S H A D O W S & D U S T
Inaugural exhibition @ Coffin Works
About the Project
Andy’s audiovisual exhibition Shadows & Dust was especially created for the launch of the Coffin Works Museum, a re-imagined 19th Century factory in the heart of the UK’s industrial heritage.
Situated in a Victorian building and lying dormant for decades, Newman Brothers foundry in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter manufactured items for the funerary trade. In a race against time, Andy was invited to spend the remaining few days at the site before work began to turn it into a museum. Out of this brief documenting period, he created audiovisual artworks that preserved sound and light qualities of the original building interior before it changed forever.
“Sound and light do so much to shape a space – they provide contours, contrast, perspective and above all, atmosphere. I had less than a week before the builders arrived to commence renovation work, but for at least two of those days I sat and watched how light affected the factory. Built in a horseshoe shape and surrounded by tall buildings, a particular spot may only be illuminated for a few minutes before passing into shadow. This piece was the result of waiting, observing and praying that what I experienced would happen again so I could begin creating the artwork before my time in the factory was up”.
The Coffin Works Prior to Renovation
ABOUT THE ARTWORKS – S H R O U D S
(Quadtych Installation: Sound / Photography)
Shroud n. 1. A sheet like garment for wrapping a corpse for burial. 2. anything that conceals like a shroud. v.tr. 1. clothe (a body) for burial 2. cover, conceal, or disguise (hills shrouded in mist). The Oxford Concise Dictionary.
The factory had an entire floor dedicated to the manufacture of shrouds – this influenced the development of the installation. Andy created four ‘slow motion paintings’ from photographic images he took of the patina developed over a century on hundreds of panes of glass inside the factory. Each panel contains a composition that incorporates voice, acoustic instruments and sound design.
Manipulated recordings of heritage foundries flow in and out of extracts from conversations about the function and symbolism of the shroud within different faiths. They also incorporate the acoustic characteristics from four different areas of the original factory that are no longer there.
Experienced as individual panels or simultaneously as a quadtych, Shrouds utilizes the obscured views and translucent light qualities of grime on glass to generate an impressionistic landscape. All the windows were cleaned during renovation. Shrouds contains the audiovisual DNA of the original site and is the only record in existence of the half-lit world of daily factory life there. It is both artwork and archive – what you are seeing and hearing, in essence, no longer exists outside of this piece.
S H A D O W S & D U S T
ibook audiovisual piece. (sound / video)
Focusing on surface texture, multiple images taken from around the Newman Brothers factory prior to its renovation track light movement inside the building across notches, drill holes and floor impressions. Captured within the projected shadows are recurring crosses – referencing some of the funerary wares that were manufactured at Newman Brothers.
Sounds from active industrial heritage sites (Museum of the Jewellery Quarter and Blists Hill Foundry) have been recorded and manipulated by the artist to highlight the harmonic content of noises that would have been a feature of factory life at Newman Brothers.
T E X T U R E S - & - I M A G E S
“In searching for sounds to work with that bore relevance to daily activity at the Coffin Works, I spent a day at Blists Hill Heritage Foundry. The noise of the blast furnace at times swamped all others and yet when it relented there was a calm about the place –
even birds had made a home there and were singing in the rafters. The combination of diffused light, smoke and noise was magical as was the skill of the foundry workers. In between sound recording I managed to capture some of the process on video.