SPARK #22: Lively Objects

6 April 2024 / 11-14:30

This SPARK network session at Paradise Works will explore the agency of water along the River Irwell; leading from Salford into Irlam where Little Woolden Moss tributaries seep into it. We will look at the river as a ‘hyperobject’, learning how different sections of the river have different values, exploring Salford’s industrial heritage through waste left within the river and Little Woolden Moss peat land renovation through plants found within the wetland.

The session will start with an informative talk on the heritage and ecology of sections of the river. Afterwards, we will physically and visually explore the sites through a ‘bog in a box’ and a walk along a stretch of the Irwell outside Paradise Works, collecting found objects and sketching.

Reflecting on what we have learnt, we will enter the practical side of the session, participating in a playful phenomenological intervention led by Fiona Brehony that invites us to explore relationships to waterways using creative writing exercises. The force and vibrancy of the River Irwell (as physical river and time-capsule containing heritage) is a great opportunity to use embodied approaches to understand the scale of the river. ‘Phenomenology’ here refers to the engagement of phenomena (the river) as directly experienced.

We will playfully engage in possibilities of being and being with the river; connecting personal objects used to serve a tangible human experience, with seemingly intangible ‘hyperobjects’. The hyperobject is complex and challenging to grasp since it is of huge magnitude. The term refers to things that are hugely spread out through space and time relative to our human scale. ‘Hyperobject’ could be used to refer to black holes and the Solar System; it could also refer to all the nuclear material on Earth, the plastic in the ocean, all the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, or global heating. Hyperobjects are real entities whose full reality is ungraspable by humans; the more we know of ‘hyperobjects’, the less we understand. The philosopher Timothy Morton, who coined the term, refers to them as ‘strange strangers’, whose monumental scale makes them seem like an illusion. Here, we will playfully try to connect with the hyperobject under the notion that ‘everything is connected’, asking – how do the objects we use in our daily lives impact the larger world around us?

The session will finish with a sculptural workshop led by Anna Clough and Nicole Sheppard. Working collaboratively as a group, and encouraging conversation, we will create a landscape based in clay. This will hold the found objects which have been collected on the day outside Paradise Works and brought from Little Woolden Moss by Anna and NIcole. This part of the session will ask us to imagine how animals may live within both environments. We’ll think about vessels and mounds and how water affects them, exploring them through shape, depth, texture and height.

Please bring an object from your home, and food for a shared lunch.

If you have any access requirements, please let us know and we’ll do our best to accommodate them.

If you’d like to come, please register on Eventbrite

Anna Clough works across film, sculpture and walking performances. She is based at Paradise Works, Manchester. Clough’s process is grounded in the northern rurality -aplace that exudes sublime emotion and holds reminders of industrial history within its ecosystem. In this context, she investigates the duality of subject and object through the language of different materials.

She was awarded the Howarth Trust Studio Bursary at Paradise Works 2023-2024 and has recently produced a solo show ‘The Earth is Warm’ at Air Gallery Altrincham. Clough works as a graduate teaching assistant on Manchester Metropolitan Universities Fine Art Course.

Nicole Sheppard is a time-based and sculpture artist, based in Jersey, Channel Islands. She uses a range of materials, often found objects, fabric, natural dyes and concrete. Her work explores everyday materiality, taking inspiration from objects of industrial and agricultural usage alongside ecological heritage. In such she investigates the storied history of the land.

Recently Sheppard has created a shortdocumentary film exploring an abandoned waste disposal unit, holding 7 tonnes of waste plasterboard and carpet. She invites the viewer to observe the objects idle in the landscape. Following this Sheppard has also created two sculptural installations exploring the material lives of everyday objects, assemblingcomplex systems of material interaction and exchange creating unique environments.

Nicole is a New Contemporaries 2022 alumna and currently works as an Artist Educator in Jersey.

Fiona Brehony is a Manchester-based artist and writer, working within spaces between geography, documentary film, sound art and performance.

Since October 2023, Fiona has been working on an AHRC-funded PhD research project that engages in possibilities of rivers as Cultural Heritage, with a particular focus on river engagement in areas of regeneration.

Fiona’s personal values as a practitioner are entrenched with humanistic approaches to discovering ways of making environments more equitable. She is passionate about life and in exploring ways lived experiences can be filled with light and playfulness. This is the way she approaches all work.

The SPARK network was set up by Castlefield Gallery in 2022 to facilitate a Greater Manchester/North West-based network of artists wanting to intervene in the climate crisis. The gallery initiated SPARK in response to the high demand for places on the 2021/22 SUSTAIN programme focussed on low carbon artmaking. The SPARK sessions are intended to help seed a new Greater Manchester/North West-based network of artists working in low carbon ways.

SPARK #22 follows on from the first twenty one SPARK sessions at Manchester Art Gallery, Rogue, The Birley (Preston), Eccles Friends Meeting House, Manchester Museum, AIR Gallery, Paradise Works, Editional Studio, Cadishead and Little Woolden Moss, Gallery Oldham and the John Rylands Library. SPARK recently had a group exhibition, also called SPARK, and events programme at Rogue Studios.

Image: Little Woolden Moss – photo by Anna Clough/Nicole Sheppard