See below the text accompanying the show at the Mining Institute (on until 21st June)
‘Geological Etiquette’ is an exhibition of specially tailored artworks by Mair Hughes and Bridget Kennedy, created in response to the extraordinary space of the library and lecture theatre at the Mining Institute in Newcastle. The title of the show comes from ‘King Coal’s Levee’, a prose poem from the 1800s that narrates a fictional ranking of the mineral elements . Mair and Bridget uncovered this during their research at the Mining Institute library.
Artworks on display in this exhibition:
In the Lecture Theatre
‘Crystal Systems’ is an animated spa box by Bridget Kennedy. This small sculptural work combines digital media with an old fashioned folk art. The art of spa box making dates back to the 19th century when lead miners used the “bonny bits” (waste minerals) to create fantastic sparkling mini grottoes to adorn their parlours. Kennedy’s re interpretation of this miner’s hobby craft has a small DVD screen hidden within it upon which a colourful abstract model is displayed. As the model moves around, a voice-over accompanies it. The speaker reads a sequence of texts relating to design, town planning and mineral formation. Spliced together these phrases start to form a set of rules for living.
Medium: wooden box, galena, flurospar and other assorted minerals, mini DVD screen
In the Main Library:
‘Knowledge in Darkness’ is a large work created by Bridget Kennedy specifically for the Mining Institute library. Interacting with one of the twelve foot long tables, that were comissioned for the library when it first opened over 150 years ago, this work by Kennedy takes the form of text as sculpture. Using both the space on top of and underneath the table, it playfully integrates references to geology and to the act of discovery and learning.
Medium: plaster over polystyrene, acrylic paint
‘Submitting to the laws of universal validity’ is a digital video by Bridget Kennedy that presents silent, dreamlike footage of a variety of landscapes interspersed with small fragments of text selected from writings that range from twentieth century science fiction to nineteenth social reform strategies.
Medium: Digital video
‘King Coal’s Swansong’ is a series of five suspended sculptures by Mair Hughes. Hughes has chosen to reimagine the ornate lamps that were originally in the library. The lamps were cut glass globules capped with golden metal foliage, closely ressembling pineapples or perhaps outsized acorns. Hughes was intrigued by the poetic mingling of the exotic (the pineapple) and the familiar (the oak leaf) in their design. She has recreated the lamps as decorative, sculptural objects which reflect both the historic and current symbolic status of coal. The original form of the lamps is taken as a container through which to reference the biological origins of coal, the advent of electric lighting, mining machines, and, in a nod to the cathedral-like feel of the library, the ornate incense burners used in the Catholic church, suggesting that the Mining Institute is a location where coal could be burned like incense as a ceremonial gesture.
Medium: Resin, brass, aluminium, mahogony veneer, ferns, cloves
Bridget Kennedy and Mair Hughes have been collaborating on a project titled ‘Utopian Realism’ since October 2010. Inspired by radical experiments that have taken place in Mid Wales and the North East of England the artists have undertaken creative research that has found them exploring a North Pennine lead mine, helping to disassemble a wind turbine at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales and rummaging in the Newtown archives of industrialist turned social reformer, Robert Owen.
‘Geological Etiquette’ is the third exhibition of the ‘Utopian Realism’ project, for more information and images visit www.utopianrealismproject.blogspot.com The artists would like to thank the staff and volunteers of the Mining Institute for all their kind and generous help throughout the planning and execution of this exhibition.