I am proposing to make a film about the overnight appearance of a monumentally large freestanding camera obscura on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. The film's narrative will be woven around visual meditations on the surrounding landscape intercut with shots of architectural explorations of the building and its mechanics: close-ups of its surfaces and materials, demonstrations of its moving parts and ultimately the images it projects- views of the marshlands and north sea but also 3D rendered visualisations of the local sea floor and shipwrecks made from hi-resolution sonar data.
The proposed camera's mechanics are partially inspired by the Jennings Camera Obscura in San Francisco – a 1940s seaside attraction – that has a motorized lens continuously rotating the view 360 degrees every few minutes, projecting onto a parabolic focusing screen in the centre of the building. The device’s proximity to the sea and this persistent rotation provide a visual framework for its reimagining as the inversion of a lighthouse in my film: sucking light in, obscuring rather than illuminating. In this way I imagine it a symbolically dangerous and mysterious device; a voyeuristic means to explore spatial history, specifically one with a tendency towards catastrophe.
The decision to use Sheppey as a location is motivated by the abundance of shipwrecks along its coast- owing to its location at the mouth of the Thames Estuary, an important shipping route, both now and historically. In particular much of the film will take place around the town of Sheerness, focusing on the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery which sits a mile and a half from the shore, three of its masts still poking out from the water. The US cargo ship sank on a sandbank in 1944 carrying around one and a half thousand tonnes of explosives (allegedly comparable to a small nuclear weapon) which rests undetonated. While regular surveys are taken of the wreck to ensure its stability, it remains a controversial presence, with an exclusion zone around it, most recently threatening to scupper Boris Johnson’s plan to build an airport island (“Boris island”) on the Thames Estuary.
The wreck thus becomes an antagonistic presence in the film, simultaneously threatening and uncertain, its masts standing in oppositional symmetry to the brutalist but ramshackle architecture of the Obscura. The building’s architectural style will take cues partly from the Victorian seaside attractions that inspired it, but also from the cast concrete of the ruined pillboxes and acoustic mirrors found around Sheppey and the Kent coast, giant and intimidating structures now fallen into disrepair or half buried in the sea. A fortified lighthouse or peculiarly decorated Martello Tower made of weather-beaten concrete and iron, it stands proclaiming an illusory permanence.
These references underpin one of the primary thematic concerns of the piece; to create and explore an optical counterpoint to the aforementioned iconic acoustic mirror, both functionally and aesthetically. While the mirrors are able to make sounds that are distant feel close, the camera obscura has the ability to expose and enlarge objects normally concealed by distance. Both technologies astound and entertain because they defy established notions of sensation. Transporting the outside world to a large dish in a darkened room is an idea heavily loaded with visual analogies and references, conjuring images of witch's cauldrons or divine chess boards which will be played upon in the film.
The Pantograph alludes to the Camera Obscura's conceptual ability to make a copy of the outside world: a model of the world at a manageable scale. A Pantograph is a mechanical arm originally invented to make scale drawings and reproductions, a device later adapted for, and essential to, the manufacture of ships. The arm traces the curvature of small wooden engineering models, amplifying a much larger connected arm's movements, carving out the final lines used to construct the ship.
I intend to realise the building itself through photo-real CGI (my primary medium) composited against the bleakly beautiful marshlands and beaches of the Thames Estuary for the exterior shots. Interior shots will be comprised of footage shot inside the remaining camera obscura attractions across the UK, building up a sort of Über-Obscura: an amalgamated picture of the machine's workings and housing, a cinematic space neither entirely fictional nor real.
The camera obscura is useful both as an analogy for the mechanics of our vision but also as means to connect with the past; its ability to reveal that which is distant, or uncover what is normally unseen makes it ideally suited to reveal seemingly lost parts of history. When the film comes to show us the Obscura's projected images, the narrative will leap in and out of different ways of seeing, presenting both historical and newly commissioned high resolution sonar scans of the surrounding seabed. This is the same technology that is yearly used to assess the risk caused by the SS Richard Montgomery, and part of the film will be re-visualising the existing data. This will of course have to be in coordination with the team of researchers at Universty of Dundee and St Andrews currently responsible for its surveillance. I wish to literally reprocess their data to create new visual interpretations of the site but also to re-present the standard visualisation method which emphasises the ghost-like appearance of shipwrecks, rusting hulls made up of tiny glowing dots, a thin layer of luminous digital dust.
These 3D point clouds render an aesthetically fantastical and foreign underwater landscape now accessible- CGI enabling a virtual camera to move freely around and even through the inside of the wrecks. In this way the narrative forms a loop, moving from the camera obscura- a technological relic once at the forefront of the visual arts and entertainment, to the modern equivalent of computational photography, allowing us to look and see in ways which were previously entirely impossible. The Pantograph will ultimately provide both an alternate history of an area but also a history of looking at the world around us, and the means in which visual technologies are constantly redefining what we consider to be landscape.
Hafod – was once a poor country estate, 15 miles South-East of Aberystwyth, mid-Wales. This mountainous landscape was wild and barren, with little agriculture other than pockets of subsistence hill farming. During the late 18th Century Hafod was inherited by an enlightened character called Thomas Johnes (1748-1816). Johnes developed innovative methods of tree planting and farming; he also became very interested in the collisions of wilderness and the tamed environment. Alongside tree plantations, he created ravines, caverns and most significantly pathways in the landscape which connected contrasting vistas. The paths radiated from the house – originally a modest building, which Johnes had extended and developed by John Nash, to become a focal point in the landscape.
Hafod became regarded as one of the finest examples of the ‘picturesque’ and was visited by iconic artists of the time. One of the few remaining visual records of the house is an extraordinary and large (610 x 915 mm) watercolour painted by JMW Turner (c 1798), which is kept in storage at the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool image one. The only surviving map of the estate, showing the trajectories of the footpaths is by William Blake image two. Landseer made an engraving of one of Johnes earth works – a tunnel blasted through a rock face, so the walker could discover a hidden waterfall on the other side – a sensual experience, written about by George Cumberland in the 1796 publication ‘An Attempt to Describe Hafod : A small close cave is perceived on the right; on entering which, a roaring of water assaults the ear, which increases on advancing through the dark passage; when suddenly to the left, light breaks in, and you see, through a large aperture, a luminous sheet of water, falling just before you, with the noisy velocity, into a deep hole beneath.
After Thomas Johnes, the estate changed ownership several times but quickly fell into decline… and the Nash mansion was finally demolished in 1958. Since 1994 the land and the legacy of Hafod has been managed by The Hafod Trust in partnership with The Forestry Commission. With a combination of private and public funds, the Trust has restored some of the pathways and details of the landscaping.
The original site of the mansion is still visible within the landscape, and on closer inspection the rubble forms a sense of an abandoned graveyard: cut stone and blocks of brickwork partly swallowed up into the earth and incorporated into a field grazed by sheep image three and four. Out of sight, beneath the field, the cellars of the building are apparently still very much intact and accessible – though some work would be needed to make them safe to a visiting public.
The proposed Artangel Open project Hafod is in essence very simple and grows out of the visceral absence of the Nash mansion in the landscape. The project is to evoke a quality of both the fabric of the building and a sense of habitation by creating a pure, translucent lightbox, built to the same scale as the original mansion, over its existing footprint. This temporary structure will not have any of the architectural details of the building and it should appear without any visible support structure – like a vast, almost floating, plain cuboid… emitting white light. A phantom of the incongruous building which was once the focal point of this wild landscape.
The challenge is not simply to design and build this lightbox, but to incorporate contemporary considerations: how to generate enough self-sufficient power, that the resultant luminescence will be strong enough to affect the surrounding landscape and the way it is perceived. This already suggests that if the project was to last for say 6 months, it would be most effective during the winter when contrasts with the daylight would be spectacular.
Since most of the original Johnsian footpaths are already restored, the phantom of the Hafod mansion will be experienced in different ways through several conceived walks and driveways - each offering different perspectives for discovering ecologies of light, sound, nature and culture… .
With the lightbox as the focal element of the project, there will be smaller projects and collaborations using Hafod as a laboratory for exploring ideas about memory and landscape. These are areas of thought which have become consistently central to my work, in particular linked to a kind of sensory movement associated with perambulations through a landscape. As John Banville wrote of me and my work: He has spoken of his admiration for W.G. Sebald, and sleep furiously is in the line of that new kind of post-humanist but entirely humane art of which Sebald was a leading practitioner before his untimely death in 2001.
One will be to develop soundscapes which will be transmitted to different parts of the estate and encountered along the walkways… or perhaps moments of sound used to create different trajectories through the landscape.
Another will be to invert the intervention between the lightbox – focal object – and landscape. four high definition cameras will be mounted from different positions in the terrain – each at a distance from and perpendicular to the lightbox. Each camera will frame the absent building and a feed from each will be transmitted to a similarly proportioned wall in a rectangular urban art gallery space… in effect turning the experienced landscape inside out and reducing it to a sanitised art image.
Although Hafod is in an isolated area of mid-Wales, it is well served by roads and consequently has good car parking facilities. The site for the lightbox is also accessible for large work vehicles and there are services available close to the site.
I proposed the idea for this project to the Hafod Trust who have expressed their enthusiastic support for its development.
This is the human paradox of altitude; that it both exalts the individual mind and erases it. Those who travel to mountain tops are half in love with themselves, and half in love with oblivion.
Robert Macfarlane – Mountains of the Mind.
Inspired by the opening sequence of Werner Herzog’s Aquirre Wrath of God and Francis Alys’s When Faith Moves Mountains, Overland Underland pays homage to the possibility of the impossible.
The legion of marchers would be a hodge podge of folkloricists gathered from across the UK. Up Dove Crag in Dovedale and into The Priests Hole Cave. The Lake District landscape is stunning and the way onto the mountain easily accessible from Ambleside in the Eastern Fell.
I’m interested in the way in which traditional folklore has been appropriated and re-presented, from the Jack-in-the-Green in Hastings and Deptford to the Bolster Giant in Cornwall and the Mummers in Brighton.
I would propose that the march on the mountain would take place on June 21st, the longest day of the year, the summer solstice. After some extensive research in collaboration with Simon Costin (The Museum of British Folklore), invites would be sent out to specific folkloric groups in the UK inviting them to meet in costume at Ambleside. They would need to be sympathetic to the vision of the project and the playfulness of the post-folkloric ambition. A celebration through hybridization of tradition and subversion.
I envisage no more than 800 participants. They would make their way up The Crag and into The Priests Hole.
(Walk route: Cow Bridge - Brothers Water - Hartsop Hall - Dovedale - Houndshope Cove - Priest's Hole - Houndshope Cove - Dove Crag - Bakestones Moss - Stangs - Dovedale - Hartsop Hall - Brothers Water - Cow Bridge.
Distance: 4.50 miles.
A silent procession, somnambulistic meander and unexplained mystifier. Costumes captured in all their extravagance and bastardised post-modern splendour. Close up details abound, feet pounding the earth, sweat on the brow and furrowed whispers. Up a mountain and into the ‘oracular’ cave; primitive viewing chamber, gallery, shrine, shelter and larder.
The path to the cave lurches through ascending levels of human possibility: rough pasture, dale and rock. The company are post-historic, randomly culled folklorists, Molly gangs, buskers, performance non-artists in horns and animal heads. The procession marks no saint’s day it is humanistic and pre-religious, a post-modern celebration.
The shambling ascent is a day of judgement: away from the pox of settled existence and towards the gash of the unknown, sweaty, calm and sexualised. The troop are willing predators. Their trespass means nothing. The mountain outranks them all. The mountain is poetry and has no need to speak. The harsh and beautiful landscape is its own metaphor.
The human snake climbing the track vanishes. A portal between worlds in which the great questions can be dropped like stones into a well. The darkness of the cave is the birth of cinema. In firelight, Plato’s images flicker on the wall.
The event would be documented on various formats; from pin-hole photographs, to super 8, 16mm and full HD moving image as well as sound recordings made on Nagra, Dat and Zoom. Blimps, dollies, tracks and helicopters. The footage would then be edited into a time line to include texts and inter-titling. Maxims, axioms, proverbs and taradiddles might also appear on screen:
Odyssey as real life documentary.
Wherein lies the physical endeavor?
Listen for the bone-clatter of the oracular typewriter.
Imagine a journey, two journeys, a new map.
This story is today’s variant, traces of a deep mythology lodged in the ground, in earth and air and water.
To scatter oneself across the landscape.
I then propose to present the work on the London Overground Underground, the Manchester Metrolink, the Glasgow Subway and the Cardiff Metro, which also connects Newport and the Valleys. The film would play silently on the train’s monitors as well as on the electronic hoardings that run parallel to some of the escalators.
But there would be a soundtrack, crafted and mediated from original field recordings of the march up the mountain and into the cave as well sound archive from folkloric gatherings across the country and a carefully composed musical score. This would all be accessible via a mobile phone app.
I imagine that the work would only ever be shown twice a year, on the summer solstice of June 21st and the winter solstice of December 21st, and it would run on a loop continuously for 24 hours.
What are the scenes of nature that elevate the mind in the highest degree, and produce the sublime sensation? Not the gay landscape, the flowery field, or the flourishing city, but the hoary mountain and the torrent falling over the rock.
My proposal is to restage the legendary journey that was made around the coast of Great Britain by the nineteenth centaury artist William Daniell and the writer Richard Ayton. Daniell’s voyage resulted in an eight volume publication, the last volume of which was published in 1825, containing over three hundred prints that:
Not merely give plans and outlines of its well known towns, ports and havens, but illustrate the grandeur of its natural scenery, the manners and employment of people, and modes of life, in its wildest parts’ (Daniell 1813)
The journey would be the work.
There would be a number of outcomes from the journey including: broadcasts, visual records, drawings, charts, portolans, photographs, songs, films, and writing. These would be published in a second ‘Voyage Round Great Britain’ to make a public logbook of the journey.
The journey would take a coastal route, in a boat that was a also a work; the boat would become a traveling focus point and head quarters for the work, a studio on the water, a place to record and broadcast from, a maritime archive of a journey, something that could be followed or visited.
I would develop an appropriate identity for the boat that communicated its purpose to a harbor-side audience. The water spaces, harbors and docks, beaches, seasides, are social spaces where different codes of human interaction are possible. To arrive somewhere by water creates an alternate point of entry to a place; you see things differently from the sea. There is a human chatter that travels along a coastline, that would accompany the journey, the anticipating of arrival, and the creation of memory after departure.
I would have Daniel’s work as a structural frame around my journey, allowing his journey to haunt mine, generate a route, and visit places that he recorded. But the journey would be about what is there now, not to make a comparison, but as a marking of this now, seen through my eyes in this moment.
To see a place from the outside, from its edges is my viewpoint. I am never on the inside. The work would be my Sea Song that describes, questions and whispers the geographies and psychogeographies of Britishness. My starting point would be Land’s End, which is where their journey began. This is a heroic maritime exploration of the ‘local’, an expedition to ‘home’, a searching for something not lost but that needs describing at this moment.
With sketchbooks, watercolours and a camera obscura Daniell recorded Britain seen from the sea; and Ayton, a vocal social reformer, wrote a penetrating record of what they saw. Notions of the sublime might have conceptually framed some of Daniell’s imagery but social commentary was at the heart of Ayton’s writing had an agenda of social reform and relevance.
An artist makes for a good traveler, outsider or witness to point to things. The journey would be charectorised by constant displacement and movement, restlessness, a tidal mindset, weather determined, traveling to get back to where you started, hopeless unbelonging, many arrivals and departures, conversations, connections, internal and external dialogues, tracing a line around a landmass, making a cartography of identity. This is a journey around the edge of my room, but ‘my room’ is Britain.
Until recently we traveled by water. I would like Sea Song to make a dialogue with maritime culture, its deep history, and its future face. Island geography is a defining character that determines history and identity for millennia. Islands are isolated by water but are also the nodes that are the connection points, points of departure and arrival.
To see from the sea is to understand something that we are close to forgetting, but has an uncharted relevance in this post colonial time of interconnected global crisis. Maritime knowledge has a pull that is almost a tidal drag once near water, a collective unconscious pull to the horizon, that takes you to the edge of land. This is what I will be mapping.
All landscapes are processes as well as places, which form identity. My Sea Song will describe the edge of landmass at this moment in time.
My Home Is Not My Castle lays open for public scrutiny the dire compromises of new housing in the UK.
A floor plan of the precise dimensions of an average new-build two bedroom house is illustrated in scale 1:1 by a single layer of breeze blocks for walls, with internal furniture highlighted in white paint. We all have difficulty reading scaled plans, and buying a property off the shelf is even harder, as it is often impossible for the buyer to understand exactly what they are buying, as they obviously cannot visit the property. They are buying blind and this plays into the hands of commercially minded developers, who can sell a property on the strength of drawings that mask the poor quality of architecture on offer. With only a floorplan and some glossy, rendered photographs to go on, the buyer is left in the dark about the amount of light and space available in the property. Even so-called ‘show houses’ are misleading, as they are kitted out with ‘luxurious décor’ and mask the rationalised and joyless living space residents are signing up for.
This sculpture shows the cramped spaces in actual dimension, which can be experienced by exploring the internal layout set beside the scaled plans shown below deliberately dramatic, polemical signs, such as ‘Warning – Harmful Housing’ and ‘DO enter. New planning laws allow countryside to be built over.’
This ‘ruin of the newly built’ thus offers an interactive experience up close, of the absurdity and shortcomings of contemporary housing.
Research at the Future Homes Commission and RIBA’s Case for Space report shows that there is not enough space in the rooms, not enough storage and not enough natural light. Insufficient flexible spaces are provided for communal and private living or changes in the household over time. New homes are not built for the needs of modern families and they are shrinking: Average new homes in the UK are 15% smaller than in Ireland, 53% smaller than in Denmark and 80% smaller than in Germany. This is a national scandal. Just as we have enjoyed the legacy of generous Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian architecture for the last two hundred years – spaces which mostly still function brilliantly for families across the UK – so we will similarly be lumbered with the current bad architecture for many decades to come too.
The UK needs a change of mentality, designing long-term homes of our dreams, playing to our fantasies, feeding our imagination, and aiming to deliver pleasure, joy, and community spirit. Crucially it is the task of artists to show alternative ways for our mass housing market to go. We need housing, but it has to be delivered with vision and a generosity of spirit, as whatever is built is here to stay. On-site workshops would be organised to develop such dreams with potential first-time buyers and communities, which would be published on a dedicated website and brochure.
Set in the green backdrop of Finsbury Park, the site reflects the fact that green site developments are now preferred over brown site developments, even though there are now more available than ever due to deindustrialisation. New planning laws will accelerate this development for the potential building as 60% of England's land area is unprotected countryside - only designated national parks will be fully safeguarded – a historic moment with an impact which is permanent and irreversible. Developments need to add value to our future and not destroy our country for short term profit.
50,000 such properties are built every year and an estimated 330,000 homes are needed to meet housing demand. This proposal brings the issues into the heart of the city. The countryside is up for sale and we will all pay the price.
Sky.l.Ark is a series of ‘spaces above’ that form an arc across the sky and metaphorically replicate the Alauda skylark’s ‘mile high’ space – for things heard but not seen, where humanity can be held in mind, where fear of the unknown is suspended, and the question is open for imaginative possibility, absorption, preoccupation and collaboration.
The project opens up through a Call and Response to find other communities and their spaces above which are hidden to the public and difficult, if not impossible, to visit. This is the ‘set aside’.
And just as the skylark’s birdsong at breeding time, a further call and response will extend to other artists’ voices across the UK whose enquiry is on the edges of the known, where the poetry of their work hits the discomfort of the prosaic and bounces up into the mile high space.
Skylarks nest on the ground, and for Labern and Lloyd this is the grit of the project where the collision of experience, ideas and form takes place. The artists will draw upon the longevity of their socially engaged work as artists on housing estates, homeless housing projects, post-conflict zones, refugee camps, transit centres, inner-city refugee programmes, HIV/Aids centres, Traveller and Gypsy sites. They will explore both the perceived and real fear of danger within communities which creates neighbour-neighbour, neighbour-stranger, stranger-stranger dynamics between people - this questioning and exchange beneath the mile high space feeding directly into the work.
Labern and Lloyd will become parallel researchers alongside post-doctoral scientist Dr Elodie Briefer who has studied the skylark’s song, carrying out various analyses and playback experiments in the field and amassing considerable material as a powerful resource. At one hundred metres high the skylark bird cannot be seen, while its voice can be clearly and distinctly heard. The song is described in terms of dialects (geographical variations) and complexity (ordering of acoustic units). Skylark males produce one of the most complex song among songbirds; geographical variation exists (dialects): in a given patch, males (neighbours) share several sequences of syllables in their songs, whereas males settled in different patches (strangers) have no sequences in common. Using playback experiments (broadcasting songs with a loudspeaker), Dr Briefer has also shown that dialect allows birds to recognise their neighbours and differentiate them from strangers, reacting with low aggression to neighbours, compared to strangers (‘dear-enemy effect’). Re-organising syllable sequences within the song, she has tested how fragmented it can become before the bird no longer recognises its own voice - just 2 seconds of reordered syllables played back to the bird leads to a ‘stranger’ response.
Labern and Lloyd will curate a series of works in both inhospitable and aspirational spaces situated ‘above’ specific communities within the UK and held at the very edges of the sea by two bird observatories, north and south:
– the discrete roof eaves, un-visitable above a homeless hostel in Camden (Arlington, where they have been running ‘Irregular Bulletin’, print and social media workshops with Space Studios using cut-out / cut-in text and image)
– on the housing estate in E17 where the drawing shed has had its base since 2009, Labern and Lloyd will build a new inaccessible physical space as a platform for the community to witness and engage in this project
– in two bird observatories situated on islands at northerly and southerly points of the British Isles – Fair Isle in the Shetlands and the Portland Bird Observatory on the Isle of Portland, Dorset (a decommissioned lighthouse with its glass-domed light space still intact and where Labern and Lloyd have already begun work and to develop relationships - noting a thousand skylarks landing in wild weather unexpectedly in Portland last winter and logged by the bird keeper as ‘refugees’) - both are inhabited by a disparate community of individuals who find freedom of expression through the arc of the birds as they map their paths between continents, creating maps of experience that echo a human diaspora.
Potential ‘other’ communities of interest will also be sought - voices challenging, beautiful, dissonant, unheard - the growing community of people silently lining up for the daily soup kitchen in E17; a trans-gendered community whose ‘set aside’ space has been ‘carved out’, wrestled from the mainstream, an example of the ambiguous, the shape-changing spaces that people create for themselves; the Algerian community in E11, now economically active as migrants to east London but experiencing acute and hidden levels of homelessness. Social media will be used to make a call-out, bringing the artists’ attention to unique spaces above these specific communities. Like the ‘set aside’ necessary for the nesting skylark’s safety, they are hard spaces to find, have to be fought for or literally opened up. These spaces become new sites for contemporary artworks - perhaps only to be visited by the communities of interest beneath.
Labern and Lloyd will work with residents of the homeless hostel, housing estates, transgender, Algerian and birding communities and so on, to develop both audio and visual conversations, using recordings and playback, cut-in and cut-out text, opening up questions that make possible intense connection, violent rebuke and lyrical response.
Works across art forms will be created using sound recordings from Dr Briefer’s extensive archive, and new recorded sound developed within communities. Other artists will extend this conversation.
Lloyd and Labern will choreograph social media Twitter as a performative space (as currently used by the drawing shed in E17 and other locations), sharing their thoughts across the ether between locations and inviting others in, asking questions that have always needed to be asked.
Sound works will explore possibilities for Stranger-Stranger, Stranger-Neighbour, Neighbour-Neighbour held within the structure of the skylark’s song. Labern and Lloyd will ask, how can the song be re-choreographed, re-sung, relocated; how can the ‘set aside’ be formed, what is its shape? Between each location and community of interest, the artists will choreograph Sky.l.Ark, playing out new voices in a multiple arc across each other, acting as the physical ‘metronome’ of the work, tempering in the mind’s eye of the audience the song re-sung.
The idea is to create a Bracelet of light around the Fife coast embedding, etching, routing, perfectly into place thousands of pieces of sea glass and pottery found on the beaches there, into a set of hundreds of concrete blocks, built, cast and laid by Polish paratroopers before and during the second World War. The paratroopers built a protective ring of these blocks all around the Fife coast with the idea of preventing German tanks coming up onto the beaches should there be an invasion. In fact, the UK must have thousands of these tank traps; concrete blocks, Dragon’s teeth, etc, laid all around the coast.
The Bracelet will begin at the “Mile Dyke”, sitting between Leven and Lower Largo, and then carry on around the rest of the Fife coast, taking it all in.
The blocks are very dramatic things, very dynamic, tough, and very sculptural already. Even the way they fit with their environment is interesting, some remaining upright as they were planted, long tough sea grasses growing around they, tucking them into the ground. Others, leaning slightly as if sinking into the sand, others leaning even more. Others still, completely free of the sand and some even stacked one of top of the other, some giant having picked them up and played with them like a kid playing with building blocks.
They offer regularity and rhythm as they zoom off into the perspective of a straight line and madness, crazy angles as they stagger from right to left, no two looking the same, as if they’ve been scooped up and tossed down the beach, like dice thrown onto a gaming table.
As kids, they were just part of our landscape and something to play on and inspire us. They inspired me as a very young child, growing into a boy and a teenager and on into adulthood as a young man. They inspire me still and I want to use them now. To enhance them. They are already fantastic, but now I want to use them to create this Bracelet around the coast.
That coast already has the best light in the country. Setting the “jewellery” of the glass and pottery into these concrete blocks of war would show that light off. A walk around the coast with this sculpture / event / happening / performance will not be complete without searching for more of these set jewels reflecting that light and showing us what the world looks like. That is the great gift of that light... to reveal to us the world.
The Bracelet will have to be found. You will have to explore and search to find it. It will involve a journey of many miles and take up many visits. You will not find everything unless you go back many times. It will encourage you to “look” and that’s what sculpture is all about, looking and then seeing and then understanding and then valuing.
Even the way the sculpture is made will encourage this. It will not appear in one great upright, vertical blast, announced and launched but will emerge bit by bit created covertly over months and years. Each piece of glass and pottery appearing gradually over many miles of coastline and gradually over many months of time, carefully and expertly etched and routed into these war time menhirs, the not so ancient standing stones that these concrete blocks are.
They are already exceptional things, made in preparation for a time of war by people, Polish soldiers whose journey to get there to arrive in this place in time to make these things is exceptional, heroic, epic and incredible in its own telling.
The history of these things is so beautifully mixed up with but inextricably linked to the idea of a people erecting standing stones. For the sake of what? Art? Religion? Worship? In their most recent history, these more contemporary blocks were erected for more pragmatic reasons but are no less mystical in their appearance. No less magic. We know why they are there.. to stop tanks rolling up the beaches of the Scottish coast but they are still romantic, and that still enthrals me. Discovering them with their set of jewels of glass and pottery, pottery I know from Holland and Stoke and other places, links me to them in my history and geography and my ancestry. It links me to the whole of the UK.
Almost all of the glass and pottery involves some shade of blue or green with the occasional break away into other colours. Most of these objects will reflect the light in Fife and reflect the blues and greens of the grass which grows along the sand dunes. It is to allow that light to bounce back and forth, up and down that I want to make the Bracelet.
Some of the blocks would be entirely covered in pottery and glass; other blocks would only have one or two pieces. It is my intention to inlay the glass and pottery over a period of a year or two, and to create a team who will travel together and independently fix these pieces in place. The Bracelet would appear gradually then. It would have to be found and its legend would encourage the seeking of it out.
The construction team wouldn’t necessarily build at the same location all the time. They could operate covertly, rove around and the Bracelet could appear commando style, piece by piece. Eventually, this would become not just a destination for a piece of sculpture but become a journey for visitors to have an adventure looking for it.
To me the blocks and the glass and the pottery from the beach somehow go together. And strangely, there are traditions on the Fife coast, but not just there, they stretch around the coast where we want to apply things to walls and houses. In England, it’s pebbledash; in Scotland, it’s harling. And of course, some of these things can become quite elaborate, involving, shells and glass and mirrors and so on. The Bracelet is a continuation of that tradition. I hope to build it around the Fife coast and who knows, on from there around the UK.
A feature of the project is the collection of the glass and the pottery and I would like to have a UK wide appeal for this material linking the sculpture right around the country. I already have hundreds, possibly thousands of pieces of this material in my own collection but I’d like to further enhance that with an appeal.
Sexuality is inherent in all of us, it's the thread of human existence. It is a birth to death continuum – Elaine White
Registered nurse specialised in ‘below the belt’ issues: bladder, bowel and sexuality
Touch will be a video-based installation, comprising several projections. It aims to address and bring an awareness to the issues surrounding disability and intimacy.
It’s a work dealing with the stigma attached to sexuality and disability and as such will explore the ethics of exchange between the subjects, the viewer and the artist. Touch will confront our own preconceived ideas of what constitutes ‘normality’ and the limits of intimacy. Significantly, it will breakdown conventions about the agency of vulnerable subjects – as an artist it is central to my work that it empowers its subjects.
The work will involve a number of volunteers constructing scenarios where a sense of reality will be fused with performance. This will create a window into a very intimate reality.
It is not a documentary – it is a non-narrative work that represents the way intimate reality is not linear or straightforwardly expressed and so its aim is not to give one single reading or a specific outcome. I feel it is important to give the viewer the space to make his/her own reading.
The intention is to build up a trusting relationship that would allow the project to emerge. In this sense the work is much more process-based than outcome driven, mirroring how relationships themselves emerge.
I have worked in the past as a sex worker and I have also created videos that are a documentation of that exchange, built on honesty and integrity.
One of my latest works developed recently during my artist residency in New York in 2012 was Notes for Bob, a portrait of a blind gay man in Brooklyn and his sexuality. The video installation involved twenty-three volunteers singing a single note directly to the camera. Bob records these notes and replays them at night, getting lost in the beauty of the human voice, which takes him as a blind man to both a meditative space and/or a sexual one.
In Notes for Bob, the real confrontation is not, as one would expect, that I have filmed a vulnerable blind man exposing his most intimate fantasies, but the way it confronts our own ability to come to terms with the issue of disability and sexuality and the very personal ways that the desire for human intimacy always needs to find expression.
The intention is to work alongside Touching Base, (with Rachel Wotton and fellow sex worker Saul Isbister ), a non-profit Australian organisation that trains sex workers about the legalities of working with people with special needs, including how to ensure consent is given by a client with an intellectual impairment such as dementia.
Also, I would seek to work alongside the TLC trust, based in the UK, again, an organisation that seeks to connect people with disabilities to sex workers.
I am interested in breaking down the boundaries the surround people with disabilities imposed by fear brought about by ignorance and prejudice and keep their desires hidden from view.
A large quantity of cash is thrown from a moving helicopter at a random time, on a random date, in a random location, somewhere in the British Isles.
The work is about seeing what actually happens when 'the money' is given directly to 'the people'.
Concerning the money:
Concerning the date, time, and location:
Concerning the title:
There is potential this work could cause violence. Legal reliability issues would have to be cleared.
Mirza will add strips of LED lighting to the existing constellation of red lights on the exterior of Emley Moor Mast. He will programme both the existing and new lights to flash on and off in a sequence. In addition, the mast will be lit from the ground (or wherever most suitable), and again this light will be programmed. These lights will fade in and out (as opposed to flashing directly on and off), illuminating the mast in the night landscape.
The electricity which powers all the lights on and around the Mast will broadcast as a local FM signal. So any FM radio in the surrounding area can tune into the signal so that an electronic composition that the lights generate can be heard. Both the tower and the technology inside become readymades that are slightly modified to produce this audio-visual work.
Events such as car cruises and performances can be organised around the tower to activate it in other ways.
I am working in collaboration with a programmer, Colin Robertson and the design studio, Julia, to create an algorithm capable of generating all of the mathematically possible permutations of Bletchley Park Mansion. The algorithm will work by recombining the mansions existing rooms and will form the basis of a computer program generating and displaying these variations as floor plans. The program will form three artworks:
My involvement in the piece is in its conception and its final expression. The floor plans that the program creates will be based on my drawings. Although I understand the piece and conceived it, I am not capable of programming it and for this reason I am working closely with Colin to create the right algorithm. The design studio Julia are regular collaborators on my work and will design the websites, exhibition spaces and the books which will eventually act as records of the piece.
Bletchley Park Mansion (known as station X) was a hub, receiving information from listening posts known as Y stations. These collected and transcribed radio traffic from all over Europe, then passed this information to Bletchley. 150,738,274,937,250 Bletchley Park Mansions will reverse that flow of information, running from the mansion (X) and broadcasting itself via the Internet to the location of all of the key Y stations. This will occur literally at the launch, during which the physical locations of as many Y stations as possible host the work as projections, and then online with the websites dedicated to the various Y stations (these are mainly local history type sites) hosting links to websites on which the piece is running. This is a reversal of the direction communications flowed during the war and it echoes the way in which a closed system which focused inwards onto Bletchley has now (since the expiry of official secrets and the establishment of Bletchley as a museum) opened itself up and become dedicated to disseminating facts about its own history.
Whilst I am interested in the ephemeral nature that the work will have when broadcast online (echoing the ephemeral nature of a radio broadcast), there will also be a station X (located at Bletchley) from which the rest of the work will be broadcast. The computer in this room will not only run the program but every time a new plan is generated it will print it off. These prints will then be bound into a multi volume guide to all of the possible alternatives to the physical mansion. This library of possible permutations will serve as a physical demonstration of the enormity of the task facing the Bletchley code breakers.
150,738,274,937,250 Bletchley Park Mansions is a working title, the number is taken from the number of ciphers an enigma machine was able to generate when configured in a particular way. The number of permutations that our algorithm produces will be substantially fewer and can be controlled by variables imposed on it. These variables could be allowing or disallowing the program to generate fragmented mansions or to create mansions in which rooms house other rooms, to name just two. As an example of the possible scale of the piece, if the program generates 9,460,800 mansions and displays each for ten seconds then it will run for approximately four years and result in the production of 9461 one thousand page bound volumes. These volumes would have spines of around six centimeters, and occupy approximately 600 meters of shelf space (or fill Bletchley Park Mansion). I want the piece to be big but not impossible and the development of the algorithm is key to controlling this.
Bletchley Park Mansion is the site at which modern computing began, through the creation of machines that were able to compute the large numbers of mathematical permutations. These were necessary to crack texts ciphered using enigma machines. The piece proposes an imaginary space created by the program in which the mathematical rules that form a crucial part of Bletchley’s history begin acting on it, causing the mansion to fragment into thousands of possible variations of itself.
Even before its WWII role, Bletchley Park Mansion was subject to reconfiguration. It is notoriously a mishmash of architectural styles, some of which do not even fit together properly in reality (for example, one of the windows from the current billiard room looks out into the ballroom due to a mismatch between earlier and later additions to the building). During WWII rooms and their uses were in a constant state of flux, with temporary additions added to the building in an ad hoc manner. Kathryn A. Morrison suggests in her report on the mansion for English National Heritage that its chaotic architecture may have contributed to the WWII atmosphere, implying that the building and the mathematics it housed are linked conceptually as well as spatially.
This work does not aim to romanticise WWII, rather it is a celebration of the mathematics that allowed for the birth of computing and of the incredible creative potential of mathematical algorithms. The use of mathematical permutation as a means for generating artworks has precedents in the work of the Oulipo and artists like Alighiero Boetti. What the addition of the power of computing adds to this type of artwork is the potential to develop a work which is humanly almost impossible, just as the generation of all of the possible keys to a text enciphered using an enigma machine was almost impossible until computing machines were developed. Although we could probably make the algorithm happen without help from Artangel, we would not be able to create an artwork of a scale that would do it justice. The beauty of this work lies in its mathematical simplicity and its sheer scale.
It has to be remembered that…..people of the country and the sea, whose lives have been ruled by the natural elements they worshipped before Christianity. (p84. Myths and Legends of Cornwall/Craig Weatherhill & Paul Devereux)
The Myths and Legends that remain in the British countryside is the sign of that people had respected and had the intimate relationship with relentless Nature in old times. This notion had been rooted in their lifestyle rather than “religion”.
Rainwater is absorbed in land, form a river in a mountain, and flows into the sea. The water vapors become a cloud and go back to the mountain. A man in a small island in Japan said, “Human beings are a part of Nature, and we are living in a small part of the natural circulation. So, we should have this awareness and are not allowed to destroy Nature. However how many people are living with this awareness?”
While environmental problems such as climate change or global warming have become intensified in modern times, their notion should be remembered as wisdom to contemplate our relationship with Nature.
In this competition, I would like to propose the site-specific installation, “a memory with the sea”, as the development of my work that has been focused on how can I create my work associating with Nature or natural force. This installation will be realized employing the movement of the natural sea waves. A tunnel will be installed at an abandoned pier in the UK, and viewers are encouraged to entre inside and physically experience that the strong sea waves are barreling towards them. There are more than 100 harbours which are virtually disused in the UK also connect to the concept, lost intimate relationship with Nature in old times.
The work attempts to be a monument of the memory that people created their myths or legends from the relationship with their natural environment, the place to reconsider our relationship with Nature in modern times, and the starting point to create new narratives for future generation.
Furthermore, to achieve this project, the big fund and the technical supports by specialists are necessary. Thus, this is the great opportunity to enables me to realize the work not only from funding aspect, but also expand my knowledge and develop my skills, which enhance my artist career.
First of all, I would like to choose the location for this project supported by specialists in water pressure and geography. Then, I would like to make detailed architectural plan and decide materials working with a specialist in structural calculations. Finally, the work will be built in the site.
To create high wave in my work, I need to choose the pier, which is located in an indentation of the seacoast with abundant water, and where sometimes can get strong sea waves. From my research, I am thinking Bude, Cornwall or Wilkhaven, Scotland as ideal location for this project. However, I would like to choose the most suitable site for this project supported by the specialists of geography, structural calculations, and architect.
Mechanism to Make Strong Sea Waves
When I am observing the movement of sea waves, I realized that there is a point to make strong wave. For example, there is a ditch from inland to the sea on the coast where has a high water level. When sea wave hit the shore and has nowhere to go, the seawater running into the ditch and become high wave and hit the wall of the ditch end.
A tunnel made of thick steel boards will be installed at the abandoned pier. A glass wall in the middle partitions the tunnel into 2 spaces. One of them of inland side is the space where viewers can entre and observe the sea waves, and the other side plays a role of the ditch to bring the sea waves. However, the final form can be changed depends on water level, water pressure and the geography of the site.
The flapping wing of a butterfly represents a small change in the initial condition of a system, which causes a chain of events leading to larger scale alterations of events.
On the surface, Butterfly has a simple premise. A piano is dropped from a great height above the most central, geographical location (including all islands) in the United Kingdom; just east of Whittendale Hanging Stones, Lancashire, in The Forest of Bowland. Its terrain is one of barren gritstone fells, a hard coarse-grained landscape relatively unfrequented by people.
A piano falling out of the sky is already an image that exists within and fuels the imagination, its link to the comedic is already historically and culturally, set in place.
When it crashes to earth the artwork continues. The sound waves emanating out in concentric circles from the landing site, inevitably begin a chain of events that are unknown, discreet, unpredictable and infinite, affecting everyone and everything in its wake.
An artwork in perpetual flux...
Butterfly is a multi-layered proposal:
a sound piece.
an esoteric public sculpture that 'lives in the head', long after the action has taken place and the work is over.
A text publication.
It is a work that relies, in part, on the imagination to project potential narratives.
It is an artwork that is not possible to pin down to a definitive conclusion. Like rumour, myth or Chinese Whispers this work will forever alter the mind of the recipient; its ongoing effects and its legacy, being indeterminate.
It is a project that encourages collaboration, scrutiny, and evolution.
The piano is tuned to E Major, a key that is associated with the bold and heroic. On landing, this key is the catalyst to the subsequent chain of events that start the sound waves on their path.
A musical key used by Beethoven for his Unfinished Symphony, its gesture should exist anywhere between the parameters of the epic (Beethoven) and the absurd (Laurel and Hardy).
The piano is dropped from a great height, utilising a light aircraft or high-altitude hot-air balloon.
Encased within the piano will be a number of high quality, small, robust and compact digital 'Go Pro Hero 3' cameras that will document the fall from the piano's perspective.
It should be filmed during its descent by an accompanying skydiver.
A number of cameras placed at different vantage points from the ground.
Placed inside the piano, next to the strings, within its framework and on the exterior are a number of highly sensitive, small sound recording devices that are controlled from the ground with regards to sound levels and for capturing the sound.
On completion, the piano should be boxed up and buried in the ground. Above it, a plaque or small obelisk is to be installed with a short, concise description of the event and its date (for example, see 50-word summary). To mark the spot and give the action a rigidity and focal point of where to stand and consider the consequences of its action, whether this is ludicrous or profound. A Public Sculpture, if you will; inviting people to the middle of nowhere to view the work. Far away from a city plinth.
Butterfly as a sound piece and publication:
These sound recordings, its descent and subsequent crash landing, now form the basis for the next part of the project.
They are developed in a recording studio with sound engineers to produce an experimental score; manipulated, elongated, stretched and altered; reliant on collaboration, compromise and encouraging experimentation, in the studio.
The initial discordant sound is transformed into a more abstract, playful realm allowing the project and the work to push forward; to mirror the concentric sound waves.
It is the nature of music that it only exists when performed. As soon as a note is struck it begins to die and when a piece begins, it inevitably must end. The composer may strive to reinforce the structural aspects of his work but nothing can alter the fact that music is as transient as life itself; it is while it is. Not so in art. No matter how often a work is interpreted it can still be approached in its place, unbudged. And long after one stops looking, it still exists. Artwork occupies its physical space but music disappears just as it has been heard. Its essence is impermanence and it creates a reality that is unreal. – Snorri Sigfus Birgisson
A short and concise printed publication, incorporating but not exclusively using, the filmed and photographic documentation from the event, is also introduced but utilising this as an artwork in its own right as opposed to a 'monograph' or mere documentation. It should invite a wide range of proposals more concerned with the idea of the project, keeping it open ended in line with the overall concept.
A proposition that investigates the notion of action and consequence. not a finite record of the event.
A publication small enough in scale to fit in a back pocket.
In essence, a project in 4 parts:
The success of Butterfly remains in its ability to retain a sense of the discreet, poetic and impermanent. It should hold within it an almost mystical aura, in a world where grandiloquence usually holds sway.
Long after the event, long after listening to the recorded work, viewing the documentation and publication, the sound waves from the initial action are still emanating out...affecting all and everything in its path.
An installation by Francesca Panetta and Sherre DeLys for Senate House, London and BBC radio broadcast during the 2015 Myanmar election
A virtual bell, Rise is at once an interpretative tool and a symbol of interconnectedness as Burma moves tentatively toward democracy.
The sung voices of eighty-eight Myanmar student activists ring from 88 speakers, each sounding single bell-like notes. Individual voices in the chorus enter and drop away according to the flow of election-related open-journalism from Burma and around the world. Akin to a game of ‘you’re getting warmer’, when related data traffic on the internet drops so do the levels of bell voices; as traffic flow increases so do the number of student activists voices, reaching a crescendo near the election. Using acoustic presentation of data, Rise resonates with the sound of Burma’s newfound dialogue with the world.
Simultaneously, as the world speaks about the Myanmar elections, extracts of the source texts that are driving the bell sounds are captured and projected onto surfaces. Just as the original Damazedi Bell was inscribed from top to bottom with texts in Pali, Mon and Burman, an ever-shifting array of fragmentary electronic inscriptions in multiple languages tell the story of the world’s engagement with Myanmar’s movement toward democracy.
Site choice: Until recently Burma had one of the last remaining truly Orwellian regimes. Senate House is generally supposed to be the model for the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s defining parable of totalitarianism, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and was used as a location for the film of the story. During the Second World War, it housed the Ministry of Information where all censorship was coordinated.
Data sonification: We’ll collaborate with a group like Sourcefabric that specialises in open-journalism software and ‘post-conflict transition societies’ to explore the data-driven aspects of our project. We’ll develop mechanisms for capturing and sonifying data coming out of Myanmar that relates to and helps Britons interpret progress toward democracy at election time, along with responses from worldwide social and news media.
Background: Recently in Burma making field recordings, we were deeply inspired by our travels with student activists, members of the pro-democracy movement ‘88 Generation’. Students consistently told us that they need the world’s ‘listening’, our vigilance, if they are to keep their leaders on the path to democracy. Rise is a response to the students’ plea, and to the newly won chance for their voices to be heard.
A virtual bell resounding from eighty-eight speakers, Rise also sounds the links between generations of Myanmar students and others who’ve sacrificed much to see this day. Eighty-Eight Generation is named after student protesters brutally put down by the military for taking to the streets on the auspicious date of 8.8.88. In Burma one rings a temple bell upon making an offering, calling out to past and present generations to share the merit. Our time in this country that is highly influenced by both numerology and by Buddhism called forth the idea for the bell.
While in Burma we screen tested’the idea for a virtual bell, making recordings of an ancient bell of nearly the same scale as the Damazedi, and then recording a student humming and singing in harmony. The pure tones we heard that day and the rich associations, including our own western associations of bells with liberty, inspire us to propose Rise to Artangel today.
Future project development:
If shortlisted, we’d work with you to further hone our site. We’d like to explore the right location within Senate House, and think that Orwell who spent five years as a policeman in Burma and was at the vanguard of a new kind of politically committed journalism is a perfect guiding spirit to invoke, lightly, for this installation. His lessons on the use and abuse of language are relevant still, and Burmese journalists and political actors are still feeling out the recent easing of censorship laws and testing freedom of speech. We’d love to sound out our ideas with Rachel Whiteread, and draw on her experience of casting Room 101. But we’re also open to exploring with you further afield; for example an earlier site contender was alongside the Thames, opposite the Houses of Parliament.
Once our site is firm we’ll develop a plan for configuring sound and text projections to create our virtual bell. We’d love to project our texts in a way that creates a sense of the curves of a bell and we’d like to talk with Andrea Alú at the University of Texas. He’s pioneering methods for invisibility cloaking that can hide 3D objects and we’d like to investigate if a replica of the Damazedi bell could be cloaked, and if so how this ‘invisible object’ would interact with text projections (you said you wanted ambitious!). But we can also imagine projecting text fragments onto wall surfaces across shapes determined by technical and imaginative drawings of the bell and the river by Burmese and international scholars and engineers. There’s also scope to build in data visualisation using parameters relating to water levels, tides and weather conditions in the Irrawaddy River or even The Thames.
We’d also like to cast a version of the bell for radio. We’re two award –winning audio producers with length and breadth of radio experience between us- from creative radio features to radiophonic art and location based gps smartphone apps. So we can imagine many different forms that a broadcast complementing the installation could take. We understand that with this partnership between Artangel and BBC offers an opportunity to break new ground, so rather than put forward a determined proposal at this stage, we’d prefer to offer our experience to developing the radio component in collaboration with BBC and Artangel based on editorial discussions about what you’d like to achieve.
But for an indication, we can imagine a live broadcast of the sound installation on the day of the Burmese general election, a sonic artwork that also provides an interpretive experience of a current event of world significance. It would be possible to pair this with commentary explaining the data being used to create the sounds, and marry this with BBC’s Burma election coverage or commentary from a writer with an interest in Burma, for example Timothy Garton Ash who coincidentally also has a strong interest in Orwell.
For a very different idea, we could create a hybrid ‘documentary fiction’ that sees George Orwell along with Burmese Nat Spirits as guardians overseeing attempts to rescue the Damazedi Bell. In Myanmar, we made field recordings and interviews relating to the Damazedi Bell story, which is both a foundational ‘Sword in the Stone’ type myth and a real life adventure story in which a Singapore company has recently teamed up with a British treasure hunter offering to recover the bell using the latest technology. To date, the Myanmar government has held off its approval, as a failed attempt would indicate that the bell’s guardian, Nat, spirits do not believe the right leader is in place. Inspired by our travels at the confluence of superstition and science Burmese style, we can imagine collaborating with a writer, like Burmese satirist Zarganar, to weave our documentary recordings into a satirical allegory of the quest for democracy in one of Britain’s former colonies at election time. We’ve worked out a treatment that we could discuss if a documentary fiction for radio, or for location-based walk along the Thames, is a direction you'd like to explore, but we’ve offered these ideas merely as pointers. We’d be most interested to respond to a discussion with you about how you see the Artangel BBC partnership opening up possibilities in the broadcast space.
For this Open Call, we’ve deliberately kept our proposals open-ended. We’d love the chance to develop them in collaboration with you.
My route into sculpture came through studying Classics. I was drawn to the classical depictions of how nations would represent themselves through public and monumental sculpture, searching for my own visual identification within these prestigious lines of history as a half Jamaican, half British man. I wanted to focus on the identities that had been omitted (and are still overlooked now) and started seeking out a more intimate humanity, one that I could personally connect with, within these heroic sculptures.
In my own work I began to create heads and figures, made in bronze, that looked almost nothing like the individuals usually depicted in this medium. As an expensive material, bronze is usually reserved for the celebration or aggrandising of an individual or a movement and it was precisely these qualities of authority and power that I wanted to retain. I feel that there is a deep and sometimes subconscious psychological effect that bronze has on the viewer, which I wanted to tap into.
In 2009 I was awarded the Arts Council England Helen Chadwick Fellowship, which entailed 4 months at the British School at Rome. This was a seminal moment in my career as I was given access to some of the finest examples of classical sculpture situated within equally aggrandising architecture, in which a form of conversation was enabled between the two. It was here that I developed an idea of presentation and location, placing my small scale unassuming figures on edifying marble plinths. In Rome I started to imagine these quiet characters, each with their own emotional narrative in a classical setting, which compelled them to be looked at differently. Importantly, this was not a hierarchical reverence to these classical structures but more a means to level out representation and encourage a humanity that cannot be simplified into symbolism or category - whether cultural, racial or sexual.
Given this evolution of my work, my proposal is an ambitious next step, requiring the support of a third party to help take up the challenge.
True to Form aims to gain access to an elite and historical London gentleman’s club, with a neo-classical interior, where I would review and replace its entire art collection with contemporary pieces created from an amalgamation of characters from the ‘outside’ world and the club’s own historical context. These clubs are little known and yet have always contained a mystery and power since their formation, some as early as the 17th century. They act as symbolic places of association for their members, through the networks formed within their illustrious walls. Since their formation, membership has almost entirely been enabled through a process of introduction and secret ballot, which has ensured a particular selection of society throughout history. This process is an outcome of the desire to gather and retain individuals of power, including so called ‘Nation Builders’, who influence the policy and identity of a country without necessarily reflecting its composition. For example, Boodle’s, situated on St. Jame’s Street, was founded by Lord Shelburne, in 1762, approximately twenty years before he became Prime Minister and Winston Churchill became a member after World War II. David Cameron’s father, Ian Cameron, was a former chairman of White’s (formed 1693). Other examples include; The Reform Club (1836), The Garrick Club (1831), Travellers Club (1819) and The Athenaeum Club (1824), which unusually for these clubs now accepts women as members.
This project seeks to open up these spaces reserved for the few, encouraging the public to enter and explore areas previously closed off to them, with the newly formed collection acting as a conduit.
The works themselves will draw upon my current practice, which brings together the formal poses of Classical sculpture with informal scenes from contemporary society. For example, a recent bronze piece takes it’s compositional cues from an original Italian renaissance sculpture of Samson and a Philistine. Entitled, The Ground You Walk On (2013, the new work depicts a contemporary man and woman involved in a physical tussle, mirroring the body positions of the original characters, the woman stands astride the fallen figure of the man (taking the role of Samson) with one of her high heeled shoes held above her head, ready to strike him. With Angell Town, a solo show at Hales Gallery in 2011, various bronze figures on re-appropriated antique plinths were positioned within the gallery space to create a particular dynamic between the characters and the viewers, as well as between the characters themselves. The potential for such developments will be made yet more expansive when placed within the loaded context like that found in a gentleman’s club or similar environment.
These types of sculptures will also appear in conjunction with a retelling of the original two-dimensional work found in the location through new paintings of landscapes and portraits selected from locations and people in modern London. My own two dimensional text and photographic work, Marble Draft 8 (part of a series 2010-13), illustrates a very specific type of reconfiguration, using imaged of my hands manipulating the pages and images of old books about classical art, exploring the stories behind various sculptures and their provenance. The new two-dimensional works would address similar ideas of alternative histories in possibly a more direct manner.
I feel it is important to note that this project is in no way an attack on any particular establishment model or section of society. Its aim is to develop works that are informed by the interplay of different historic narratives, creating a site-specific exhibition that encourages a diverse participation in the most exclusive of arenas. I hope to create an exciting engagement around the value of authentic representation, making space for more nuanced future narratives.
Hospitalfield House, Arbroath, Scotland
It was the fifth day after his arrival, that, having made the necessary inquiries concerning the road, he [Lovel] went forth to pay his respects at Monkbarns. A footpath leading over a heathy hill, and through two or three meadows, conducted him to this mansion, which stood on the opposite side of the hill aforesaid, and commanded a fine prospect of the bay and shipping. Secluded from the town by the rising ground, which also screened it from the north-west wind, the house had a solitary, and sheltered appearance. The exterior had [however] little to recommend it.
In 1835 artist Patrick Allan, originally from Arbroath but now living in London, married Elizabeth Fraser who inherited Hospitalfield and the estates from her father. They met as Allan had been commissioned by the Waverly Press, Edinburgh to make an illustration of Hospitalfield for an edition of the Antiquary. The illustration was never made and after the couple married they set about remodelling the house and commissioning the extraordinary interiors and collection of art works.
The Allan-Frasers had planned that the house and estates should be left in Trust for the use and education of artists. On Patrick Allan-Fraser’s death in 1890 a trust was established and the trustees struggled to respond to the Will setting up an art school that was well used until the late 1970’s.
The house was opened to the public for the first time in the late 1890’s and on the first weekend over 2,000 people bought a ticket at a designated newsagents shop in Arbroath, climbed the hill to the house and queued to gain access to what had become known as an extraordinary place, set in fields, with its highly crafted interiors and contemporary collections hung in a picture gallery, a room design by Patrick who was an amateur architect and designer. He was interested in everything but master of none and in the latter part of his life became the director of the …. In Rome. It was here that he honed his ideas of scholarship and how he could support this through the extraordinary house that he had designed and built with his wife.
Walter Scott’s Antiquary Mr Oldbuck:-
It was indeed some time before Lovel could, through the thick atmosphere, perceive in what sort of den his friend [Mr Oldbuck] had constructed his retreat. It was a lofty room of middling size, obscurely lighted by high narrow latticed windows. One end was entirely occupied by book-shelves, greatly too limited in space for the number of volumes placed upon them, which were, therefore, drawn up of two or three files deep, while numberless others littered the floor and the tables, amid a chaos of maps, engraving, scraps of parchment, bundles of papers, pieces of old armour, swords, dirks, helmets, and Highland targets.
Laure Prouvost is an artist who constructs narratives through her film works, performances and installations that exist in the periphery of our full literal comprehension. Perhaps it is for this reason that we experience her work as though on the edge of its meaning. There is much that is seductive and familiar as all the situations that she constructs are of our everyday lives shifted slightly in to a fantasy.
The sound tracks of her works very often include Laure’s voice, her French accent questioning, demanding, and directing, her fingers snapping. The information within her works are layered and cacophonous with works like The Artist (2010 with a reoccurring narrative of the story of her Grandfather ) bringing us close to the ‘den of Mr Oldbuck.
For this commission The Amateur (the lover) Laure is not interested in building her production values – she is more committed to a larger, ambitious logistical challenge of a process, a journey. A vast number of exchanges about objects and the way in which they are made. How are these skills learned and what is the passion that sustains making?
Alongside this extended, yearlong exchange she will weave two narratives and therefore two sound tracks, creating two film works that will be shown together – the imagery the same the rendering of the sound and the narrative two quite different routes.
The BBC Radiophonic workshop is a wonderful resource, another site of collecting, crafting, problem solving a specialism that she would very much welcome having access to.
Laure Prouvost:- stringing together the ideas at this very early stage:-
Traveling from Hospitalfield [in the north east coast of Scotland] to 52 place - one town city or village a week for a year. Perhaps like the fair coming to town with the painted trucks……. this is to focus on the amateur crafts man …from making a pot to making a video game, writing poetry etc…
The idea of the collector, the gatherer the patron of the artisan and the amateur
Gathering craft and commissioning through a process of travel
Not so interested in amassing a permanent collection but travelling the country to discover and gather objects that people have made themselves with the skills that they have developed and learned as amateurs.
Waterfall is a proposal for 'flooding' a wall of the Green Lane Works building in Sheffield and turning it into a huge, urban waterfall. The project would return part of the city to the forces of nature. It would also call to mind the historical catastrophes when the city was severely flooded.
Waterfall represents a cycle of violence. For over 200 years, the building has violated the river by its constraining presence, by using its resources and by depositing the waste. Occasionally the river takes its revenge on the building by flooding it and depositing contaminated, stinking sludge. The cycle closes.
Green Lane Works is between Green Lane and the River Don, opposite Kelham Island, in Sheffield. Historically, the whole area was heavily industrialised, the river being used as a source of power, for cooling and for carrying away waste. Green Lane Works was originally constructed in 1795 for Hoole & Co., manufacturers of ornamental stoves, grates and fenders. The works underwent major alterations in 1860, just 4 years before the Great Sheffield Flood. When the new Loxley reservoir's dam burst on the night of 11th March 1864, three million cubic metres of water rushed down the valley killing 238 people and 700 animals, destroying 130 buildings and damaging 500 others.
“The Green Lane Works, the property of Messrs. H. E. Hoole and Co., were damaged considerably. A large room, filled with stoves, fenders, and so forth, was flooded to a depth of four feet. Trunks of trees were washed into the grinding wheel, the engine and boiler were covered with debris, and a great quantity of miscellaneous property was destroyed.”
Other reports from the area:
In Messrs. Butchers' works the body of a woman, perfectly naked, was found after the flood.
Inexplicable sounds were heard from the garden during the night, and when day dawned the garden was found to be covered over with a deep bed of mud, in which was a horse in a half erect position. It had been carried on the crest of the wave over the wall. It was found to be alive, though in a greatly exhausted state. Some food was given to it, and after a time it recovered.
The buildings were acquired by W. A. Tyzack in 1948, and used for the manufacture of agricultural tools and farm machinery. During the Sheffield Flood of 2007, the area was again flooded when the river burst its banks, causing extensive damage to commercial property. Two years later, Tyzack left the site and the buildings have been partially demolished. They are now due to be developed as flats.
The free-standing wall that used to be part of the Green Lane Works building faces the river Don. Water would be pumped to the top of the structure and the base of the windows so that it flows in a huge, wide stream both from the top of the wall and through the windows. It is probably enough to pump the water from the river, so that it comes back to where it came from, back into the river.
My intention is for this project to be permanent, so I anticipate the walls becoming overgrown with vegetation after some time. Part of the project would be to secure its future by an agreement with the Sheffield city council that the wall will be kept in a state of ruin, even if it collapses. It should be safe for people and the neighbouring buildings but nonetheless not repaired or renovated.
Sheffield is a post-industrial city, with many derelict factory buildings and industrial spaces falling apart and rotting. But the urge to develop, build and rebuild, look forward rather than backward, the blind force of progress is very palpable here. Waterfall is a reminder of the dangers of such an approach. It anticipates the moment when nature will repossess the cities, towns and villages, as it is not a benevolent force, but a mighty, uncontrollable power that can kill and destroy.
A string section.
What can it be?
Of course when you open a door a little bit a room can be filled with light. When we started working on A String Section for the Tramway in January 2013 a lot of doors were opened.
A lot of chairs were destroyed, we got a lot of bruises, we found new rules about performing, about moving, about sharing a small space, about sharing an unstable structure like it was an island about to sink, but we were making it sink.
We played with a singing saw, we played with a cello, we played within a space that was surrounded by a see through gauze we could see through this gauze, back into the distance, or the future.
We dreamt about a whole series of back stages, as if the performance would keep going, as if our history was about to repeat itself, we dreamt about 100’s of chairs making a wall that would slowly get used up, taken out, quarried and then destroyed to become useless, we dreamt about making it bigger and bigger and involving a whole army of dancers, stuck on chairs together with a whole army of cellists, repeating the music that we’d made.
We’d imagined making the project with new people, teaching them the rules and techniques that we’d established in just one week.
We’d imagined occupying larger spaces, which were depositories for unwanted chairs, you could bring your own, watch your own object have its history changed in front of you.
It can be inside a large warehouse, outside in front of a forest, inside a library, against an important building that’s about to fall down, under a bridge that should have never been built, next to a motorway that divided a city…
We started seeing all these things, we began to get excited about the prospects of making this piece again, presenting the project that we’d just made in the Tramway as a dance piece for touring theatres, but then next time spend more time, involve more people, meet more people, invite more people to share our world…
A String Section has a set of rules, it’s a simple set of rules, with a simple set of ingredients, Chairs, Saws, Dancers, and sometimes Chairs, Saws, Dancers and Cellists.
The possibilities are endless…
This project is brand new, we have tested the project outdoors, in galleries, for a festival of young makers in Manchester and spent 5 days with a Cellist.
We plan to continue to try out other versions over the next few months, a lecture performance in June, with a group of dancers in Cornwall in September, on a beach in Finland in October...
It is very early days for this project.
14th February 2013 Maddy Costa, Exeunt magazine
As chamber outfits traditionally do, the four female performers of A String Section wear little black dresses: not too showy, not too skimpy; simple, classy, clinging just so to their curves. Each sits in a wooden kitchen chair and looks out at the audience, with an expression that’s demure but tinged with curiosity. Gradually, each woman leans down and, without letting her torso lose contact with the chair, begins
methodically to hack at its legs with a saw.
Metal claws into wood, with scraping sounds that are surprisingly whispering and soft, and through this slow destruction emerges a startling disquisition on female experience, and the impossible balancing acts we’re expected – by society, by other women, and by our selves – to maintain; on the animal that lurks within women and the ways in which men see us as meat. Ladylike composure is quickly abandoned: the women contort their bodies as they curl around the chairs, stretching to reach behind them, beneath them; their legs splay apart, voluptuous thighs on full display. There is so much of sex in these contortions – the “exciting” sex you’re encouraged to attempt by women’s magazines to keep men interested; the stupidly athletic sex of Hollywood movies; the ugly emotionless sex of porn. As their physical exertions increase, and intransigent wood refuses to snap, the women begin grunting and sweating with effort; now they have the single-minded focus of women desperate to climax – and, further along in the natural chain, struggling to give birth. Gradually chair legs give way beneath brute force, and so the absurd attempt to maintain balance begins: they flail and overstretch themselves, as women who attempt to fulfil multiple roles in life always flail and overstretch themselves; now and then one of them will fall to the floor with a crash, the same crash women hear ricochet between their ears when their own delicate planning falls apart.
There are moments of rest, when the women return to sitting and gazing out, and each time their expression is a little less demure and a little more combative, challenging the audience to question how much they acquiesce in the representations of women being slowly dismantled. As the legs get shorter and the women become more and more furiously absorbed in their task, you catch something of the hysteria of the character in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s story The Yellow Wallpaper, climbing the walls in pent-up frustration. But she is powerless and what these women demonstrate is control, over their choices and their circumstances. No wonder they take time to contemplate their splintering chairs with quiet satisfaction at a job well done. At the end, they sit silently again, staring at the audience with eyebrows slightly raised and expressions that are provocatively inscrutable.
★★★★ Mary Brennan, Dance critic
Tuesday 22 January 2013
The Dutch have an expression that translates as "sawing the legs off your own chair".
In this latest Reckless Sleepers project, choreographer Leen Dewilde and composer/SCO cellist Su-a Lee have devised a literal account of those words that cunningly swithers (wordlessly) between farcical brinkmanship and a process of unrelenting destruction. By the end, it's hard to avoid unnerving thoughts of our actions, our choices, actually leaving us without a leg (or a planet) to sit on.
Five women, including Su-a Lee, take saws to the chairs beneath them. The rasping notes of metal teeth on wood create a rhythmic soundscore that Lee subsequently counterpoints with looping textures on her cello, her bowing a visual echo of the sawing arms.
Chairs tip and lurch, the women perch and re-balance, but saw on. Even when only sawdust remains as witness to their time, they start again on the other side of a dividing scrim, as if no lessons have been learned - unless Lee's eerily lovely playing of her saw is a hopeful reminder of how the arts, and creativity, can sometimes transcend scenes of devastation.
This intriguing production was the first offering in Tramway's Rip It Up season, which continues until March, and on this evidence it will be well worth checking out.
The concept of Petrol Bunk developed from our interest in exploring overlooked, changing and talked about objects and sites in our landscape. We are interested in Petrol Stations as an essential stop off place on a journey, and as a new way to experience and visit art installations through the functional space and location. We believe these derelict spaces provide the perfect platform to examine, research and reveal the journey of a single object relating to the location it is situated.
Each Petrol Bunk will begin with a Factory Night event held in a former petrol station; the format of this will be to bring together a select group of artists from a variety of disciplines (including writers, visual artists, curators, performers, sound etc) into the space for one night only. Factory Nights are practice led and inspire collaboration, ideas sharing and intellectual development. The artists will be selected from an open call and via connections from past Factory Night events. As a starting point, the artists will spend time together in the Petrol Station with an object/s closely linked to that town or city. Each Petrol Bunk group, object and Petrol Station will be different with rednile artists being the constant strand and the driving force of each Petrol Bunk.
An example of one of the objects could be a tiny red Garnet stone found within the Staffordshire Hoard treasure. Research found that this gemstone was originally quarried in Sri Lanka and proved that Britain’s trade routes to Asia go back to the Saxon Era. Following the Factory Night, the artists will continue research into the precious mineral by collaboratively tracing this global route (possibly through a ‘road trip’) and the connections back to its source. Along the way artworks will be made and documented, conversations and ideas will emerge and be embraced and other artists will be encountered and involved on an international level. The main focus along the journey will be to seek out excellence, strive to establish long term exchange and bring back our reactions and findings to the starting point through the final Petrol Bunk installations.
The process and journey will be documented through the process and a dedicated project blog setup to engage with a wider audience and continue international links and conversations. The artists will keep an image/text diary as appropriate and collectively upload to this on a regular basis.
The resulting artworks and research will be exhibited in the Petrol Stations which will be temporarily transformed into ‘drive-thru’ art houses. The exhibition, performance or screening etc will embody a shared journey and be ambitious and site responsive making use of unique features and the structure of each Petrol Station.
Petrol Bunk installations will reveal a journey and the complexity of a single object which relates to that place. The project opposes the idea that public art has to represent the oversimplification of a place. The resulting installations will have a spontaneous feel as they will pop up at seemingly random times for a short duration and will travel up the M6 to new destinations linking up cities along the way. We anticipate starting 3 Bunk’s within a year and that the installations will each travel to 2 destinations along the M6 including Worcester, Coventry, Birmingham, Derby, Stoke-on-Trent and Wolverhampton.
Petrol Bunk is an experimental way of commissioning public art using an open, collaborative process. It is ambitious in the scale of research and ideas development with the process being as important as the outcome and experimental in the visitor participation via the ‘drive-thru’ experience. The outcomes of the project are purposefully unknown but we anticipate they will exemplify a deep level of research as the artists will spend a long period of time tracing stories and developing ideas and artworks as a collaborative experience. This will be greatly beneficial to their careers and development on an international level along with challenging perceptions of commissioning and experiencing public art.
Petrol Bunk links to current debate as local independent Petrol stations are no longer viable due to the Supermarkets buying wholesale fuel, it will highlight historical and contemporary global markets and trade routes and tracing the stories of objects that are important to the national consciousness. The history of art, writing and cinema has Petrol Stations embedded in our minds with images of freedom and American ‘road trips’ including the work of Ed Ruscha. Petrol Bunk will embrace these conversations and start debate on alternative uses of these functional voids in the landscape.