September 2013

Wirksworth Festival 2013

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Tape Measure

Tape Measure is a Contemporary Visual Art commission for the Wirksworth Festival 2013. The installation was exhibited in the window of Airr Clothing, Market Place, Wirksworth, from Friday 6 to Sunday 22 September 2013.

The following is an extract from my project proposal:

Tape measure is a proposal for a shop window installation of a large flat disc of wound red paper tape (1 cm wide with a diameter of approximately 127 cm) suspended from a simple wooden frame.

The work draws on the histories and industries of Wirksworth. In the 19th century the towns of Derby, Ashbourne and Wirksworth formed the nucleus of the largest tape producing centre in the world. Tape, ferrets (stout cotton or silk tapes) and small-wares (haberdashery) were manufactured in Wirksworth at Speedwell and Haarlem Mill (a former cotton spinning mill owned by Richard Arkwright) and later at Providence Mill, Gorsey Bank.

It was said that ‘in the latter years of the 19th century, the weekly output of 230 people employed at Speedwell and Haarlem Mills (…) equalled the circumference of the earth.’ These firms became famous for ‘producing immeasurable amounts of the notorious red tape beloved of officialdom’ and in the early 20th century John Bowmer and Sons of Ashbourne boasted that they made the fuse-binding tape of every Mills Bomb (more commonly known as the standard British Army hand grenade) used in the First World War.

Tape measure is context specific and carries multiple and rich associations. The disc will have a strong physical presence and resonance. Its form, construction and presentationis open to multiple readings and the primitive form of the circular shape has a rich cultural heritage.In its construction the work references tape making and binding, weaving and coiling while the form suggests the millstone grit, the fuse, the bomb, the talisman and the earth and its orbit around the sun.

The festival commissioned Matt Black, Derbyshire poet Laureate 2011 to 2013, to write six Haiku about the commissioned works: Sex, Home, Sky, Tape, Work, and Curtains.