5000 Postcards on Breeze Block plinth. Image shows the remaining furnace at Altos Hornos de Vizcaya in Sestao (The Basque Country, North Spain), soon to be restored as a Heritage Park. Created for the exhibition Ghosts in Armour Elements: 3 at The National Waterfront Museum, Swansea in November 2009.
SENTINEL – “You’d never know”
A Preliminary Proposal for Ghosts in Armour Elements 3 by James Milne and Kenneth Trayner
Heritage operations are attempts to displace Time. They try to preserve a “pocket” of a disappearing industrial area (for example) physical, with us, available. They want to offer the Present and the Future a glimpse of the Past, denying the disappearance of an entire World, promising the possibility of understanding and appreciation (if only in fragments).
The Sestao Furnace is a remnant of the vast complex that once occupied a large expanse of land in an important Industrial region. Until it became a POST-INDUSTRIAL REGION, an ICONIC CULTURAL CENTRE, a growing TOURIST ECONOMY, an area that will benefit from REGENERATION, and so on.
The Furnace structure itself has witnessed the decline and erasure of its own environment. Silently, it has watched the physical changes in the landscape around it. Without comment, it has observed the consequences; their effects on the identity of the region and the people who live there.
We propose to reproduce an original image of the Furnace, as it stands today, as a die-cut “novelty” postcard. So the postcard itself will share the shape of the structure, stripping the image of its original context.
Every card produced will be presented on a small plinth in the exhibition space. Visitors will be free to take as many copies as they wish, until none remain, revealing either a map or an annotated aerial photograph of the site on the surface of the plinth.
Our aim is to communicate the concept of the structure as witness by introducing a specific structure into the lives of visitors to the exhibition. Rather than creating a work which replicates or reflects the scale and complexity of the changes in the Basque Region we will reproduce the image of an object which has witnessed them first hand. The image can then, in turn, witness changes in the lives of those who carry it away from the museum. In this way it will be injected into a separate culture experiencing its own Industrial decline.
For many people in the Sestao area the final Furnace is an object of nostalgia, a memory receptacle, having been so present throughout their lives.
SENTINEL – “You’d never know” proposes to reproduce this for anyone wishing, for whatever reason, to take the structure into their own life.
ON REFLECTION, the key strength of Centinela/Sentinel was its sculptural presentation, since the slow but inevitable disappearance of the postcards which composed it mirrored/reflected the loss of similar structures across Europe.