I’ve been back on campus at Lancaster University this week installing the final part of my temporary artwork, Parallaxis, a series of window installations along the Spine – the main walkway through the university campus. Having had some time away from the project, it’s been good to be immersed in it again and to have the space to reflect on the experience of working on the Spine project.
One of the (many) aspects of this project that appealed when I saw it advertised was the chance to get to know the university. I’ve lived in Lancaster for six years, but I didn’t study at the university, and have only visited occasionally for exhibitions and concerts. So having a ‘legitimate’ reason to spend a lot of time on the campus, meet researchers and work as part of a team with the department that commissioned the work, was really exciting.
The Spine was designed by Gabriel Epstein in the sixties to provide a walkway through the length of the campus, bring people together, encourage conversation and create a lively combination of spaces that are occupied throughout the day and evening. Academic, administration, commercial, residential and service buildings sit side by side, which gives it a bit of a high street feel.
The Spine has its own rhythm, much of which I haven’t experienced, as I’ve been working on campus over the summer break, but I’ve enjoyed the way the pace of life varies according to the time of day and what events are happening. I’m looking forward to visiting during Welcome Week when the students arrive and it becomes much busier.
It’s been an interesting way to get to know a place – I’ve spent much of my time on the Spine installing work on the windows, so a lot of what I’ve seen of the campus was by way of the window reflections. But… the windows are very reflective, and, with my back to the flow of people along the Spine, I’ve seen and heard a lot. I felt the anxiety that was flying about on results day and the nervous excitement of the 17 year olds and their parents who visited on open days. I’ve chatted to lecturers, cleaners, students, porters, visitors, caterers and many others; being stationed on the Spine all day does indeed seem to encourage conversation. I’ve enjoyed talking to people about my work and what they see in it, their own research, their experiences of the campus and life in Lancaster. Sometimes I felt invisible and sometimes far too visible; I’m a natural observer, so the ‘spectacle’ aspect of installing work in public places doesn’t come easily to me. But that occasional discomfort is worth it for the connections with people and unique perspective and insight into a place that come with it. It’s been a treat, and I hope I find other reasons to be back on campus in the future.
Here are some photos of the most recent installations, with lots of views and reflections of the campus…