Barbaresi & Round were commissioned to develop an art project that explores the contribution that the iconic Didcot Power Station has made to life in South Oxfordshire.
Barbaresi and Round’s work focused on the dramatic physical structure of the towers, the physical processes of the plant, and the visual impact on the area, including the monumental presence in the landscape and as a backdrop to the town.
The artists also engaged with the human story, including the community that has built up around the power station. As part of this aspect of the project the pair held a number of community and school workshops.
The community workshops drew attention to the social aspects of the power station. The artists heard from the people who were closely involved with Didcot A and the stories from these sessions informed elements of the exhibition, including an artist’s book. The school workshops allowed the artists to work with local children to explore the scale of the site through model making.
The work that Barbaresi & Round developed during their residency at Didcot A was shown at Cornerstone, Didcot’s Arts Centre, from 23 May to 30 June 2013.
The residency is documented at http://wherecloudsaremade.blogspot.co.uk
Maps and Models
The exhibition begins with a floor map of Cornerstone Arts Centre and surroundings with models made by children from a half term workshop. Then made to the same scale, 1:250 is a map of Didcot A with the cooling towers made by children from Northbourne primary school, Didcot. This introduces the idea of the physical relationship of the town to Didcot A, and enables the visitor to relate their immediate physical surroundings to the monumental scale of the power station.
where clouds are made (book)
Barbaresi & Round have produced an artist’s book as a space to contain other people’s perspectives on Didcot A. It contains pieces by Will Wiles, Martyn Bull, Alexandra (aged 6), conversations with retired employees and images by Paul Bodswoth and the DPC which was part of Didcot A’s sports and social club. You can view the book here.
Continuing the theme of scale, Barbaresi & Round have constructed a 1:1 scale model of the shape of a section of one of the cooling towers. If you walk through the scaffolding and stand on the far side from the entrance, where the scaffolding meets the ground there is a slight arc. This is the curvature of a small section of one of the cooling towers. Having a fragment in the gallery, and seeing the subtlety of the arc brings the viewer an awareness of the enormity of the whole.
Archive images of the towers as they were being built were particularly intriguing, revealing the gradual change in the landscape, but also described by local reporters as a ‘strange apparition’. Using the improvised structure of a scaffold in the gallery conveyed the idea of transition and change, and also communicated the on-going invention and adaptation of the complex engineering of Didcot A.
The vinyl laser cut drawings are an interpretation of some of the dials and switches from the control room and also some of the pipe work from the boiler. When visiting Didcot A Barbaresi & Round became intrigued by how the controls were like a graphic, simplified representation of the actual machinery in the plant. And how when a dial was turned it actually changed something in a very physical way. The appearance of the control room belongs very much to 1960’s and 1970’s technology and makes the visitor aware of the gulf of time between it’s conception and the very different types of technology dominant today.
During the course of this project we met Martyn Bull, a scientist, writer and film maker who has an interest in Didcot A power station. We were really pleased that Martyn wanted to get involved and undertake his own projects as a spin-off from some of the archive material we shared with him, and you can see some of his images and writing in our book work.
We asked Martyn to make some sound and video recordings of the power station before it was switched off. Martyn worked with recordings made in the turbine hall, where the noise is oppressive, even when wearing ear defenders. Martyn edited this to create a rich, resonant sound which formed part of our installation at Cornerstone gallery.
You can hear the sound of the turbine hall and find out more about how Martyn created this sound work at http://martynjbull.net.
More documentation of the project can be found at wherecloudsaremade.blogspot.com