A new public art installation opens in St Helens this month
Where Things Are Different is a project that attempts to place equal credence between the logic of fiction and the logic of fact within the context of community.
Photographer Stephen King has met and worked closely with members and groups of St Helens post-industrial communities to unearth the shared experience that resides within these displaced workforces.
King attempts to illustrate overlapping anecdotal fragments from close-knit St Helens communities and the tall-tales that emanate from the shop-floor. Focusing upon the experiences that aren’t documented in the form of books or curated in museums, but ones that only exist upon the lips of the people.
The project’s launch is at the World of Glass on Thursday, January 25 5.30pm to 7.30pm. Tickets are available here
One of the team from The Heart of Glass spoke to Stephen about the project and how a nice cup of tea and a sit down has led to some magical story telling and a set of unique images.
Where did the idea behind the project come from?
It came about quite naturally really, I wanted to undertake a collaborative project in St Helens and obviously there are many issues that I could look at in the borough, but the more I thought about what was the one thing that draws together differing communities. That was the towns workforces
How have you enjoyed meeting people and hearing their tales?
It’s been great, it’s been hilarious, it’s been disturbing, it’s been sad and it’s been uplifting.
The groups and individuals I have met and chatted with have just been so open and supportive of the project and have shared everything from workplace banter to sensitive family experiences. There was a lot of tea and biscuits put away!
I’ve had great support throughout the project from people just giving me a little time to talk, to people donating props. People have been coming back time after time to help with the shoots and taking part in performing in some of the representations.
How does the process work, from meeting people for the first time to the final artwork?
The whole bedrock of the process is the initial chat. Generally, in groups of 5-10 we sit around drinking tea and begin a conversation.
From there it usually just runs by itself and the stories and memories begin to get fired around. The conversations are recorded and then transcribed into a text. In this form, it’s quite simple to get a birds-eye-view of reoccurring themes and issues to focus upon.
It was always the idea that the text can be edited into a collection of anecdotes that the participants could have at a later date.
Is the work based on historical fact?
I’m sure that some are historically factual, but I’m also sure that the foundations of some are built on sand.
That is the nature of an anecdote, its usually passed on. These tales from the shop-floor, or of childhood are generally remembered and retold through a filter dependant on where or who its being told to.
The fact that a story is being told and shared is enough for me, it has already created a new space of its own.
How will the work be presented to the public?
The photographs will be large scale lightboxes that will hang off the pipes of The Hotties just above the water level of the canal.
It was important that we secured this location, it’s historical and industrial relevance. It is a location steeped in folklore in the form of tropical fish!
Who will the work be for?
The work is for everyone who has any connection in any way to St Helens or anyone who enjoys storytelling, the images are not direct depictions of events or happenings but hopefully just constructed spaces where you can reflect and maybe expand upon threads of fact and fiction and it doesn’t matter.