Posted Friday 23 June 2023
A heritage carpet archive has inspired a new installation from Kingston School of Art's Turner Prize-winning professor Elizabeth Price.
The renowned artist is exhibiting a new documentary film, entitled THE GARDEN, at EUREKA – a showcase of design-led innovation from the UK's leading research centres, being held as part of the London Design Biennale. The piece takes the viewer on a tour through the abundant images of flora and foliage found in the Scottish Stoddard Templeton carpet design archive, which includes artefacts dating from 1843 to 2006.
Made especially for the Biennale, the film features computer-generated imagery of an industrial spool loom weaving an idealised garden terrain. As the gargantuan loom weaves, viewers are invited to consider the elements it binds together and how many were drawn from across the former British Empire.
THE GARDEN is connected to a wider project Professor Price has produced titled UNDERFOOT, which was commissioned by the Hunterian Gallery, Glasgow University; Panel, Glasgow. The piece was initiated by Fiona Jardine of Glasgow School of Art, funded by Creative Scotland and Kingston University.
As neither a designer nor design historian, Professor Price said she approached the work as an artist interested in the cultural history of design artefacts. "The piece looks at how design objects impact our collective cultural memory and unconscious” ," she explained. "My objective isn't to do the same job as a design-historian. I have a set of different objectives as an artist, and tend to explore design artefacts with imaginative, sometimes hallucinatory digression. Having said that, THE GARDEN isn’t an artwork - its a documentary setting out my understanding and responses to the Stoddard Templeton archive."
Part of the process of completing research for the film involved examining the Stoddard Templeton carpet design archive, much of which has yet to be digitised. "I spent days exploring folders and taking thousands of reference images," she said. "“In THE GARDEN I tried to reveal many hundreds of these images, which are otherwise not digitally accessible, to share an understanding of the extraordinary imagery contained in the archive."
The film was made with special permission from Glasgow University, who allowed images to be reproduced. Written and directed by Professor Price, additional research was undertaken by Dr Jonathan Cleaver, Master Weaver. Anne Haring and Michael Bacon worked with Professor Price to animate the piece, which was set to music from Andrew Dickens and Kingston University senior lecturer Leah Kardos.
EUREKA features cross-disciplinary invention and creativity from a range of academics and innovators. Established this year, the exhibition has been a highlight of the London Design Biennale schedule, exploring a range of topics, from ageing and city planning to Britain's colonial history, social equality and the cultural and emotional significance of our oceans.
Kingston School of Art's Associate Dean for Research and Curator of the Kingston University Pavilion at EUREKA, Professor Maria Chatzichristodoulou, said Professor Price's installation was a particularly thought provoking and important work. "The Garden is an intricate, visually alluring, historically precise and sensitive piece, bringing together questions of technology, gender dynamics, social hierarchies, imperial power and industrialisation," she said. "It explores and unearths fascinating and socially embedded histories of design and manufacturing."
As part of the Biennale, Professor Chatzichristodoulou accompanied Kingston University Vice-Chancellor Professor Steven Spier and design students Victoria Cardona Garcia-Atance and Emily Rubin on a visit to Number 10 Downing Street. They were part of a group which heard from co-founder of the London Design Biennale, Ben Evans CBE, and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Lucy Frazer who spoke about the importance of design and the creative industries, a sentiment Professor Chatzichristodoulou wholeheartedly supports.
"Creatives rarely get the opportunity to showcase their work in contexts that bring them together with experts, politicians, policy-makers, cultural influencers, funding bodies, charities, the commercial sector and wider public," she explained. "This mix is vital for their work to be seen and appreciated for the value it brings to society in so many different ways. Kingston University's participation in the London Design Biennale has allowed us to converse with the most highly acclaimed design practices internationally."