Building: A Northern Mirror. Bury Museum, Bury. Greater Manchester

Lead Research Organisation: Landscape Institute
Department Name: School of Art


This Research Leave will allow the applicant to complete a set of major artworks as part of the programme 'Building: A Northern Mirror'. These art works are made specifically for Bury Museum, being situated both inside and outside the building. The works are concerned with space and how this relates to unique aspects of the built environment in Radcliffe, a part of Bury much altered by economic and environmental change. The site lies along the River lrwell, and an abandoned coalmine. It is now part industrial museum, part a reformed landscape of the 21st century, indicating and yet reflecting the past and the future. Bury through its public art programme is developing a world reputation for the innovative presentation of contemporary art. It shows how a community is realising its opportunities in a world where the ability to adapt and develop fresh forms in the articulation of the visual can bring a new focus to what has past, and establish a dialogue with other cities throughout Europe. Cities where art development of this quality has been seen to bring civic benefit. This benefit is based on a common experience of perception, a focused yet unexpected sight of art, fresh in its juxtaposed form, with the everyday. The externally sited art work will be open to all. A particularly interesting feature of 'The Bury Experience' is its international yet local dimension, in which a unique dialogue with the artist brings a serious interface in art and the city. In that context this new work by Johnston fits in to a series of ambitious international commissions.

In making this work the artist has been researching Bury's history and urban form, engaging himself in the nature of Bury and its physical structure, exploring the various communities in the city, and intimately recording through drawing and photography the nature of the place. From these explorations the nature of the work to be made has gradually emerged. The applicant feels it is essential to find something in the very varied environment that pinpoints its particular identity, expressed as set of spatial experiences which highlight a visual tension or counterpoint. Where for example a particular aspect, dimension, view and characteristic texture heightens the awareness of site and context even reflect a certain memory of other urban landscapes and cultures where a form of architecture, e.g. industrial, has its origins. In developing this as an external work there is the intention to have a permanent structure bring life to a site through the use of glass, and reflection. There is the possibility that the work can be used for a range of roles it could be adapted say for domestic or for social use, yet it could also remain as a static emblem of place. A reminder of what had passed here as an aspiration of the work place, yet maintain a jewel-like presence as an essence of place.

Major themes addressing place, history, change and intervention will be presented through a website. A major event drawing the public, practitioners, curators, writers and urbanists would be arranged after the work is completed in March 2007. This event will be related to other cities experience in such developments. Workshops essential to the project and seminars will take place. This is important as the project is predicated on dialogue and mutuality. The applicant has indicated he will also develop a programme with his graduate students. This idea has come from projects undertaken in Japan where such a dialogue is common.


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