Last year I nominated the Minefield Control Tower at Holiwell Point as a site for an artistic intervention as part of New Geographies.
New Geographies’ aim is to create a new map of the East of England based on personal thoughts, reflections and stories of unexplored or over-looked places, rather than on historic or economical centres. During Summer of 2017, we invited the public to nominate overlooked or forgotten places throughout Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk to add to this map. We received over 270 nominations.
This was the entry I wrote for the Minefield Control Tower:
At an isolated gateway to the East of England, this brutalist concrete relic of the Second World War remains a mute guardian of the Crouch estuary; a rare marker point for intrepid walkers taking the coastal path around the Dengie peninsula. Set against the empty backdrop of the arable flatlands stolen from the sea centuries before, it seems like the discarded helmet of a giant knight.
The blank visor now watches out for migrating birds and North Sea swells that might bring coastal inundations. As the climate changes and the waters rise, this abandoned piece of armour poses questions about what we defend and when we retreat.
After receiving nominations they put out an open call to artists to submit proposals in response to these locations to create artworks inspired by them. After selection ten new commissions will be delivered over the next two years.
Last week they suggested that an announcement was imminent, so I thought I’d stick this up now – not least because all the nominations appear authorless on the New Geographies site, already displaced from the people who submitted them. Hopefully, the nominators of the chosen sites will receive some acknowledgment, public art projects too often ditch the actual public early on.
The next New Geographies event, ‘Creating Change How communities and artists can work together‘ (March Town Hall, Cambridgeshire; 10 June) seems designed to address something of this, promising to bring ‘together artists of international standing alongside grassroots projects which make a meaningful impact on the infrastructure of small towns and cities.’ The vent also promises to include time for ‘artists, curators, developers, arts organisations and locals… to contribute to an open and informal discussion about how we can join forces to support a creative ecosystem for public developments in our towns, villages and cities.’
I’m not sure about the idea of ‘art as infrastructure’, nor using the metaphor of ecosystems without explicitly addressing the reality of ecosystems, but the blurb for an event cannot contain all the complexities it will contain – so perhaps there will be more ecological consciousness evident on the day.
ps The other Dengie-ish site nominations are the Chapel of St Peter-On-The-Wall,
Bradwell-on-Sea; the ‘petrified forest’ at Mundon; and Wallasea Island.
pps If any artist chooses the Minefield Control Tower, I’m calling House! and claiming a prize if they dutifully reflect on Paul Virilo’s Bunker Archaeology in their accompanying text.