Welcome to Walsall
Stepping out of the train station I see a sign for New Art Gallery Walsall. The gallery is really close by and it is an impressive modern design. In the ground floor window looking onto the street there is a large Mark Tichner print. I really like how the work is displayed allowing new audiences to see the work. As I entered the gallery I could hear the sound of laughing children, it’s half term and it’s busy with them making rockets. The space is cleverly designed subtly guiding me through the Garman Ryan Collection progressing upwards to contemporary art. Along the way I see lots of different mini work stations for children to make stuff. I particularly liked the mirror desk were you can sit and draw your own portrait. I thought being able to make an image of the artwork from the wooden relief was another clever idea.
Martin Parr had an installation titled Black Country Stories a photographic exploration of the area and the people that live here. Alongside the photographs there are displayed objects made in the region. My favourite object were the beautifully made pork pies. I discovered a new artist called Zarina Bhimji who is showing a film titled Yellow Path. The film was shot in India with the soundtrack added in post production. Visually she picks out subtle details, skillfully moving the lens through the fields. I was encouraged to see Paul Winstanley’s paintings framing net curtains with ghostly landscapes piercing through. They reminded me of my Burning Blind video, I do feel the beauty of video means you can play with scale. Gathering my thoughts before I try and find my way to the Lyndon House pub for the Factory Nights meet.
Burning Blind Video:
Flick the switch
I am really looking forward to the Factory Night at J.A.Crabtree & Co. Ltd in Walsall tomorrow evening. I have never been to Walsall before and I plan to visit The New Art Gallery, which is showing new work by Martin Parr titled Black Country. I always enjoy looking at his work and how his photographs capture the performance and vibrancy of everyday life. I haven’t seen the Rednile team for a long time although I have always admired their individual work and the opportunities they create for other creative people. Rednile Projects were working at grassroots level with students in the North East, myself included and showing work in unusual spaces:
Back in 2006/2007 this way of working was great to see happening in the area and really inspired me to make my work on my terms and explore showing outside of a gallery context. When I first graduated in 2007 I worked with two of my friends Anna Puhakka and Sarah Stamp aka BaseNorth. Rednile gave us studio space and the chance to get involved with the New City Art programme. Please follow the link to our first blog we published on a-n:
It’s so funny looking back at the blog and the kind of work I was making. I feel there is a show in there ‘The exhibition we never had in Sunderland’. Reflecting on my work from 2007 to now I still make in the same way, which is ‘situation specific’. I want to move away from the idea of ‘site specific’ as I feel that it refers too much to architecture and fixes the work to that place. If I have learnt anything in my practice is that some work can exist in different contexts. Shock horror! I just worry that there is a tendency to get a bit sacred about ‘site specific’ practice.
Thoughts so far about tomorrow evenings meet is to just see what happens. I particularly want to watch the video of the factory that was used in schools to promote working for the company. I have tried to Google a look at the light switches design although I can’t find the brand online. However I did find a few strange, minimal designs. I am not sure what equipment to take with me. I don’t want to be weighed down by my laptop. I might take just take my iPad and camera.
J.A.Crabtree & Co. Ltd., was at one time Walsall’s largest engineering company, the Factory was founded in 1919 by John Ashworth Crabtree at what is now Lyndon House Hotel. In its heyday in the mid-twentieth century the company was the largest private employer in the town. The company eventually closed its manufacturing base in Walsall in 1997. Crabtree manufactured light switches, sockets and other electrical fittings when electricity use was in its infancy, John Ashworth Crabtree designed and patented the first quick make and break switch which combined stylish design with cutting edge technology.
The night includes a guided tour of the now Lyndon House Hotel by owner Ken Towe, with access to the atmospheric bars, the beautiful secret garden and to the hotel room that it is believed to have once housed Mr J A Crabtree’s office. Allan Preston, the founder of The Crabtree Society, will be joining us to share his wealth of knowledge on the life and work of J A Crabtree and to showcase the Society’s vast collection of memorabilia. Also to be showcased on the night is a 1966 produced film entitled “A Factory Day” which was produced to encourage school levers to take a career in manufacturing. This is a wonderful professional produced film which was shown to school leavers nationally.
Please email the following information: 150 words on your current practice, medium or interests.
A paragraph on why you would like to attend Attach 2-3 pieces/images of recent relevant works at low resolution/or weblinks.
THE DEADLINE HAS PASSED
I have been following Factory Nights activity on the website and heard about them from my peers. The Crabtree factory particularly interests me because of its history and it’s creation of technology for the domestic setting. In the brief it mentions a film, which was made to encourage people to work in the factory, which I would love to see and use as research for a new performance. I hope from viewing the film and site it will inform new performative actions I can use in my work. Currently I am experimenting with video I filmed in Finland and combining this with minimal performance. Increasingly I have become fascinated and frustrated with our relationship to technology. This site visit will offer a different space to think about how technology was and still is used for the basics of domestic functionality, such as the humble electrical switch. In an age of touch screen operation when will the switch become defunct? As an artist I wonder when will I become defunct?