Artist Layla Curtis, calls herself a “topographical designer” that makes subtly 3-d collages and drawings as a “gentle mockery of cartography” changing the names and locations of places like in this collage “Hard Cash” (2004):
A detail shot of “Hard Cash” (2004):
Curtis not only does drawings and collages tied to place, she has done many performative and video series, such as one involving collections of Souvenirs from Manchester and her Message in a Bottle project.
Message in a Bottle: From Ramsgate to the Chatham Islands
On 25th May 2004, fifty bottles containing messages were released into the sea off the south-east coast of England near Ramsgate Maritime Museum, Kent. The intended destination of the bottles is The Chatham Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. The islands, which are 800km east of mainland New Zealand, are the nearest inhabited land to the precise location on the opposite side of the world to Ramsgate Maritime Museum. It is anticipated that the bottles may be found several times before reaching the Chatham Islands. Several of the bottles are being tracked using GPS technology and are programmed to send their longitude and latitude coordinates back to Ramsgate every hour. The information they transmit is used to create a real time drawing of their progress, that looks something like this:
Each non-GPS bottle contains a message from residents of Ramsgate to the residents of The Chatham Islands, a pencil and an instruction leaflet which requests anyone finding a bottle to report to her website and record where and when the bottle was found. In addition they are requested to document their find on a form inside the bottle before returning the bottle to the sea to continue its journey. A page is maintained archiving the found bottles reports here.
Curtis shows an interest in connecting places through her artwork, by releasing these bottles to be found by those far away, in a location-specific place, however she is also interested in the journey of her work, by having people report when and where they are found. I think this project conveys a great concept of what you can do with your artwork to connect where you are currently with places afar, physically or metaphorically, that would be great to show students. I would love to explore a lesson plan, having the students create multiples of objects that mean something to them or where they are from personally, to leave in places or send out to various places, so they are able to experience where they end up or how they are reacted to.
Although my main intent in this blog posting was to share with you this particular place-based project of Layla Curtis’s, I can’t help being inspired by this hilarious scene from The Office, a couple weeks ago….
to now show you some more recent work of Curtis’s, from 2008, wherein she participated in a Parkour Thermal Images Documentary project. Curtis’s motivation was her interest in “capturing marks on surfaces as sort of evidence of somebody moving through a space”. Place-based too, huh? Yup, so using a thermal imaging camera and the help of Westminster residents, Curtis followed parkour artists to capture the thermal traces of their movements or through spaces. Called “a temporary piece of public art that references the place of Mayfair,” by Charlotte Ferguson (Arts Liason of Westminster), it is another absolutely fantastic concept that would be very interesting to show students and open a discussion on the imprints we make on the spaces we inhabit in our daily lives.
The full documentary is also available to watch here!
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