Making a Mark

The Solent Showcase Gallery‘s current exhibition is Make Your Mark, a community alternative mapping project looking at people’s experiences of Southampton. The aim is for visitors to write or draw their experiences (hopefully something more than just labels) onto the large floor map created by Nathan Evans. Seven local artists are also being given one-week residencies to respond to the theme, using the end wall of the gallery. I was up first, and took a mind-mapping, rather than geographical, approach using found objects and other waste materials from the city to create my piece, Material Culture. The aim was to use these disparate materials (I am a materials-driven artist) to represent aspects of the city I find evocative, whether positive (music scene, vibrant multiculturalism), negative (homelessness, air pollution, lack of access to the sea) or a mix of the two (industry, drinking culture).

The individual elements are not labelled, though there are clues  in the way they are linked and arranged, and the short poems and statements written on the wall among them. This isn’t to make it difficult for visitors, but because everyone will have their own take on the city and the various facets I’ve included. A map legend or specific labels would detract from this. There needs to be wonder(ing). Of course, some may wonder, “what about X?” if I haven’t included it. Maybe I didn’t find any relevant materials, or possibly X is something less important or familiar to me. For example, social and environmental aspects are writ large, football is just about acknowledged (I found a plushie ball and a small plastic trophy). It’s also a time-specific piece.

If I did it again, I’d find different items, though some would remain such as water from Colwell – the only (I think) spring accessible in the city. Some items are simply as found, others have been processed to some extent (e.g. pigment extracted from cigarette butts around my most frequented bus-stop). Some are formal artworks previously made from, or depicting, found objects and waste – these were added to tie the arrangement together, and were decided on at quite a late stage when I knew something was missing but wasn’t sure what. Collecting the items led to their own experiences – and some of the wall text in the form of short poems e.g. wading up Rollesbrook to find the spring, or getting over the embarassment of being seen picking up some of the items (fagbutts in the street, discarded fast food). It’s not a performance piece, but the production felt at times as if it was. As one visitor said, it had a feeling of vulnerability about it. Certainly, I was nervous at times, and the process was highly immersive. If you want to see for yourself, it’s on until 5pm on Saturday 9th Feb, and Make Your Mark as a whole runs until the end of March. Here are some images to keep you going.

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