Research Topics and Speculation about Art and Public Space by Scottish artist Matt Baker

Sunday, 11 March 2012


A couple of posts back I started giving details of the 4 different installations that I am working on for Govan Riverside:
  1. Waymarkers
  2. Signs - I was given the chance to use some of the overall landscaping budget to develop new "Govan Riverside" signs for the Housing Scheme
  3. Honeycomb - this is a work that is being directed by my fellow artist on the project t s Beall
  4. on...
Govan - Place of Assembly (with great thanks to Tim Clarkson for the text)

More than 2000 years ago the ancient inhabitants of Govan construct an artificial hill beside the river. At this time Govan was a fording point over the Clyde – the earthwork marked this together with a sacred well - it is used for public ceremonies

 By 500 the Romans have gone – the Christian missionary St Constantine arrives in Govan and builds a small wooden church next to the well and in the shadow of the ceremonial hill. The first Christian Govanites are buried in the burial ground which now surround Govan Old parish church.
The people of Govan and the Clyde Valley in these early times are called 'Britons'. They're different from their neighbours, the Scots and Picts, and speak their own language. In this language the name 'Govan' means 'little hill'. 

756 - a combined army of Picts and English attacks Dumbarton and forces the Clyde Britons to surrender. The actual surrender probably takes place in a ceremony on the ancient hill of Govan.

870 Vikings sail up the Firth of Clyde to plunder the old fortress at Dumbarton. The king of the Britons is captured and killed. But the kingdom manages to survive, and the new king moves up the river to Govan, which becomes the heart of the kingdom. The kingdom itself gets a new name: Strathclyde.

Layout of Govan approx 870-1000 - the Hill is marked 4 in the diagram. The Govan Old Parish Church still stands on the site of the church in the diagram

1000 The kings of Strathclyde are at the height of their power. They rule as far south as the Solway Firth. They and their families worship at the old church of St Constantine at Govan and are buried in the churchyard, their graves being marked by finely carved ‘Hogback’ stones. The hill beside the river is used for important ceremonies, gatherings and pronouncements
1100-1600 Old customs die hard and the Govanites of medieval times continue to gather around their hill for public meetings and community events. Law and justice ('dooms') are still handed out at this special place. Local people call it the 'Doomster Hill' or simply 'The Hillock'.
Doomster Hill (towards left) in a drawing from 1756 (drawn from across the river Clyde)

 1840 the Doomster Hill has fallen into disuse - a water reservoir for Reid’s dye-works has been put on the top. Local historians start to take an interest and begin to record the stories still told about the Hill. ‘Govan Old’ the first shipbuilding yard in Govan is opened by McArthur and Stevenson next to Doomster Hill.

1900 Govan’s second era of greatness is at its height – the burgh is a international centre for shipbuilding…by the 1930’s more than 30% of the world’s shipping is ‘Clydebuilt’. Doomster Hill has been leveled to make space for the shipyards – no trace of it remains.

There has been much speculation about the exact location of Doomster Hill and it has been the subject of an archaeological dig (that failed to locate it). This is the most recent estimate of the position of its location.
Purple Circle to bottom right (NB the river has been narrowed significantly as it was deepened for the shipbuilding industry - hence Doomster Hill appears much further from the river than might be expected from contemporary illustrations)
It is clear from the archaeological evidence that the Riverside Housing Estate is built directly on top of the site of Doomster Hill....the only question is where exactly

Much of my work at Riverside has focused on re-invoking the power and significance of the land that people live on eg The Govan Raid and the Film Day .....through all the work so far I have been using a phrase that I wrote early in the project:

This was produced as a set of 1 inch badges that have been handed out throughout the project so far
 The phrase contains an extra 'is' which means it can be read in two ways either a historical statement of the significance of the land or as a statement of personal responsibility.

ASSEMBLY is a 3 part work that plays on the idea that the exact location of Doomster Hill is uncertain by suggesting that each of 3 sites is the 'probable site':

Each of the solid red areas in the diagram above is a the section of a circle (constructed in recycled cobbles found on the site) set into a landscaped grass mound:

the cobbled bases are being constructed on site currently:

These bases will now be part buried again so that they appear to be protruding from the landscape
The metal stack is being constructed from a mixture of Corten steel and cast iron - this part of the work was inspired by several overlaid ideas: 1. The 'axis mundi' concept of a significant point in the land being 'the axis of the world' - marked with a large 'pin'....2. the large numbers of tension bolts in buildings locally - used to stop walls from collapsing...literally holding things together....and 3. the materiality and skilled engineering of past eras in Govan - large sheets of rusted steel would have been a familiar part of the landscape.

Tension Bracket on BAE Shipyard wall - Govan 2011
1:2 foam maquette of the steel 'pins' (holes through steel plates not shown on this version of model)
Pattern for casting top section into Cast Iron - with lettering (500mm diameter) - thanks to Kenny and Darren in the pattern shop at Archibald Young
Detail of the pattern for the bronze cast plaque that will be set into the cobbled base - see sketch above
One for the analogue/digital is the way that I am converting my 'arty handmade curves' into digital files for cutting machinery with the Corten steel (don't laugh...I like to make my curves by eye..)

1:1 hardboard template photographed on white background with scale strip along long dimension
If the weather is kind we will be shaping the earthwork around the cobbled bases this week..more soon

No comments:

Post a Comment