Archive an installation by Dawn Felicia Knox featuring the Book Apothecary currently on display at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts
A strange structure grew and curved under a bridge in the Ouseburn, Newcastle one Monday night. What began as a temporary book shelter changed with each book laid, spine out to the street, camouflaging against the red of the brick. It rose up chest height like a breastwork, a trench, a bunker. From the street it nearly disappeared but between the white belly of the books and the rough bridge wall was enough space to shelter.
In the morning it was gone.
Dawn Felicia Knox’s contribution to Book Borrowers explore the nature of books, articulating the way they take up physical space while affording the mental space for understanding, refuge and transformation. She has created a monument in Everything They Knew the Year My Mother Was Born which is a collection of Encyclopaedia Britannica from 1951, the year of her mother’s birth. She has further used books as building blocks to create a temporary structure which mirrors a military breastwork, a fortification to protect from advancing soldiers. This is the second in a series which stands to confront the closure of libraries and the defunding of art and culture. Papier-mâché birds, made from a damaged volume of The War Illustrated, rise up from the temporary sculpture appearing to fly into the gallery.
The Forgetting Curve
A forgetting curve is the opposite of learning curve
it is the rate at which we forget,
the curve we follow as knowledge falls away.
Hundreds of rolled plans hand draw with great attention and care were left to come down with the building. These plans once were the hallmark of drafting before computer aided drafting became the expected form. Intrigued by these now archaic plans and their specialized language of symbols and shapes, I brought them from the factory by the arm full.
You see, after 90 years of continual fit and fix the factory had been abandoned. Tools were left to rust. Plans to pool dust. The rafters had given way to pigeons. I was invited in to make artwork about it all before it was demolished.
In my studio I unrolled the plans and then began to rip. I turned them to birds and the egg shells - the elevator shaft of Northern Rock becoming wing, the butcher case of Dickinson’s an egg. I took them, both made birds and eggs, into the factory to photograph them.
Later, in the gallery I laid out the plans across of opened ladders taken from the belly of the shop fitters stringing the birds and nestling the eggs around the curve of the stacked plans. I recreated the building as it was left; pitched roof lines originally for maximized space and light now given away to the birds.
Then I photographed it all, printed the images on the plans and bound them. The handmade book is featured in The Sunderland Book Project.
All is changing, transforming. Each time we interact with a book we mark it, change it, transform it. The oils of fingers on the page yellow and thin. Threads loosen with each reading. Bindings crack. Breath combines with trace metals caught in the pulp of the paper turning them to rust, leaving marks, foxing. A hand must work constantly to keep things appearing the same – ever stitching, ever mending.
Or the hand could hasten the transformation - turn page to wing, set it to flight.
Maps, letters, lenses and a Venus figure are among the objects filling this case. Some were taken from the archives of the Great North Museum, other saved from the skip and a few made by the artist’s hand. Which is art and which is artefact? Which has value? To whom? These are just a few of the questions being explored in this work.
It began with a hunger, a split rib and spinning, always spinning….
Come early and see the objects displayed as part of Into the Curious
7 until 9
On September 5th the Great North Museum:Hancock will host an evening of stories, myths, poems and art making performed in response to The Curious Case of…… exhibition by invited authors and artists including Dawn Felicia Knox, Sheree Mack, Richard W. Hardwick, Stevie Ronnie , artists from The Book Apothecary and music by Simon Wood.People are invited to come early to look at the exhibition, to talk with the artists, authors and young curators.
Artist Dawn Felicia Knox will be sharing some of the stories hidden within her commissioned installation Into the Curious which forms the entryway for The Curious Case of… exhibition. Layered into her work are tales told long ago of strange creatures sent back from a faraway land, spells cast with knitting needles and newsprint, maps separating the known and unknown world, photographs blurring into paintings and the always moving image of the North Sea. Her installation, part wonder filled cabinet of curiosity, part immersive visual travelogue and part intimate family altar, invites the viewer look deeper, to reflect on their own stories and to thread together new narratives.
The Curious Case of…. exhibition, curated by young people aged 17 – 24, explores the interesting stories behind a range of objects, looking at how objects from the Great North Museum collection can form a path into a wider global story and provoke discussion. The exhibition features objects found in the world collection, which were chosen by the young people with no particular focus in mind, other than curiosity.
‘I enjoyed working with the young curators and learning why they were drawn to the objects they chose. I attempted to create an installation that would spark the same sense of curiosity in the viewers.’ Dawn said. ‘The storytelling evening will give writers a chance to continue the wider discussion about wonder and curiosity’
Dawn Felicia Knox is a writer and artist who distills narratives both found and constructed, moving and still images, painting and sculpture into art objects and environments. American by birth, she forged an artistic presence in her native New Mexico through creating encounters with her artwork that were unexpected and engaging. She is now at home in North East England. For the last several years her work has been concerned with the reinterpretation of artefacts and historical narratives, bringing them into a wider discussion about art, science, myth and identity. More information about her work can be found at www.dawnfelicia.com and www.dawnfelicia.tumblr.com
Sandstone apsaras dance from rubble and shrapnel. Homes erected from scrap heaps; a bomb cradle used as a chicken coop, rocket housing as a fence. Full tables of apples, dragon fruit, glazed duck and rice left as the incense burns; an offering to the grandfathers. Mothers burn paper of ornate golden leaf to honour sons lost. And the rain falls as silver threads washing the smoke and ash down to the ocean. These are some of the images of Vietnam and Cambodia permanently etched in to mind.
This series, Ashes and Apsaras, serves as my own shadow table, my offering to the gods and grandparents. I originally went to Southeast Asia to understand a war that haunted my father and the men of his generation. What I gained was an understanding of ravaged countries but unbroken cultures held fast by family, community and tradition.
My subject matter as well as approach is a direct response to the things I saw and experienced. These images constructed using layers of oil paint, offering papers, photographs and scraps of waste paper mirror the way the cultures rebuilt themselves using all material left to them.
Into the Curious
Strange creatures sent back from a far away land, spells cast with knitting needles and newsprint, maps conjuring and partitioning the known and unknown world, photographs blurring into paintings. These are just a few of the stories layered within the installation Into the Curious which begins The Curious Case Of… exhibition currently at the Great North Museum: Hancock. The exhibition is a part of the Stories of the World project and the Cultural Olympiad.
Into the Curious @ The Great North Museum: Hancock
until September 23