So we took part in the second Junction Festival - a festival of contemporary art in Chapel Ash, Wolverhampton on the first weekend of August 2012. It made a change for us to be making our own work, rather than participatory / collaborative / community work. Our original plan had been to more heavily embed some oral history into the process, but because of other projects going horribly awry timewise we made the decision to base the piece around one pub visit and my own memories of working at the Clarendon Hotel - a pub directly opposite the site for our installation.
After measuring the site, and thinking long and hard about what we would want to create - street art in the loosest sense, but that stayed true to our love of DIY and craft and drawing and prettiness - we created a rough plan. We wanted to include a portrait of a regular, some of his words, and we wanted something big and bold and colourful, and hopefully unexpected. We'd been massively inspired by Mademoiselle Maurice recently, so wanted to use origami again in our work somehow. In the past we've waxed origami to make it more durable, but we simply didn't have the time to wax hundreds and hundreds of origami pieces, so we decided we would just keep an eye on the installation as it only had to last the weekend and if pieces melted off the wall we would make more and keep topping it up.
The three main elements to the installation were:
- The regular - made of Black Country Bugles, and very black & white
- The carpet - despite recent refurbishments and physical changes to the pub, the carpet remains the same - pattern created using bold origami colours
- My hand / pint glass spilling - made of Grazia and Stylist magazines, all contemporary and feminine and colourful - from here will spill colourful origami that flows into the carpet and connecting to the words coming from the regular's mouth
It was a lot of hard work, but also a lot of fun. Installing something in such a public place led to immediate feedback from passersby. At first they were curious, and kept their distance, but as the piece progressed we had all kinds of people chatting to us or shouting out from across the street.
- A group of young people shouted at us from the other side of the road 'Good job!' and stuck their thumbs up as they walked past.
- A tiny little girl screamed 'SO PRETTY!!!!!' with her mum when she saw the origami. (I gave her and her sister a piece to take away)
- An older man who'd come from the pub came and talked at length about how it brightened up the street and was significantly more pleasing to look at than the plain old hoardings that had been up for years now.
- A visitor from 'up north' said 'if it'd been spraypaint then it would just have been graffiti - but THIS is art!'
- A much older couple told us 'there'll always be people who don't like what you're doing, but we think it looks great!'.
- A man on a bike stopped to chat a few times, and really liked what we were doing.
- Two Jamaican guys were very curious about the piece, which led on to conversation about the festival as a whole.
- Some of the other regulars in the pub came over to snap a photo of the regular we'd drawn - they all recognised him!
Deinstalling was a bit heartbreaking. I was surprised by how much I wanted it to stay up. The origami had lasted, but was never going to have any longevity - but the wheatpastes were all pristine and looked amazing. Nonetheless, after the festival was over we spent hours scraping away the artwork and eventually painting over it all. (LEARNING POINT: it's virtually impossible to scrape wheatpastes off an uneven bobbly surface. Don't waste your time, just paint over the lot!) This was also an interesting experience, as again we had passersby stopping to ask what we were doing - mostly in dismay.
'Is it the council making you take it down?! They always get rid of the things people love!'
'Why are you taking it down - it's amazing!'
'I'd leave it up if I were you - everyone loves it!'