(what happened to the balloons)
When I proposed the ARB in September 2008, I had just completed a work called Skymirror. The work comprised 2000 solar lights laid out on a hillside in the shape of the constellation of Pegasus.
Of course, one of the really big questions was what effect human weathering would have on the piece - it created a lot of tension. Some people were worried that the layout would be changed but we were quite keen that this would happen. However we were all nervous that a concerted effort might result in the whole thing being destroyed – perhaps even before the opening night!
In the event, the work stayed virtually untouched. There was very little theft and a few changes which we really felt were more people engaging with the work than vandalism – although others disagreed.
This came at the end of the summer off the back of installing Luke Jerram’s Street Pianos in London, Blackburn and Burnley and Belfast. Street Pianos is a simple but very successful work which places pianos in the street for the public to play. It has the similar tensions. How will the pianos be looked after? Inevitably you encounter loads of naysayers when you install the pianos. Inevitable some are weathered by both humans and the elements. But the crucial questions is whether this prevents Street Pianos from being a clever and successful work. I would argue not.
Previously we’d been in the same position wondering whether our tented silhouettes at the Big Chill would survive (which they did). And in Flashlight, most of the lanterns were taken by the end of the night – which made the clearing up process very quick and easy!
I think this raises a really interesting question about what happens to work when it’s left in public or open space as a result of people being there and how people interpret this as interaction, damage, vandalism.
At the time of proposal, it seemed that this would be a critical question to know more about in terms of moving my practice forward – it seemed that as we scaled our work up and up, the potential impacts would become more severe and risk damaging the work more.
I felt that it would put us in a far stronger position to be able to got to funders with some answers.
Since then, however, there have been two key changes.
- My practice has shifted a little. The great news is that things have really taken off and have some very large scale projects running until the end of September. But with this has come a broadening of scope. I’m excited about this and feel that it’s of huge benefit. Major projects on the cards are now – work in a special school, another Skymirror installation, a community focussed installation, a mixed arts performance piece with young people.
- The balloon experiment in West Bromwich in November demonstrated an issue with the small scale method I’d proposed to evaluate Human Weathering. It doesn’t test the issues of scale on the impact of Human Weathering. Steal a single balloon and 20% of each installation was taken! In the event, all the balloons were taken within an hour and little was proved.
My feeling was that, perhaps, the focus of my ARB should change to reflect both these circumstances. An email exchange and conversation with lead artist Scott Farlow really helped crystalise these thoughts.
It’s a really important part of my practice that I can continue to grow and take on larger and larger projects. To do this, I need to be able to look back and learn from and take inspiration from project that I’ve done – and prove it.
I’m still really interested in Human Weathering as a concept and think it’s still part of my practice, but feel that the evaluation needs to be much broader than that.
My proposal then is to evolve my ARB to become a project to create a framework which I can use to evaluate my work. This would be an ongoing process. I’d see the ARB as only covering the creation of the first draft. It would be interesting to see if I can use the framework evaluate itself!! I’d propose extending the ARB a little so that I can try the framework out and continue to develop it over the next few projects. I think that real-world evaluation would be the most effective.