Bloom by Kieth Harrison
Saturday 19th October – Sunday 2nd February 2020
God's House Tower, Town Quay Road, Southampton, SO14 2NY
About the Work
Bloom was a site-specific installation by Plymouth based artist Keith Harrison. Inspired by the sights and sounds of passing container ships and cruise liners viewed from the roof of God’s House Tower, the work was a continuation of the artist’s experiments with sound and matter.
Stacks of locally-sourced plastic storage boxes were fitted with subwoofer drivers to create DIY speakers, contained in a custom-built steel and perspex structure, the same shape and size as a shipping container. A plastic curtain at the far end allowed access to a turntable and mixing desk. Each time a ship left Southampton’s shores, a uniquely pressed vinyl record was played and the sound of foghorns, recorded on the roof of GHT, were amplified in the space. The vibration activated clouds of raw cactus powder on the surface of each speaker. The foghorn blowed, the powder bloomed.
Bloom responded to the theme of that year’s programme, GHT: Beside the Sea, which prompts us to consider how significant changes to the shoreline have shaped our modern city. Keith also took inspiration from The Moonlight Pethers, an exhibition of 17th century paintings on display in the Barker-Mill Collections Gallery downstairs.
One painting of particular interest is The Night-Blowing Cereus by Philip Reinagle and Abraham Pether, alternatively known asThe Night Blooming Cereus, the installation’s namesake. In the painting a large, blossoming cactus flower by Philip Reinagle is painted on top of a moonlight scene by Abraham Pether – the clock reads midnight. This striking image informed Keith’s methodology and choice of materials; the speakers represent the clock, activating the work at specific times of the day and the cactus powder represents the plant.
The exhibition ran from 19th October 2019 to 2nd February 2020 at God’s House Tower.
About the Artist
British artist Keith Harrison frames his work as a catalyst for live processes and areas of practice not commonly associated with ceramics. He says, “I am interested in what happens when you activate a material. This sense of switching on, or making a material live has connotations back to music and performance in a broad sense. I always want to see what a material can do when you put it under duress.” Like any experimental approach – in say physics and engineering, or cultural disciplines including music, dance or architecture – controls are loosened and elements staged in relation to each other precisely to amplify contingency, test limits and produce unexpected results.
What makes Keith Harrison’s work so intriguing and refreshing is that he is using and experimenting with clay in an ostensibly different way. He wants to investigate the potential responsiveness that this material has in different situations and states, and then allow people the chance to experience first-hand the processes and results of these events. The opposing concepts of creation and destruction is crucial to these projects and his inclusion of other objects and material established factors such as sound, heat, movement, smell etc., makes Harrison’s work brave, unpredictable and overtly multifaceted.