Show: Stratum, site specific installation, 80kg of featherdown. Susie MacMurray
Tell: “Work like this definitely starts with the space and matching it up with an idea needing somewhere to go. The original installation of Stratum came about just after graduating in 2001 after Bill (Campbell – owner of Islington Mill) left a card by my work in our graduate show. I had no idea what the Mill was; nobody did because it was still just starting out. A lot of it was like the 5th floor, below the site of where the installation, is now. Wet and grotty.
“Bill invited proposals for anywhere in the Mill, to which I applied to fill the attic with featherdown for Stratum. I had played with feathers during the first year of my degree course, the results of which often appeared a little twee, so I left them alone until this opportunity came around. I had been preoccupied with the subconscious and memory and it all came back to me when I saw this space.
“You could see different time periods in there, from the belts and the wheel arches of the mill’s original use, to examples of 1920’s sign writing and 1970’s office furniture. It’s like the whole building contains these layers of history. There are reports of one floor in the mill collapsing during its industrial days, killing many of the workers that were beneath it, and you wonder where the memory of that goes. Does it go into the walls of the building? The atmosphere?
“Stratum itself will eventually be covered in the layers of history, as the roof might start leaking again and the pigeons will inevitably find their way in and leave their mark. It can be seen, as it decays or absorbs moisture to be soaking up the history of the building, all the blood, grime and pigeon droppings.
“My work has always had a reference to our mortality. I find it amazing that we’re here in the first place and we should seize the moment. Everything is temporary, whether it lasts for a few days or 100 years, it just depends on your point of view and Stratum will quickly show signs of being temporary. The feathers are an intentional choice of material, to provide reference to pillows and thinking about a place where dreams go. Dreams and fleeting, instantly lost moments are another source of interest.
“As an ex-musician, I feel very strongly about going to see music live, that you cannot get the same experience from a CD as you can sharing in a performance with other people. You don’t get the same energy from listening to recorded music. When you play music live, you have to become used to the fact that your work dissipates in an instant, it is gone as soon as it is created. In the same sense I feel that people should also go and see art, to go there in hope that it will be an incredible experience and see what happens in that moment when you’re faced with it.
“The first time I did Stratum I was delighted, as a recent graduate, that so many people saw it and my life would undoubtedly have turned out differently had the Mill not afforded me the opportunity. A curator from Manchester Art Gallery saw it, which led me to a solo show there, which led on to a number of further commissions in turn. It’s down to the generous nature of Bill and the culture of the Mill to allow artists to take such risks that makes these things possible.”
Info: Susie MacMurray’s work encompasses drawing, sculpture and architectural installations. Stratum was originally installed at Islington Mill in 2001. It will again transform the attic spaces at Islington Mill in a cloud of white duck down to mark the arts venue’s ten year anniversary from Thursday 16th June.
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