In early 2020, I was artist in residence with the lovely folks at Art Gene in Barrow-in-Furness, South Cumbria exploring the town and it’s connection to environment until world events overtook us and the conclusion of the residency had to be postponed. With the gradual relaxation of pandemic rules now coming into force, I’ve finally been able to take part in Art Gene’s group exhibition housed in their amazing Nan Tait building.
Although lots of things have changed dramatically over the course of the past two years, it was promising to see that returning to this work it still feels relevant to the dialogues of the town. My focus during my time in Barrow became to create the Barrow Tarot, a 78 card deck of hand drawn cards used to open up difficult conversations about the possible futures for Barrow-in-Furness. I’ve previously tested out the deck, in Barrow Market, over an afternoon on the Allotment Soup site on Walney, and with a youth group both online and in person as we explored the North Walney Nature Reserve during one of the ‘relaxed’ periods during the pandemic. We worked with a web designer to create a digital version during the height of one of the lockdowns, but there is no substitute for holding these conversations in person, in location.
The Barrow Tarot features alongside a custom desk for safe reading and exchange of cards during the pandemic, with options for display under glass or raising as a glass screen between the reader and the participant. Tarot decks can also be dispensed via a small below-desk drawer. Alongside the desk, a series of hand painted signs and canvas tent set the scene and create a portable tarot telling kit, suited for indoor and outdoor environments.
One of the other lost elements from my initial residency period was a playful exploration of one of the many challenging figures noted in everyday Barrow exchanges, the seagull. Niko Tinbergen’s study into the social behaviour of gulls inspired a small work of hand cast chocolate supernormal stimuli seagull eggs, displayed in the gallery and offered up in exchange for a conversation about the relationship we have with our non-human co-habitants.
All photos were taken ahead of the exhibition opening, during which I was so busy chatting, giving card readings and sharing eggs that there was not a second to capture. The rest of the exhibition features a series of wonderful works, including fellow artist in residence, Owen Griffiths, digital curator Sophie Lindsey with a curated programme of film and digital works, and artist Anti-cool alongside a host of others. The exhibition is open by appointment, so if you’d like to check it out please get in touch with the Art Gene team.
Unfortunately there is not an ongoing supply of eggs, but Tarot decks are available to purchase at a cost of £15, plus postage. Please contact me directly, or get in touch with the Art Gene team if you would like to buy a copy. These are limited edition of 100, each hand wrapped and finished.