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 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.
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 be enquiring via the directness of their gaze, about the intentions of others, as they travelled 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.