Making Conversation visits All That Is Solid Melts Into Air
Facilitated by Gemma Lacey
'All That Is Solid Melts Into Air' is part document of the heavy industry and working conditions brought on by the Industrial revolution, part exploration of the ways in which people responded to the changes with organised politics, art and song. It also charts some of the legacy of the industry and how those responses developed to become the politics, society and culture that we know today.
Gemma explained that she would take us down one of the clearest paths Deller had laid through the exhibition, that being the link between what has come before us, what is around us and how we respond to it all through art and most specifically music.
With this in mind, the first activity, before visiting the exhibition was to share inheritance tracks with each other. Splitting into pairs we shared a song or piece of music we’d inherited from our family or past and a song we’d leave to others from our own time.
After this we visited the exhibition. Gemma gave a brief description of the wider gallery content before we split into 2 groups to explore:
1. the jukebox that stands against a wall painted with a great ball of fire and spews forth factory recordings and broadside songs from the industrial revolution.
2.the story of James Sharples the Blacksmith boy, who as a self-taught artist painted and then etched his working life for others to see. We explored the visual connections between the working environments in his depictions and the album cover of ‘Unleashed in the East’ by Judas Priest. We talked about how the identity of the band can be seen as a progression in the wake of the heavy metal industries. Many commented on how forward thinking Sharples must have been to see the worth in documenting his life.
Once returned to the studio space and settled with tea Gemma quoted the record producer Martin Hammet from the exhibition catalogue
'I was struck years ago by a room full of air compressors in the Ferranti factory that were banging out this astonishing, four in a bar bass drum rhythm - I just stood in the centre of the room for hours'
To illustrate the quote we were introduced to drawing to music, an activity familiar to some and new to others. In line with the theme participants were given the choice to work with aluminium plate, soft wire, hammers,nails and sharp mark making tools.
We proceeded to draw, beat, scratch, drag, form to the following sound clips:
Working Looms in mill,
Broadside song ‘No more I’ll lay my bobbins down’ sung by Jennifer Reid,
'Metal Gods' by Judas Priest.
The general consensus was that drawing with tools and metal was hard work but also quite cathartic.
Once finished we handed the plates around to share the feel of the different techniques used and responses made.
We talked about our emotional and physical responses to the sound clips and the conversation led on to working rhythms. At this point a table of percussive instruments and noise making objects was brought forward and participants were encouraged to find a sound and rhythm that spoke of their present time or past.
Once found each noise was then performed and explained to the group before we played and heard one at a time and then altogether.
Many commented that the jukebox had been the highlight of the show and shared memories of times and places where jukeboxes had been more prevalent. Recognising that the jukebox itself was born out of and saw it’s decline through the developments in industry.