Raising our own Grand Design

Tessa Lynch’s Raising stands on high ground, looking out across Jupiter Artland to the hills beyond. The scene is created with a black stage on which a series of acts are performed. These are not performed solely by the artist, but collectively and collaboratively, by a small team of volunteers.

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As with most sited artworks (new word I’m trying out, it’s not exactly site-specific, this work could be taken anywhere but relates to the space it has been set in, in a manner integral to the work), it begins with the journey to the site. Mine found me hopelessly lost and entangled in the capitals warren of a one way system, attempting to pick up some friends and fellow aspiring builders from Waverley Train Station. We arrived, late and I, flustered and slightly shakey into the relative peace and greenery of the park grounds.

In our absence, Gail and Chris had been nominated the days new houseowners, and the nominated architects were pouring over a model of our stage set, suggesting altertions to gather the best views, a mix of intimate and open spaces… Our inner Kevin Mccloud was out, and restless. We drank tea (builders strength) and ate biscuits and mapped out the hearth of Gail and Chris’ new home.

The foreman nominated, and the hard hats doled out, the build began in earnest. The pieces of Raising, like a modern day kit house, slot and bolt together, suggesting and hinting at space as much as creating it. Each panel had been pre-designed to take advantage of light, views, privacy, shelter. The platform on which Raising was built was the area of the average modern home and although the structure very much lay within the conceptual realms of a house, very quickly members of the team became absorbed in the creation of rooms, “how many bedrooms do you want?” Idealised contemporary living still slipped through our kit house construction.

The piece was in part inspired by an old law, stating that if a house could be built and smoke drawn up the chimney in a day, it was exempt from taxation, and so within the hour Chris slotted the final piece into place and set about creating warm and flaming heart of the home. We toasted the house with cups of mead, in which builders were often paid at one time and gathered for a time in our scaled-up model. Amongst our group were art graduates, design students and a primary school teacher, and Tessa spoke of the mix of volunteers they had experienced over the summer – as each weekend, the structure is taken down and rebuilt by a new collective.

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The group dispersed naturally until we were the last standing exposed to the elements, neither inside nor out, looking outwards but also in, as we eventually stepped back to view the work from the top of Jenck’s landforms. Raising mysteriously vanished into the background from the distance, and only when nearing approach stood out, abstracted without the inhabitants into a series of grids and frames. From a hive of activity to a static creation, the power of this work was in the participation and collective creation and less of the objective observer or spectator.

3 thoughts on “Raising our own Grand Design

    1. katiejand says:

      We were curious as to how we would have felt towards the work if we had not been involved with the building of it, if the experience of it could really compare without having been a part of one of the teams that built it. Were you involved in a ‘raising’, or did you just see it as a completed object? What did you think of it?

      1. fifepsychogeography says:

        No wasn’t involved in a ‘raising’ and it was probably the last work we saw having walked around the entire park beforehand. This also meant that we initially saw the work without having read the text so responded to it as it stood. Initial impression was that it was some modular kind of space which could be reconfigured and rebuilt. My daughter made a reference to ‘Minecraft’! I wondered if it had been specifically sited there to take advantage of the view. There was also a sense of a structure open to the elements. When we did read the text I loved the idea of it being inspired by the law that if a cottage/barn could be built with a fire burning in the hearth before sundown then the land could be kept. Must have been an interesting experience to be involved in a raising.

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