Lydia Heath (2015)

Lydia Heath
Chasing Shadows

During my time in Brierfield I aimed to develop two lines of enquiry. Firstly the idea of time as currency, exploring what can be achieved when time is given to learning or acquiring something directly, rather than having an abstracted relationship by purchasing it from an intermediary source. Secondly, what part can art play in inviting others to imagine alternative futures for society rather than the capitalist model we currently have?

Most of my time in Brierfield was spent at Northlight mill, investigating the surroundings and making a series of site-specific responses. In the past, each room within the factory effectively had its own eco system, with the temperature and humidity meticulously regulated to ensure the machines worked efficiently.


The bandages would also undergo various sanitization processes using steam; water was an integral part of the building’s history. It is interesting to see how now, in its dilapidated state, other eco systems have started to emerge – pigeons have moved in, moss and algae grow in abundance, and weeds spill out of every possible crack.


The water wheel installation on the bridge makes reference to how the site could be used as a resource for alternative energy production and was inspired by the site manager’s calculations of how much rainwater travels off the roof. I had already been researching how to harvest rainwater and make filtration systems before coming to Brierfield, it therefore seemed fitting to attempt to make my own and contribute to this ongoing conversation.

Through conversation with the site manager Paul Fyles, and other local artists, I started to explore other parts of the site’s ecology and how these could be harnessed to produce alternative resources. Pigeon droppings can be used for a variety of things such as tanning, explosives and fertilizer – so I spent a day collecting the droppings and began the composting process with what was compiled. A convection heating system using old beer cans that Paul had designed was finally realised, and makeshift clocks were marked out and built using shadows and gravity.


In addition to my investigations at the mill, local artist and In-Situ director Kerry Morrison introduced me to the abundance of edible resources on brownfield sites around the town. This resulted in taking part in community foraging walks, brewing new tea recipes and making paper using local weeds. Part of the idea of using time as currency involves learning new skills and performing that act of learning publicly. On this occasion I performed some of these things within the Brierfield Action in the Community space and engaged people in conversation about sustainability and reconnecting with everyday processes.

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