“On Location”: A proposal in response to George Orwell’s experience of Sheffield
When George Orwell encountered South Yorkshire, on ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’, he set foot in our past. At this time, our parents were toddlers and our grandparents were miners, labourers and domestics; facing unemployment as they raised a family and taking in washing to make ends meet. Our lives have been very different to theirs, escaping to the ‘big city’ of Sheffield, where art college took us on a journey away from the pits, steelworks and factories that could have employed us. But, even then, the “fiery serpents of iron” could still be glimpsed through the open doors of the foundry and the sound of the drop hammer was a reassuring heartbeat through the night.
Orwell’s perceptions are both shocking and resonant: “Sheffield, I suppose, could justly claim to be the ugliest town in the Old World.” It’s where we live, partly remembering how it was in the sixties and seventies, partly remembering family stories from longer ago. Now we find ourselves in a region where heavy industries have almost disappeared, leaving only a few traces of what once thrived. Pit wheels stand as monuments to mines closed in the 1980s. A shopping centre has crouched over the site of the Edgar Allen Foundry since 1990. In 2001 a museum opened, in what was once the world’s largest steel plant, to show how record-breaking amounts of steel were made; but without the necessary heat, labour, danger or productivity.
So, to return to Orwell’s encounter with the industrial North, how do we find South Yorkshire in 2018? What remains and what has changed? Have these unreported places fallen from public attention and concern – conveniently disappearing, in fact? What has happened to the landscape and topography; the re-use of space, the removal and replacement of industry?
How will we respond once out ‘On Location’?
What do our past connections and present links mean to us?
What will we discover, write about and record?
How can this gathered material be used to produce a new artists’ book?
In both a personal and political exploration, we will be looking for the clues and details just beneath the surface of the contemporary urban landscapes on our doorstep. George Orwell’s observations, perceptions and experiences in the same region are the sparks igniting our ideas and rooting our proposal in a deeper past. What remains or resonates from this time and what has been erased? Salt + Shaw February, 2018
Project update: “Two of our books (What? and Looking For Mr Orwell’s Chimneys) and 2 limited edition prints (Nothing Happened) will be shown in Room 103 @Saul Hay Gallery October 11th -November 11th”
About Salt + Shaw “Their practice is frequently linked to location, to finding objects, discovering stories and creating narratives in response to a particular place, whether man made or natural. Ideas become concepts through negotiation, which inform the construction of their book works, making inextricable the links between all the elements only made possible by their partnership. …..a way of thinking and working together where exploring and testing ideas outside eventually leads to the making of the physical objects, which have been negotiated into existence by the two of them. ….their commitment to collaboration and the further making of book works as conceptual artefacts.” Balancing Act: the inextricably bound book works of SALT+SHAW [Linda Newington, The Artist’s Book Yearbook ISBN 978-1-906501-06-8]
In the collections of:
• The British Library, London
• The Tate Library, London
• The National Art Library, V&A Museum, London
• Winchester School of Art Library, University of Southampton, Winchester
• University of the West of England, Bristol
• Chelsea College of Art and Design, London
• Manchester Metropolitan University
• Glasgow School of Art, Scotland
• London College of Communication
• York University
• Coventry University
• Private collectors in the UK, Europe, USA and Australia