Henrietta Armstrong: Future Archaeology

Artist Henrietta Armstrong has been commissioned by In-Situ and Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership to produce a semi-permanent sculptural installation at Pendle Hill Summit. The work, a circle of carved concrete stones partially buried around the Trig point, will be installed in Spring 2019. Here she talks about her ideas behind the project and how it connects with her work around future archaeology.

The Pendle Hill Summit sculptures represent the meeting of man and nature – the anthropocene. The eight cube-like sculptures are cast from concrete made with cement sourced from a local quarry at the foot of Pendle Hill. The cube, seemingly out of place amongst nature’s backdrop, yet itis one of the most common and simplest shapes found in crystals and minerals. Edges or corners of the sculptures are cut away in places and this conveys the natural process of weathering and erosion from exposure to the elements.

Engravings on each of the eight sculptures reference aspects of Pendle Hill and humanity.

Contour lines, a familiar site on the maps used by walkers, echo the geography of the area and contours of the hill itself. Cell patterns of the Sphagnum moss, as seen under a microscope, are a homage to the moss that has compacted over thousands of years to form the layers of peat on the hill. Fossils point to the hidden geology and history of the hill.

Echinoids, belemnites, Crinoidea and ammonites, fossilised sea creatures linking us to a time when Pendle would have been underwater, are common in the bedrock that Pendle Hill is formed from. The honeycomb pattern honours bees and the insects who pollinate the plants on the hill, as well as the crops globally that we are so reliant on.

Ring & cup petroglyphs, one of the earliest forms of prehistoric art, relate to the earliest settlers on Pendle Hill, 12,000 years ago. The communication stone represents mankind and the many ways of communicating we have developed through time and different cultures.

The warp and weft of woven fabric on the weaving loom refers to the cotton industry, as it has had such an important role in the history and development of the Pendle area, particularly Burnley, King Cotton, which was once the cotton capital of the world.

The Moon and constellations relate to the universe and how everything has its place in the grand scheme of things. Nature can often make us realise how insignificant we are in its midst. Constellations also reference the seasons and also link to Richard Towneley the astrologer who conducted experiments on the hill.

The four sculptures that mark North, South, East and West, will be carved from locally sourced limestone and will be a half sphere. At the centre of each of these is a well, the sphere and the well in the centre symbolise a human egg, the beginning of all human journeys. The well is a space where visitors are invited to pick up the last stone left in the well and leave their own, thus creating a conversation between them and the last person on the hill. This subtly feeds into the existing tradition of people creating Cairns, piles of stones, as path markers. These sculptures will also mark the Ley lines that run from North to South and East to West. The well also will act as a rainwater collector for birds and dogs to drink from.

The circle or ring that the stones will form around the trig hold the simple yet rich connotations of continuity, life and cyclic time, referencing infinity, the sun and moon, perfection and completion amongst other things. The ring links to unity, hope and trust, something the suffragists, the quakers and other radicals from the area were always working towards. 

The Pendle Hill Summit Stones will be on display at The Garage, and then there will be taken to the top of the hill. After this, in March 2019 the Pendle Hill Summit Stones will be installed on Pendle Hill & the entirety of them will not be seen again in our lifetime. Like archaeology in reverse, buried with the intention of being found, they will be set into place around the trig point and buried in the ground so only the top surface is visible. The main body of the sculptures concealed underground, not to be seen again completely until the ground slowly erodes around them and the stones are gradually exposed once more to the Pendle of the future. There will be a message to the future engraved on the stones that has been decided through workshops and talking to people in the Pendle area. The chosen message will never be written anywhere, only people that see the stones before they are embedded, at the final procession or one of the other opportunities to see them, will know what this message is. It will then be hidden from sight once the stones are set into place and covered with earth, lying in wait to be passed on to the future.

Pendle Hill Summit Stones is a commission by In-Situ as part of The Gatherings programme for Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership. This commission is funded by LEADER Trust.

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