Back in April 2006, I asked a group of local craftsmen to create the three contrasting houses of folklore, in a gallery setting. The project was stimulated by council plans for urban renewal at a site nearby. The research stages of the project brought valuable opportunities to observe each craftsman at work, to document their embodied skills, and listen to their opinions about relationships between art, craft and making a living.
The ‘pig’ scale of the finished installation allowed each perfect little house to be experienced close up. People could pat the thatched roof and sniff its grassy scent, slide their hands along the cool elegant surface of the polished wood, examine the slate’s veins of fossils, or count the run of the dry gritty bricks, as they imagined living inside each space. To add tension and context, a looped film sequence of the recent demolition of three 1960’s residential ‘slum’ tower blocks nearby, was also shown.
Here is a short video animation about building the houses over 3 days in the gallery.
The skills of the craftsmen were self-evident and brought tacit integrity to the work. The communal familiarity of the story, and the sensual intimacy of the installation combined to show visitors to the gallery that the materiality of man-made things: in this case the houses’ qualities of construction, materials, odour, touch and feel, are our practical means to objectify myth, morality, identity, community and social values. How ideas, experiences and emotions are made tangible …… real.
After three weeks, I became ‘The Big Bad Wolf’ when the houses were broken up, to make way for the next exhibition.
Project concept, design and management, photography and video creation by Fiona Candy. Thanks to Barry Milne, Barry Turner, Dominic Rogan, Harold Wignall; Ben Casey; John Turner Ltd; Jenny Rutter at Pad Gallery, Preston; Arts Council England. “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” played by Henry Hall’s BBC Dance Orchestra (1930).
You can see more about this project, and others at: http://www.a-brand.co.uk (NB: the a-brand site requires Flash. Click on the hammer on the workbench for Huff & Puff)
Where visitors were both spectators and exhibits.
Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, UK. 2002
We made 100 individual photographic portraits of visitors to the Harris Museum and Art Gallery during the week before Christmas. These were later brought together at life size, to form a 35 metre digital inkjet montage, displayed on the connective central stairways of this well known, imposing public building.
Other visitors responding to the finished ‘people-scape’ in situ, told us that they recognised several of the people in the photographs. They were “familiar strangers”, having previously been noticed in the building or out and about in the city.
The stairway portraits revealed subtle inter-connections between the people using the building and confirmed their subjects’ mutual status as rightful visitors and members of the Harris’ community. Each seemed to inquire via the directness of their gaze, about the intentions of others, as they traveled up and down the stairs, past the photographs. A chance to politely stare at fellow members of the public.
The images also recorded clothing, jewellery, hats and hair styles. At the end of the project the Harris agreed to archive our visual study of the ‘social persona’ of this public building, within their social history collection.
Creative production team: Fiona Candy, Andy Mairs and Susan Rathmell. Thanks to Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Market Square, Preston, UK. Arts Council England, Artech. 2002.
In memory of my lovely friend, Susan Rathmell.
The Spoleto Festival in Italy
I assisted renowned British Illustrator David Hughes and the local workshop team, in the design and manufacture of costumes for a production of Leoš Janáček’s ‘The Cunning Little Vixen’ in Spoleto, Umbria. The opera began preparation in Autumn of 1997 and was performed during the two weeks of Festival dei Due Mondi, June 1998.
Above: recent outdoor music performance in Piazza del Duomo, Spoleto
Below: a view of the interior of the opera house in Spoleto, where the 1998 Vixen production took place.
The Chief Hen and the Hens (above)
Images include references to some of David’s initial costume sketches (unfortunately all these images are low resolution).
Changing Rooms: timed to coincide with the 2005 General Election
Both the electoral poling booth and the retail changing room offer privacy and the promise of transformation. Perhaps as an early reference to the growing influences of what has been called ‘Identity Politics’, this interactive installation linked images of fashion and clothing with icons of democracy, to ask questions about the workings of personal and group identity, connections between the market and the electorate and the possibility of social fragmentation.
The polling station format and its related ballot combined to ask style conscious voters to compare and contrast their personal concepts of individuality with the collective responsibilities of the body politic.
On entering the gallery, visitors responded to a set of initial questions, and then asked to view video imagery conveying people’s identity, their style of dress and appearance (both historical and contemporary), in each of the 4 polling booths. They were then able to revisit the same questions and have the chance to change their minds – as they recorded their vote.
Special thanks to Rotterdam-based artists Ari Versluis and Ellie Uyttenbroekt, for inclusion of elements of their Exactitudes series. See https://exactitudes.com
and to the North West Film Archive (NWFA) at Manchester Metropolitan University for access to archive footage https://www.nwfa.mmu.ac.uk
Thanks to Arts Council England and the Arts and Humanities Research Council for their support.
Exploring time and space, in the gallery with students
I devised an annual project for 2nd Year BA (Hons) Textiles to encourage team working, gallery methods, presentation skills and market awareness. The year group worked in small teams to develop concepts related to a cohesive theme, create artworks and promote the exhibition to a target audience, including hosting their own private view.
Above: student work from Sympathetic Magic, 2008 (left) and The Beauty of Diagrams, 2009 (right)
Above: from Count on It, 2012 (left) and Future Fables, 2013 (right and below)
Observing clothing in action: being worn
INHABITANTS research project. 2005-2006
Supported by Arts and Humanities Research Council