Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool
In 2011 I was commissioned by the Bluecoat Gallery to create a new sculptural work for the group exhibition Democratic Promenade, curated by Artistic Director Bryan Biggs and curator Sara-Jayne Parsons. I took the exhibition’s theme of radicalism in Merseyside to create a new work entitled Rostrum that re-evaluated a lost artefact from the area’s history of protest. While not normally working with historical material, this invitation gave me the opportunity to experiment with new ways of assembling sculptural and archival information.
My research asked questions around the role of sculpture and public gathering. I found letters and photographs relating to the 1973 Arthur Dooley Speaker’s Tower sculpture that had existed for less than ten years on Liverpool’s waterfront. I presented this archival material in a new context alongside a set of fifteen contemporary models for Speaker’s Towers that I curated.
Rostrum, due to its scale, became in itself a sculptural focal point for the exhibition’s 20,000 visitors. I placed the overall work, entitled Rostrum, in the context of the Hill of Pnyka, where the people of Athens have gathered since the Sixth Century to listen to the speeches of their leaders. I was interested in the question of whether we can create sculptural forms as vehicles and platforms for protest and also how we may explore ‘lost art’ without simply re-making it. Originally commissioned by Trade Unions, the silent disappearance of the Dooley’s original Tower had political resonance when revisited by myself in a city engulfed by commercial gentrification. My approach to historical material reignited an interest amongst other artists in designing new Speaker’s Towers and, following a keynote lecture I gave on the work, a subsequent meeting between Union representatives and myself discussed lobbying for a new Tower for the city.
Interview with Bryan Biggs, http://www.geiab.org/GEIAB_DEUX/index.php?lang=eng&cat=article&article_id=100
Review, Art Monthly, PDF, Dec 2011/Jan 2012, No 352, p.27