Text by Abi Mitchell
Ten days of intense reflection and collaboration have yielded strong results in The Calder’s new site-specific exhibition Haggard Caravan; seven artists working collectively within the site during a ten-day creation and installation process have ended with a cohesive and intimate relationship between the artists and the space they have inhabited.
The Hepworth’s second space opened last autumn and has seen a series of immersive and challenging shows take up residence in the former textile mill. A connective thread runs through the exhibitions that take place in The Calder, slowly exploring and studying the building and its location; an architectural use of space for the conception and display of work and the presence of sound contributing density and solidity to the large volume of space. Haggard Caravan sees a 30 meter long concrete ‘relief’ obscure the windows and begin to creep across the floor, while a distorted, multi layered soundscape fills the void with menace and memory. The Calder’s opening exhibition by Roger Hiorns saw the space occupied by large floor based objects surrounded by the live transmitted sounds of Wakefield Cathedral, Haggard Caravan’s sound work also surrounds the objects and the visitor, each installation using sound to act as a narrative metaphor for the expanse encompassing it. Each of the three exhibitions held within the new Calder gallery has used sound and architectural components to reflect purposefully on the location and history of the city of Wakefield and of the disused mill building housing them, resulting in site-specific encounters only fully understood while immersed inside them.
Live encounter acts as another connection existing to lead one Calder exhibition into the next, the opening night of the Haggard Caravan show was a live music/sound performance by the seven artists who collaborate musically together under the name Solar Lice. Recordings from this event were added into the mix of field recordings and ‘discarded’ sound debris found throughout Wakefield during the group’s ten-day residence. The physicality of the performance and following ‘sound screenings’, which resonate throughout the installation every hour, echo the dynamic change of atmosphere that sound and live art introduces to a gallery setting. Erika Vogt’s glaring and disruptive sound and video works from the second Calder exhibition created a charged environment with bold objects highlighting this sense of energy, and Roger Hiorns objects were ‘activated’ by live nude models seating themselves upon them. With Haggard Caravan the energy of the live performance still reverberates throughout the space as if in a ricochet, the noises creating a narrative memory of the performance and unseen creative process behind the work.
The whole exhibition plays on the temporal nature of exhibition making and the visiting experience, the sounds being made up from a performance that only took place once, the hurriedly finished cut and paste colour print ‘zine which sits on a windowsill, a text printed on acetate taped to the opaque window, a table covered in hurriedly split silver paper imitating a hospital dissection table on which a clear resin disc sits drooping off the sides – the two pigeon skeletons it contains the only element carefully laid out and preserved. Plus the main component of the installation, the cement relief on which you can still smell the processes of bleach, resin and cement that made it lingering in the building.
Haggard Caravan is successful in bringing together an artist’s experience of Wakefield and the making of work that engages the viewer, the relief and audio piece reveal as much as they seek to conceal through a layering and cleansing process, and offer a unique outsider perspective on the area and the creation of site specific work.
Image: Solar Lice, Haggard Caravan, 2014. Installation view, The Calder, 2014. Photographer: Hannah Webster.
Abi Mitchell is a writer based in West Yorkshire.