Words by Patrick Kirk-Smith. Photographs by Patrick Kirk-Smith and Bluecoat Display Centre
This wildly desirable display of upcycling and rebirth is unfortunately ending today (14 November 2015) if you’ve not had the chance to visit it, but to highlight the value of the gorgeously moreish work on display in this exhibition at Bluecoat Display Centre, the information is available online, from a selection of artists that couldn’t have been better selected.
Paul Scott is the mastermind behind the exhibition, and he is definitely the right man for the job. Scott writes about the work with an intricacy that gives the impression he is being assessed; point by point, everything is covered. This is an exhibition that has been put together as an act of obsession. Obsession with recycling, with repair, reuse and rethinking is paramount to RE-reanimate, in a way that leaves the viewer nearly as obsessed as the artists – who all seem just as obsessed as each other.
Each and every artist here makes truly mouth-watering objects from scrap. They have breathed new life into dead things and created a mass of indescribable things which I want to own for no reason other than their beauty. They are truly visceral works, and appeal to collectors of luxury impeccably. What is fascinating about this exhibition though, is that it does not intend to appeal to that – but I doubt it minds. This simply looks to experiment with what upcycling means, and really honestly question what has become of the word.
Upcycling is to elevate something’s status through recycling. It should complement an objects history, and hold it up. This exhibition does that. Whether it’s Scott’s own work, piecing back together exquisite ceramic objects into decorative, often even slightly usable things, or Jacy Wall’s tapestries, reconstructing torn and ripped textile hangings.
The main premise of this show though, is an almost political statement about the value museum collections dictate. Scott seeks to develop work that make “‘traditional’ processes again appear beautiful, functional and intriguing.” Giving recycling and modern techniques that same value as museum artefacts has come from his distaste at museums discarding objects that exhibit signs of repair, instead choosing objects that have been less well cared for; less well looked after. What this exhibition does is give objects a second chance to develop their stories further.
Even insofar as the texts referenced in the exhibition text – Michael Braungart’s Cradle to Cradle – we are reassured that what we see in this show isn’t mere assumption, it is well established in fact, popular opinion, and the trial and error working approaches of the artists. This is an exhibition that jumps out as believable. An exhibition full of objects that you will fall in love with, regardless of their story.