Final exhibition piece


My work and research within the cotton mills has taken me down a new route of investigation, and another language to add to my practice. The social class of the Lancashire people was vary varied, and very few had holidays even though the mills would close, may went on to work in other industries at this time. Of those that did take holidays it would either be in a guesthouse or caravan depending on the time period and funds available.

My work this time has been looking at how the working class Northerners spent this “free time” and where did they go. The holiday was called Wakes Weeks and many people I have spoken too remember schools still closing for them holidays in the mid 70’s and going on a caravan holiday, so I guess it is also bringing in peoples feelings and memories of these trips into the work.

To start with I want this work to be an interactive piece, so engaging the audience is crucial for the work. Many people know what a caravan is and many people have ideas already of what that entails, whether its memories of past holidays good or bad, or its encountering travellers in their home towns, and more recently within the news and around the areas of Surrey seeing abandoned caravans along with other detritus.

This particular caravan I hope to evoke a more traditional retro/vintage nostalgic thinking at first glances. Which is why I choose a pre 70’s van. Logistically this was very difficult and time consuming and costly, to the point I was debating if it would be worth it, as I had only seen pictures of the van.

I am glad I went ahead with the purchase as it was as I expected apart from a few minor problems, which I hope to resolve.

This particular van was chosen because it was a style that many people relate too the seaside holiday, a time when people started to have more free time, away from the doldrums of the factories and mills, although the ill health and problems from these factories didn’t disappear they were just eased for a short time.

I have a lot of ideas to use within the van, but I have also had to cut these back and really think what it is all about. This has been difficult as my research covers quite a large time span. This has meant I have collected a lot of smaller ideas that are being tested and then critically engaging with them and editing them back. As interaction is key for this work, sound and visual is important as is keeping it as engaging and creating as many questions as possible.

The main themes of the work are the decline of the industry of the north, social interaction, and working class history. It is about me researching and finding fragments of information that may not have been known about, lost or simply forgotten about. I took my inspirations from artists such asRauschenbergg and Hans Haacke, and Kienhol, all of which reuse materials, objects to create installations of a social or political nature, referring back to a history that creates relevance in society now.

It is about piecing this info together and showing that sometimes we have many clouded and nostalgic ideas about the past. As a society we seem to forget or think the dirt, filth and bad conditions, poor health is in the past and not relevant. Although post-revolution and post-war was progressively moving forward, many people and industries were getting left behind or being used.

This is something that is relevant now and I was wanting to try and engage people t not only think about the past but also the present and the state of the industry at present within this country.

Poem by Mike Harding

See how the lint flies over the morning

See how the smoke in the valley clings
See how the slateure shines in the drizzle
This is the valley where cotton is king

See how the houses cling to the hillside
Hear how the streets of children sing
Wait till the scream of the factory whistle
This is the valley where cotton is king

See how the hunger eats at the faces
The ragged clothes to the flesh does cling
Dust in the lungs & the bodies twisted
This is the valley where cotton is king

Sleep is washed from the broken faces
Morning clogs on the cobbles ring
Off to the mills the weavers hurry
This is the valley where cotton is king

Work all day to the looms’ hard rhythm

Scrabble & toil till your tired bones sing
Crawl back home as the gaslight flickers
This is the valley where cotton is king

This is the land where children labor

Where life & death mean the self same thing
Where many must work that few might prosper
This is the valley where cotton is king

This work has had many problems in realising and coming to fruition. The research has taken me all around the country and the assembly and install almost driven me mad. Had a tutorial with Amada today the first in the two weeks the work has been in production. She explained how she liked the work, to really think about how I recreate the ideas of ruin, to look at Kiefer which I do and he is an inspiration for many works, but also said about the journey being something that is part of it and what happens at the end is something that may be edited, but that the journey is needed to come to that edit.

This is something I now fully understand as a method that is part of my work, needing to have that journey to create the work and final piece. This work is a mix of fact and fiction, fake and real, juxtaposing ideas and events. It may be that I have put too much into this but it is an area that covers many losses, industry, working class, systems, holidays, evoking memories, smells and sounds, bringing to light the things that were not so good.

Caravanning back then was a once a year if lucky holiday that was scrimped and saved for, a poor mans holiday, a working class holiday that simply took them to the nearest seaside where they could get a little fresh air away from the cotton fibers, grease and heat of industry in the towns. Even now many working class and poorer families from towns and cities have never been to the seaside.

Yet now the resurgence of this type of holiday has become the must-do thing for many of the middle classes, with caravans more expensive than many Northern home, and going to places that are not the local seaside but are in other parts of Europe, places where many working class people and those still below the poverty line would never have the chance to go to. These old caravans are also being gentrified, and shabby chic into playrooms and offices for the middle classes.

I want the audience to both experience the work within the context of how we see many caravans now, with relations to travelers, homeless, and burnt out shells dumped, a wasteland, a death of an era, but I also intend for this work to jog memories, through sight sound and smells. This work is about a loss, a death of industry, towns, and communities, of the working class grit and how many chose to ignore what they don’t like, and the absurdity of it all.

I have tried out many combinations of the work with and without the manikins. With more and less dirt and detritus. Taking many photos along the way. This has allowed me to see it differently, I find using a photo to re-look at the work distances me from the work and creates a new piece in itself. I feel it allows me to step back from it as being my own piece and allowing me to critic it in a new way.

This has meant that I am now showing it differently than first intended. It needed editing a lot and simplifying. My work does have a tendency to grow vastly and become very busy trying to say to may things at once.

So I am going to leave it to the sound an film installed within it and small gestures of absence, brokenness and dust alluding to the illusion of death and loss.


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