‘Utopian Realism’ is an exploration of rural utopianism, idealism and industrialism in the North East of England and Mid Wales by the artists Mair Hughes and Bridget Kennedy.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Over the border to New Lanark

We decided as we were together in the North East it would make sense for us to visit New Lanark (Robert Owen's cotton mill + model village). It was a surprisingly quick and pleasant journey north from Allenheads and it was good to go on a little adventure. Having said that this was Mair's third visit to New Lanark as I mentioned before she has made work about Robert Owen's ideas in the past, exhibiting them as part of the Glasgow International Arts Festival in 2010. No doubt she will post about this herself.

We checked into the youth hostel on site at New Lanark and started our exploration of the many buildings on this World Heritage site. The place itself is tucked away in the valley of the river Clyde, this makes the first glimpse of it all the more impressive after driving through what appears to be a small housing estate to get to the visitor car park.

There is a lot going on at New Lanark, I was keen to concentrate on water as I see it as a linking factor between the places we are looking at during this project. However I did find some other interesting things too.

I kind of fell in love with the mill production area which was a very noisy place but I really liked that there was still some work going on in the two hundred year old factory (see photos of thread spinning machine and carding machine). I spent a while in there taking video clips and being mesmerised by the tiny actions of the threads.

On top of this massive mill building is a lovely roof garden which gives a great over view of the site. I found a monitor which was displaying footage from what I can only assume was a surveillance camera. The cover of the dome around the camera was wet, this gave the footage a strange dream like quality. The act of surveying and monitoring seems to tie in with both Robert Owen and Thomas Sopwith's ideas. I recorded some of the camera's circular sweep around the site, some how the roof garden looks quite futuristic sat up amongst the roof tops. I'm not sure what I will do with this footage yet but it is useful to mull over it.

There is a beautiful woodland walk up to the Falls of Clyde which I did, stopping along the way to take footage of water and hydro electric installations. I think water and water power are going to feature quite heavily in this project, but who knows, at this point it is all information and ideas swimming around in my head....

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