Leverhulme Artist in Residence University of Northumbria 2017-18

 

Handmade book, digital video, installation of photographic work and archival materials. 

This work is the result of a Leverhulme artist’s residency hosted by the University of Northumbria. Over the past year I have been working in collaboration with social scientist Dr Siobhan Daly looking at the places and ideas which have defined philanthropic activity in the North East.

My work responded to Siobhan's writing on Philanthropy and the Big Society and Philanthropy as a Contested Concept. drawing on questions around the definitions of philanthropy, which included concepts such as 'work for the public good' and notions of visibility and invisibility, gifts of time versus gifts of money,  to think about how our civic and educational spaces are constructed and maintained. This project developed out of earlier work looking at changes to public space as a result of cuts to public funding (For the Elevation of Man) where I had found that many of the assets now owned by the state ( and now being sold of or neglected) had originally been philanthropic gifts. The work aims to reflect on what I think are huge changes happening in our cities in regard to public life and public space and to think about what these spaces mean to us and to the people who maintain them.

The work took as its focus three inter- connected learned societies; The Lit and Phil, The Mining Institute, and The Natural History Society of Northumbria all of whom have philanthropic histories and also currently rely on the work of volunteers. The project led to the creation of a handmade book "A Brief Compendium of Named and Unnamed Objects' and a short film 'From Kindness' which was screened at the Lit and Phil ( Newcastle) for the society of bookbinders and in the committee room of the Natural History Society of Northumbria ( Great North Museum Hancock).

Everything in the book relates to a donation ranging from small objects, to landscapes, buildings or people's time and all of the text is drawn from archival sources. Two books were donated to the libraries of the Lit and Phil and Natural History Society and the work sets out to operate as both an aesthetic object and a factual document. The book was also exhibited alongside a collection of archival objects and photographs in the library of the Natural History Society of Northumbria, images are included here. The related film documents the work of a volunteer book repair group who have been repairing books in the Lit and Phil library for twenty years, layered with interviews and text read from Prometheus Bound which is the first known reference to philanthropy. The images and texts above are taken from the book and show the library installation and film screenings. 

 

I would particularly like to thank the volunteer book repair group based at the Literary and Philosophical Society Newcastle, whose work features in the film and who taught me to make books for the project and also June Holmes archivist at the natural history society for sharing her extensive knowledge of the society's archives and collections. 

This project has been supported by the Leverhulme Trust