From time to time I have created complete exhibitions, usually in partnership with others.
During my term as Display Co-ordinator at CAT, 1988-95, I was in effect a full-time exhibition designer. The first example is a specimen of my work at CAT.
The possibility of an ‘underground experience’ had been discussed at CAT since the late 1980s. It was intended to be one of the main new displays during the ‘Gearchange’ process of 1990-92, but was cancelled for lack of funds. In 1994 a bequest offered CAT £21,000 for a new display, and it was decided to commence what became known as the Molehole.
I was the overall designer, with colleague Clive Newman building the structure. My concept was ‘life underground at different scales’. This had two aspects: a dark tunnel with small ‘caves’ and tactile surfaces giving an experience of what it might be like to live underground; and (within the tunnel) a series of dioramas showing underground organisms at different scales.
The dioramas consisted of highly realistic clay and fiberglass models, created by an unusual mother-and-son team of sculptors who specialise in biological exactness. I specified four scales, x10 (worms, beetles), x100 (mites, springtails), x1000 (protozoa) and x10000 (bacteria). These were painted and assembled into dioramas by my colleague John Urry.
The exhibit was finished on time and on-budget, and opened by the naturalist David Bellamy in 1995. It has remained a memorable feature of the displays at CAT.
Museum of Modern Art, Stockholm, 1972
I was invited to create an exhibition of environmental technology to coincide with the UN Conference on the Human Environment of summer 1972. I was assisted by numerous colleagues, notably the engineer Björn Eriksson, the architect Varis Bokalders.
Funds were very limited, and the exhibition was something of a ‘work in progress’. Its main feature was interactivity, with discussion corners in various parts of the exhibition space and ‘manifestoes’ on the walls as well as many exhibits, which included solar panels, model wind turbines, a biogas digester, a Stirling engine, experimental bicycles, advanced windows, wood stoves, a ‘model village’ and so on.
THE ART OF COMPOST
Southport Flower Show, 1996
CAT was offered a fee of £5000 and its own marquee to mount an exhibition during the annual Flower Show (the ‘Chelsea of the North’) with the theme of ‘Gardening in the Future’. We decided to create a sculpture exhibition with lifelike models of compost and ‘decomposer’ organisms on plinths, with explanatory texts, while at the same time allowing visitors to examine real compost samples with hand lenses and binocular microscopes, and see many of the organisms alive. There were also regular workshops on compost making.
The models were made by the same mother-and-son team, Rosemarie and David Cooke, that had created the models for the Molehole. They included a springtail, a mite, a worm, a devil’s-coach-horse beetle, a toadstool, an actinomycete, a bacterium and so on. The exhibition was very successful and much remarked on as a haven of quiet realism among the crass commercial din.
21 OBJECTS SYMBOLISING SUSTAINABILITY
Guardian Hay Festival, 2008
On the occasion of the Hay Festival’s 21st anniversary we were invited to install around the site, 21 objects each with a story that together symbolised the sustainable future. I chose them, mounted them and wrote their ‘stories’. More here. Many people found the objects – and their stories – surprising. Here are some:
- A tree
- A mirror
- The UN flag
- Electric-assist bicycle
- A three-legged stool
- A hemp-lime block
- Real musical instruments
- A photovoltaic panel
- A grandmother
- Smart meters
- A garden fork
- A power cable
- Welsh Champagne