New materials – Opportunity

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I have been given the most fantastic opportunity this week and I am very excited! Ovada sent out a call to artists to apply to be one of only 8 artists to exhibit in the Spotlight 2013 exhibition at Oxford Town Hall as part of the Oxford Festival of Light on November 22nd. I applied and have been accepted as one of the 8!

I was in the middle of working on the ‘new materials’ section and I felt that this was a good opportunity to explore my ideas in a real project. I desperately wanted to be given one of the 8 places but in my mind the experience of applying and considering a real life project was valuable in its own right.

The work will be exhibited within rooms relating to the old court within Oxford town hall. Artists were asked to relate the work in some way to the space and we were offered the opportunity to visit and look around the rooms. During the tour of the town hall rooms that will be used for the exhibition I was captivated by the palpable history within the courtroom. I could feel the history and came away wanting to discover some of what had happened within that room.

I scoured the British News Archives for references to court cases in Oxford after 1897 which is when the present town hall was opened. I then looked for cases within the month of November as this is when the exhibition will be held. I wanted to directly reference actual cases that happened almost exactly to the day. The British News Archive don’t currently have digital copies for 1913 which would have been exactly 100 years so I looked at a copy of the Oxford Journal dated 24th November 1900. On page 2 of the paper is a listing of cases heard at Oxford City Court.

These include:
A Cellar man who was drunk.
Obstruction of a lane by a horse and fish cart which was causing a terrible smell
A man who allowed his chimney to catch fire
A man who assaulted his wife for taking money from his pocket, he knocked her tooth out.
A tramp who was drunk and assaulted a landlord
A beggar who claimed he was selling shoe laces….

A court is a place of control, over the accused and general public but also of witnesses etc who are obliged to attend court. It is also a controlled environment with routine and systems with a constant steady flow of cases that never stop. A circle represents this control well and this was my starting point.

I decided to use a fibre optic cable circle 1.5m in diameter running over concrete plinths that each represent a single case heard in oxford city court 113 years ago. For each plinth I intend to mix the concrete with something that represents each of the cases. For example concrete and soot for the example of the chimney fire, concrete and fish skeleton or horse hair for the obstruction of a lane by a fish cart. Embedding the memories and making them just visible, almost forgotten but not quite.

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On the top of each concrete plinth I want to place cast resin lids that hold the fibre optic cable in place, as well as dispersing the low light from the fibre optic cable and making the composition of the plinth eerily visible. This will give the memories a museum like quality, preserving them with a eerie séance like but futuristic glow.

I worked on some samples to make sure that all this was possible and would look right.

I will exhibit this piece in the judges room and I anticipate the work being placed on the floor. It will be approx 10″ high with each concrete plinth 4×4″ and 8″ high and there will be 12 of them placed evenly in a circle connected by a single fibre optic cable that may be looped a couple of times. I may also frame a copy of the original page from the newspaper.

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