened out to create a new internal volume between them.
We explored various methods by which the containers can open and connect with each other. We looked at the relative benefits of hydraulic and manual mechanisms (torsion springs, counterweight systems and gas springs). This was a research project that will inform the structural engineering element of Memoria Technica.
It is anticipated that the audience will spend between 20-30 minutes inside the structure and the structure would be reset within this time so the next audience group would be able to enter as soon as the previous group had left. It is, of course, important that the next audience group are held somewhere where they can’t see the containers opening and closing.
There could be up to 20 performance slots per day with a total daily audience capacity of about 500.
Although this performance/installation could be sited anywhere with a level surface and a clear area of about 40 meters by 40 meters, it is important that the containers do not look out of place in the environment. We have been looking at container ports (Tilbury, Southampton and Felixstowe) but we also appreciate that in order to get the audience numbers it might be necessary to locate closer to a larger city - in which case urban brown field sites would also be an option.
When you come to a fork in the road: take it – Yogi Berra
Two artists. One vision. To take a three-month artistic journey from Beijing to Bradford overland, following the trading routes along the Silk Road.
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza adventured on horseback. Boorman and McGregor went all the way round on motorbikes. Colborne and Wheeler will go by lorry, using the shipping container on board as the meeting place and artistic arena.
This artistic odyssey will cross boundaries – both artistic and geographical – pausing to create interventions at “forks in the road” along the way.
Jez Colborne is a uniquely talented learning-disabled composer and musician who hears music where most people hear noise. He has a rare condition called Williams syndrome. He has acutely sensitive hearing and perfect pitch. He could sing before he could talk.
Tim Wheeler is co-founder and Artistic Director of Mind the Gap theatre company, the UK’s largest company that enables learning-disabled artists to work alongside non-disabled artists, creating national touring and site-sensitive productions. A one-time maggot farmer, Tim is interested in amplifying voices that might not otherwise be heard.
Since 1998, Colborne and Wheeler have travelled and collaborated sharing an interest in outsider art and artists, and exploring the space betwixt and between the margins and the mainstream. In 2005, they travelled Route 66 on a Harley Davidson, talking to people and artists about freedom, and, with award-winning writer Mike Kenny, created On the Verge telling this story through live performance, music and film.
The trading routes along the Silk Road traverse diverse cultures, experiences, and influences: from East to West, from Asia through the Middle East, to Eastern and Western Europe. Convergence, confluence, and conflict dominate not only the past but also the present.
This new adventure starts in Beijing, where we have several creative links already, and ends at Mind the Gap’s home base in the old dye house in the Silk Warehouse, Lister Mills. We will seek out forks in the road and pause there: those places where literally and metaphorically you have to decide which option to pursue. We don’t know what will happen next. And that’s the very point of this enterprise.
With doors at both ends, the shipping container will literally describe a corridor through time and space. It will serve a practical role:- as a place to meet, talk and jam. Work may happen within it, on it or around it. It might function as a rehearsal room, a music or movie recording studio, a stage for performance.
It also has a metaphorical role:- as a place of containment, confinement, and concealment. It will have different resonances in different cultures. It is a powerful symbol of import and export, of globalised markets. It’s a potential catalyst for many and varied stories – about smuggling and exchange, and inclusion and exclusion.
This quixotic adventure will enable Colborne and Wheeler to tell their own stories, and elicit those of other artists and non-artists they meet along the way. They will adopt and swap different roles as the opportunity arises: as director, documenter, performer, curator and facilitator.
Jez Colborne explains his approach:
I don’t believe in strictness when it comes to creating my music. I’m a bit of a chameleon and I like to ride through my musical obsessions and see what comes through. You can add the structure when you know what you’re doing, and what you want to achieve.
He’s particularly interested in sparking a conversation and exchange with other artists who, like him, have had to plough their own furrow through unconventional and non-traditional routes to develop their talents and work.
Tim Wheeler, Artistic Director, explains his own and Mind the Gap’s role in the process
I want to take a journey that enables radical enquiry with a different view everyday. I see the role of a director is to resist normalising, and to illuminate the uncanny.
Colborne and Wheeler are particularly concerned with encounters in places you’d least expect it – at borders, intersections, transitional places, points of convergence and confluence.
They will invite artists they already know to accompany them on parts of the journey. Alan Lyddiard, formerly Artistic Director Northern Stage, now independent producer/director creating work in the UK and internationally. Photographer Denis Darzacq who has made some beautiful studies of learning-disabled people in his portfolio ACT. Hollywood actor Sam Riley (On the Road, Brighton Rock, Control) who is a Patron of Mind the Gap, and brother of Mind the Gap company member Jack.
Other potential contributors who can help forge links on the China leg include Mok Chui Yu of the Centre for Creative and Cultural Development in Hong Kong, and former IOU Executive Producer Richard Sobey, who now works as an independent producer.
Colborne and Wheeler also want to explore how to engage with artists they don’t know personally, but who are interesting to them. What would it take to get film-makers Lars von Trier or Werner Herzog to rendezvous at the shipping container along the journey, or Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei.
The opportunities for performance and presentation are endless across this journey that’s 5000 miles as the crow flies. As well dedicated installations in Beijing and Bradford and those arising directly from this series of creative encounters, the team will seek out festivals and events that are concerned with international collaborations, and where “container art” is celebrated.
It will be a cross-artform venture – embracing music, performance, visual arts, film-making and digital activity that’s integral to the art, and online broadcast and travelogue that documents the journey. Audiences and viewers will be invited to interact, engage and influence the development of the project as it evolves.
Fork in the road: following the roads not yet travelled, and uncovering the stories not yet told.
We are standing outside the sliding doors of a huge building – it may be an aircraft hangar or warehouse or underground vault. A buzzer sounds and echoes across the yard, the vast doors slide slowly open revealing a widening band of harsh white light.
The doors are fully open – the light is blinding. We walk forward into the light – the doors close behind us.
Click – total darkness
We stand still as our eyes recover from the glare and re-calibrate to the soothing velvet darkness.
As the after-images fade and our eyes adjust to the new space we realize that we are standing on top of the lines, arcs and measurements of a vast engineering drawing. It stretches away from us into the distance. The lines of the drawing are the only source of light in, what we now realize, is an incomprehensibly large space.
From the darkness, there is a distant radio signal. It is almost too low to distinguish from the background noise.
We are illuminated by information. This is not a video projection, the lines themselves glow. Other people are visible only as interruptions to these lines. There is a coherence to the drawing, a language that we understand, even without an engineering background. It is a machine but what is its purpose? We move across this machine map – exploring – studying – looking for clues.
Slowly parts of the drawing begin to fade – one by one, components are starting to disappear.
In the encroaching darkness we are drawn to the parts that are still illuminated –the control systems and the heart of the machine.
The final lit section is off to one side, it is the drawing information box, we hadn’t noticed it before. We walk towards it:
Voyager 1 space probe
NASA launch date 1977
Present location – the edge of deep interstellar space
12 billion miles from home
The information box fades, leaving the live NASA odometer reading:
1234031684 miles (and counting) (this is the only moving image in the installation)
Total darkness has returned, a buzzer sounds, sixteen minutes have passed.
The huge doors slowly slide open to reveal a grey, rainy world.
We leave – the doors close behind us.
Voyager 1 is the most distant man-made object from Earth and is heading further still into interstellar space. Its initial mission was completed decades ago but it is still sending useful information back to Earth. The tiny 20-watt transmission signal takes sixteen hours to cross the thirteen billion miles home and arrives with all the force of a butterfly landing. But we still hear it.
It will continue to transmit this tiny voice, and we will still listen, for another ten to fifteen years before its last systems fail, when it will be lost to us forever.
A machine we have created – a fragile artificial star – is on a journey that we will only ever make in our imaginations.
Voyager 1 is the outer edge of us.
As part of the development of this project, we would be working with the NASA Voyager Team in Pasadena (initial contacts have already been made). They would be helping us prepare the engineering drawings, giving us background information and feeding us the Voyager 1 data stream.
This signal would be streamed live into the installation. This data stream contains information describing the journey to the very edge of our Sun's influence and outwards into deep space.
The actual lines of the drawing within the installation will be made of Glow Tape stuck to the floor. This is a photoluminescent (luminous) tape that stores light and releases it in the darkness for pre-determined periods. We would be working with the manufacturer to develop products that could be timed precisely to fit into our project.
You enter a botanical garden glasshouse. You find yourself somewhere to sit, to rest, to think. You sit cocooned amongst fragrant, colourful flowers, where dandelions, poppies and scarlet pimpernel become your companions. They sing to you.
No clocks to mark time, just flower time marked by the fragile movements of the blossoms. Watch, wait and listen for the smallest plant actions to translate into music. Log out and turn off. Slow your everyday pace and allow yourself to experience nature and time harmonizing together.
I want to create an installation that, through technology, will enrich our appreciation of nature and enhance our understanding of the true clock, the solar system.
Orchestra Botanica is a durational installation running 24 hours a day. It is an orchestra composed of living flowers, a mixture of slow movers and fast bloomers. Each flower expresses its own biorhythm and tempo. Each displays its own physical story and relationship to the solar day.
The flowers and plants are monitored through varied motion sensors that allow the diversity of different species to unite and build a live score of music. They become a symphony of ‘movement’ that audiences listen to whilst experiencing the real time of the flower world.
Audiences come to experience flower sound outputs triggered, throughout the day, by tiny movements. For those seeking a more theatrical experience, estimated times are offered when orchestral ‘crescendos’ occur as a result of mass-movements in a 24- hour cycle (at dusk or dawn).
The unique accumulative musical score builds and changes minute-by-minute, day- by- day and has infinite sound possibilities. Abstract flower sounds may, at times, reflect sounds of clocks, chimes and bells.
This orchestra could play, via their own circadian rhythm, familiar classical pieces such as Vivalidi’s Four Seasons. This will result in a unique orchestral interpretation with classical pieces heard through a slow paced, sporadic score.
Plants use a molecular clock. The movement of the flowers creates its own reading of time, not numeric, nor linear. Instead it is cyclical, seasonal, solar and cosmic so allowing audiences to transcend their everyday sense of time and enter into watching and listening from within a different time perspective. The romantic imagery of a botanical garden is a beautiful backdrop to the orchestras themes of Time and Music.
The installation will seduce audiences into a meditative state. The beautiful simplicity and infinite possibilities of this orchestral music will excite participants and deepen their perception of the life of flowers.
Orchestra Botanica will best suit a site-specific environment such as glasshouse in The Royal Botanical Garden, Kew. Working alongside gardeners and botanists the sound and technology equipment can be placed effectively. A garden atrium is a sustainable setting and will minimise risk to the growing plants. It also offers a level of isolation necessary for the motion sensors to be effective.
Presenting technology, science and art and meeting it on nature’s terms, would mean that each Orchestra Botanica experience is reflective and unique to every new garden it is introduced to.
In today’s society speed is of the essence. Times saving devices have become the shining beacons of progress. The digital second is our God. Orchestra Botanica allows audiences a chance to participate in natures clock and in doing so re-assess their own. It poses questions as to how individuals place themselves within time gaps and categories. It reminds them that they are the masters of their own time and that time was made for man, not man for time.
The act of slowing people down physically and mentally with the pace of the music and the movement of the flowers creates a ‘continuous now’. A reflective and meditative state where people for a brief moment can escape time itself.
I will create an installation that allows for an appreciation of the beauty of nature and through the flower sounds lead the audience to a greater knowledge and understanding of the oldest clock, the solar system. The installation will be a tribute to ‘slow’ time, the slow absorption of knowledge and slow thinking.
Orchestra Botanica takes inspiration from botanist Carl Linnaeus’s Horologium florae (Flower Clock) published in his research book Philosophica botanica in 1751.
Carl made the first list of local flowers with times of when specific flowers opened and closed taking account of cloudy days. The time of day could be deduced according to which species had opened or closed its flowers. This sequential flowering over a day became known as a floral clock.
Carl wrote about 3 types of flowers, the Meteorici, Tropici and Aequinoctales. In the installation I will work with the last type as they have fixed times for opening and closing regardless of weather or season. It is not the intention to create a floral clock, but rather use flower type definitions and lists of Aequinoctales to create an active- moving orchestra.
Key co-collaborators will be botanists, sound artists, programmers and electronic engineers.
My idea took root during residencies at The National Theatre Studios while I was exploring small-scale projects involving a single Evening Primrose that bloomed at dusk. This lead me to explore live video imagery using a bespoke software system.
During my research I have liaised with award winning sound artist, Melanie Wilson, and interactive system designer Ross Flight. These collaborations allowed me to look at computer systems that respond with sound to plant ‘triggers - and can generate modulations and patterns or data that become the composition in real time.
More intense research is needed in the large-scale use of sensors, software and signals. To realize this ambitious project I need the support of partners and collaborators who are experts in fields of sensor technologies, and botany.
Artangel can support me in further developing ideas for the Orchestra Botanica and in turning these ideas into a tourable, beautiful experience for audiences to enjoy.
I want people to walk on water!!
This is a bold and unusual installation idea that would employ a space, possibly a redundant space, that is well outside the conventional range of arts venues. The project would have massive appeal for the general public, it would be technically innovative, and would also be a huge leap forward for my creative practice.
I would like to take over a disused lido or swimming baths, or perhaps a section of a redundant canal, and create an installation that gives the illusion of walking on water.
I would use a clear acrylic sheet, or similar rigid platforms, which would be covered in Gelbed. This is a new material made of PU foam and a solid gel mesh, which is used in the manufacture of mattresses and waterbeds. Gelbed looks like crystal-clear water, but there is no water involved. The acrylic sheet and Gelbed construction would sit just under water – a matter of millimetres – and would be essentially invisible, which would strengthen the illusion.
The construction will fill the space available and would be safe enough for the general public to ‘walk on water’, from one side of the pool or canal to the other, or even along the canal for a short distance.
This is a strong and simple idea that would create a venue out of a building or landscape that is not currently used for presentation of the arts, as well as allowing me to explore the uses of new technologies. It would also be very popular with the general public.
Imagine standing on the edge of a swimming bath or canal, staring down at the water moving gently in front of you – and then stepping off the side and walking out across the water.
Eating Up The Sky In Milton Keynes
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Gridlock, is a project that attempts to re-imagine of the grid layout of Milton Keynes using falcons as the principle tool. Ever since I first visited the town two years ago I was left with the definite feeling that ‘something has to happen here,' and I wanted it to engage the plan of the city itself. The city’s gridded streets seemed extremely static and empty to me, as if they were waiting to be engaged.
Gridlock is a proposal to fly a falcon in the sky above Milton Keynes town center, attempting to redraw a typical modernist grid through its indefinable flight path.
The ephemeral gesture will hang like a net in the sky seizing the town and it’s upward gazing inhabitants. It is a poetic and idealistic gesture, which is impossible to realize and an absurd attempt to control a wild animal. A falcon’s flight is typically not systemized, geometric or based on right angles in the way traffic or pedestrians are funneled to navigate the geography of Milton Keynes. Their flight is typically circular because it enables the birds to see, their eyes are positioned on the side of their head, offering an arched perspective of their environment. Part of the filming of this live event will engage the birds wider, rouned perspective, as cameras will be mounted on the birds heads. This will create a mirror of the watched object - the bird - and the audience and other authors, which are the people filming on the ground.
The project output will be both the live event and a new video work both will carry equal important and focus. The film will be a major new work that involves several forms of video footage authored under the guise and from the position of the bird.
Using mobile camera technologies, along with digital mapping of the birds routes using GPS will help to highlight the interplay of the rural, ancient act of falconry being translated into an urban and geometric other. It will highlight the poetic tensions and fissures between the animal and the abstract construction of space designed by humans.
In Gridlock my interest is to explore through a body that is not strictly terrestrial the systematic nature of the modernist grid, which serves as a rationalization of abstract space into an ordered system. It is about controlling of space, and choreographing human movement, which the bird is free from. So, the piece will emulate the programme of the grid below, but without being contained in the actual form of it. In essence the grid serves as a paradigm in which to throw entropy and chaos.
The famous rebirth of Milton Keynes, a ‘New Town’ meant it had swallowed several smaller villages and rural areas . MK’s reformation and radical Grid plan is key to this proposition, which the project is a kind of homage to .
The dominance of the Grid has transformed the way we think about and organize space. In its rise in 20th Century Modernist painting, particularly those by Dutch painter Piet Mondrian focused on a white ground serving as the base for a grid of vertical and horizontal black lines and coloured shapes. These pieces were attempts to pair down aesthetic balance and order to a harmony creating an abstract purity. However I am interested at the surfaces of these paintings that show signs of labour, revision several failed human attempts to reach beauty.
Discussed at length by Rosalind Krauss in her seminal Essay ‘Grids’ - for Krauss the grid functioned as modernism’s central ‘myth,' covering the ‘shame’ of modernism’s denial of arts scared past ’. However to bring Gridlock into being it will require all involved to engage in a suspension of disbelief and a collective act of faith.
The Project And Output
Eating Up The Sky is falconry terminology, it means a bird is flying spectacularly. I have been working with falconers nationally, researching this ancient art. Through immersion in this subculture and after discussions with Dave, a falconer (and old school friend) the idea emerged. The project explores the relationship between containment of the bird’s flight in physical space and of space represented through video, shown in the geometric boundaries of the screen.
In the videomaking I will push the way I gather footage this will be a major development in my process that the funding and scale of the project would allow. I aim to use a combination of live feeds, mobile cameras and cinematic footage using high end cameras. Dave the falcon and myself have been doing experiments with kites and balloons suspended in the sky, housing small camera’s that transmit footage to a server, also we’ve attempted mounting cameras to the bird.
I want to combine filming methods and video footage giving a clash of associations allowing me to activate the viewer differently. I’m interested in the camera as a performer, having a relative and shifting position and way of looking and recording.
Participants will be recruited from the locale of Milton Keynes, documenting the event by accounting sightings of the bird and it’s movement through the sky above the city. They can also monitor recordings of flight attempts by going to an online interface that tracks the bird using GPS. I’d like to create a App for smart phone’s or a site online, similar to flight arrival tracking apps for i-phone’s that are available, where you can view all global flights and the location of specific airplanes in the sky.
The technological tracking of the bird will be in tandem eye witness accounts, the results can be plotted and logged through social media. The cities grid provides and system to plot movement within it, as grid lines are labeled and numbered for example horizontal (W 2) and vertical (V 2) this code can be used in the creation of maps and digital applications.
My aim through the project is to capture the town’s imagination. An event that raises people’s head to the skies above and I‘m interested in possible community dialogue this gesture could spark.
Vincent van Gogh said
Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile. You don't know how paralyzing that is, that stare of a blank canvas, which says to the painter, ‘You can't do a thing’. The canvas has an idiotic stare and mesmerizes some painters so much that they turn into idiots themselves. Many painters are afraid in front of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the real, passionate painter who dares and who has broken the spell of `you can't' once and for all.
The above suggests that Vincent van Gogh would have defined me an idiot. I am an idiot. I am not a painter, however, but Van Gogh’s words resonate with me as an artist all the same.
I co-habit with blank canvases in my studio, appropriating them as creative liminal props, concerning myself with how to approach them and indeed what to do with them. A friend (a painter) gave up painting because she was overwhelmed by the fear of making a mark on the blank canvas, paralysed by the thought that its potential would be dashed, her credibility with it, in the moment that she had committed herself to it. She knew there would be no going back. I understood her.
The blank canvas asserts an awesome power over the artist. The marks we make define us as artists and grant us an immortality, but the blank canvas itself is an object of stark self-reflection and ontological importance that can and does undermine the artist and render them impotent.
I refer to this as White Whale syndrome.
As a way to resist and respond to White Whale I began to accept the blank canvases solely in their literal state, pre-idea, as linen stretched over a wooden frame, effectively sidestepping any issues of creative commitment and confrontation with the metaphysical blankness. Consequently, the blank canvases became tangible objects, subject to a broader line of creative inquiry.
As such, I began to develop ways in which to curtail White Whale in the public domain. Ephemeral performances have involved discarding blank canvases, abandoning them in public places and sending them into exile with the attached note ‘If You Find This Canvas, You Can Keep It, I Don’t Want It, It Is Yours’. A blank canvas also accompanied me indefinitely until I was approached by a stranger on day four, who asked for it; thereby presenting me with the opportunity to wash my hands of it, there and then. In the studio, meanwhile, I have been taking a hammer to the canvases, smashing them up and transforming them into less problematic objects.
Expanding and supporting the project
The next step, with the support of Artangel, is to push the extremity of these ‘blank canvas’ interventions and expand upon the possibilities and solutions concerning the issue ‘What to do with a blank canvas when it’s staring you in the face like some imbecile’.
At present, I have six solid intervention activities to pursue. These activities are; burying a blank canvas deep in the woods; rowing out to the middle of a lake then tossing a blank canvas overboard; burning a blank canvas (somewhere); consuming a blank canvas; sending a blank canvas into space; and, having a blank canvas inserted up my rectum. Each activity has its own degree of accomplishment, success, and/or failure associated.
Each intervention will be recorded as a short documentary film, capturing every aspect of the process and execution of the arranged activity and each activity will be realised at separate locations across the UK, either indoors or out, public or private.
As part of the filming process, the aim is to collaborate with a different director for each activity. Such a process will broaden the creative dialogue from which to experiment with, through a mix of different film based methods involving aesthetics, directive styles, and genre, culminating in a series of short experimental films that hold together as one body of work.
During the recording process, it is a plan that at least one (or some) of the activities should be streamed live over the web, to capture real-time intensity between the project and audience and in turn prompting greater public involvement in the project.
When complete, all six activities will be made available to watch online (staggered as episodes perhaps) as well as shown suitably local to their made environment.
At this point audience participation via the internet will already be playing a crucial part in developing the project further. Throughout the duration of the project the audience will be asked, via an online comments forum, as to their own suggestions for ‘what would you do with a blank canvas staring at you like some imbecile?’ – the best six suggestions then credited as becoming the next six films to be made.
In total, a series of twelve short films, each visually and creatively different from one another will be realised (a somewhat conceptually abstract homage to the twelve task tasks of Hercules-ish) as a result of a combined, collaborative and interactive experience between artist, fellow creators and the public at large, unperturbed by and simultaneously overcoming White Whale.
I created the first house project display in 2001 and twinned it with another installation view, for Café Gallery Projects (CGPLondon) at Dilston Grove. New projects (substantial architectural interventions which we lived with, often in place for 6 month periods), were then developed as ideas for different configurations and possibilities took form. Still Live (2003/4), Collecting Time: The Living and the Dead (2005/6) and Back to Front (2011). All were organised and promoted as CGPLondon’s Offsite Projects. During the public gaps private events were staged and the documentation and remnants were toured to performance festivals re-staged in lifts, markets, squares and galleries.
To bring the (total) house installation project (from 2001) working title thirteen years (or fourteen depending on timing) to a wider audience. A number of curators have visited Ron Henocq, (director of CGPLondon) and Margot Heller, (director of South London Gallery) have been particularly supportive and positive about the quality of the work, if you need a reference. Approximately 200 people have visited each installation with a limited number of public viewings advertised in the press e.g. the Guardian and time out and CGPLondon’s mail out. The projects have relied on a substantial amount of volunteer labour.
Mentoring advice would be welcomed as to the best strategy.
Approaches could include:
The production of a documentary including interview past participants and the staging of a past or new work. I have worked with a number of film makers in the past e.g. Lily Markiewicz.
To re-stage Back to Front with front-of-house support and promotion.
Or to produce a new intervention – to go through the roof!
Help and assistance, particularly with public viewings and promotion and some construction costs, would be useful.
CGPLondon and the UAL Graduate School have both been (and would continue) to offer additional financial/in-kind support if required.
Relationship to other Artangel projects:
Unlike the formal sculptural dissections of building spaces undertaken by Gordon Matta-Clark or the sinister constructions of liminal domestic space constructed by Mike Nelson and Gregor Schneider in which new spaces appear to harbour uncomfortable memories, Cottell’s space is her own home, very much real and lived in, surrounding us with the comforts and objects of domesticity. Hers is a gentler, psychological and moreover additive’ approach as opposed to the subtractive example of Matta-Clark or the menace of Schneider. Neither is the structure one to be observed from outside like the soft meshed, suspended ‘casts’ of Do Ho Suh’s interiors, or the contemplation of the domestic interior as an object, such as the casts by Rachel Whiteread for we are within the very object itself and an integral part of it. – From Watchers Watching unpublished text by Tansy Spinks (review of Back to Front
The household behind the net is as chaotic as usual, but the passageway felt like a metaphor for an idea pushed to its conclusion: a thought that has a will of its own and can cut through swathes of physical domestic demands and reach a satisfying end; a path through the mind too – all those interrupting thoughts put to one side as we focus on getting from the beginning of an idea and ruthlessly concentrate until its work is done. – Victoria Rance from review of Back to Front, a–n
Fran Cottell’s work is related to these feminist ideas of location/dislocation, knowing/being in its contrasts between order/chaos in these installations because these interventions repeatedly draw attention to how boundaries of understanding are accepted/formed and then disrupted. Jane Rendell identifies the key trope of this new kind of feminist writing in the following way: ‘Where I am makes a difference to who I can be and what I can know’. Fran Cottell’s work invites viewers to consider “where” they are in the process of viewing the work: a viewer/a resident, a participant/an observer, part of the “life” displayed/or “on display” but this is combined with the inescapable complicity of occupying these positions – however momentarily and this leads us back to Terry Smith’s point about a ‘direct experience of multiplicitous complexity’ as a symptom of our contemporary life. ... While we think that the installation is providing us with a fixed point in time, a view. Across the series, it becomes only a snapshot in time, a moment in everyday life. The singular state captured within the photos was never a fixed or inert display of a particular kind (something that could be fetishistically re-created in a museum restoration) it was instead a proposition, an anti-spectacular question about the means of looking. Across the series, this quality slowly reveals itself within a series of possibilities, and in the employment and redeployment of different ideas about carving up the same space. This is the work’s attention to “modernism”: using a form of abstract framing mechanisms as variations to explore ideas through different consequences and possibilities, just like a painter would in making a series of works, each one a variation on the others. – Katy Deepwell, overview of the House Projects from House: from Display to Back to Front
The work would consist of a civic statue in a British city being transformed into a fountain of fire. This would be achieved by running piping along the outlines of the monument which are fed by pressure pumps drawing on a supply of combustible material. Our preferred combustion material would be acetone as it burns with a bright flame at low temperature and can be pumped like water. The cascading effect of the material is an important element of the work as the visual effect we are looking to achieve would be something similar to the monument wearing fire. Introducing this process to a public monument – making it wear fire – triggers associations of the demonic and apocalyptic.
Typically the civic monument is redolent with historical meaning and its function is to speak of the past. We want to activate one of these structures, to alter its address from the historical to the prophetic. As is sometimes the case with our work the use of spectacle here is a vehicle for more complex and troubling reflections. A work like The Fireworks (2007) deployed a similar strategy moving at times between visual exuberance and imagery reminiscent of a city under aerial bombardment. Beyond this is the association the work has to popular cultural forms like Manga and online avatars where it is not uncommon to be presented with characters engulfed in flame. The work consciously draws upon these cultural languages and we foresee it as operating at a juncture between fantasy and the political.
The work might be best presented during the winter months. The limits on the overall duration of the work are mainly associated with the costs of acetone as, unlike a normal fountain, ours would not recycle its materials.