2024 Festival Dates: 6 & 7 July

Art In Manufacturing Q&A: Liz Wilson and Spiroflow

30th April 2019

In a series of interviews, we speak to the five artists immersing themselves in industry to produce brand new work for the third instalment of The National Festival of Making’s Art In Manufacturing series, alongside the manufacturing firm they’ve been paired with.

Liz Wilson’s is the first artist working purely in the realms of digital art to take up residency at a manufacturer, with her multimedia work encompassing visuals, whether static or moving, as well as explorations into sound. Only recently she has had work seen at Taoxichuan Museum of Art, China and Parc de la Villette, Paris. Spiroflow based in both Clitheroe and North Carolina, is the industry leader in the field of bulk materials handling, manufacturing mechanical conveyors, bulk bag fillers and more bulk bag for industries including food processing, pharmaceutical, chemical and dairy.

Here, Liz and Eleanor Spensley, Marketing Manager at Spiroflow, give answers in an Art In Manufacturing Q&A.

Welcome to the third season of the Art In Manufacturing collaborative art commissions. Tell us about you or your company and how you’ve become involved.

Liz Wilson: Using site visits as a catalyst to research, write and produce works, I have become captivated by the stretch of time between the industrial and post-industrial. I was instantly drawn to Art in Manufacturing as it provides a unique platform for an artist to generate works in partnership with a manufacturer. This distinctive residency celebrates the diverse nature in which manufacturing operates, focusing on both traditional techniques and the future of manufacturing through the use of automation.

Eleanor Spensley: “We were involved in The National Festival of Making last year when we took some of our equipment to demonstrate how powder and bulk solids are transferred via mechanical conveyors. Because of this the festival organisers were aware of what we did and thought we would be a good fit for one of the artists.”

What is it about that has drawn you as an artist/manufacturer, from what you know so far and perhaps of previous years’ collaborations?

ES: “I think we are drawn to the unknown. We and the artist have no idea what this relationship is going to bring and I think that is really exciting. Some of the amazing work created in previous years really celebrates those manufacturers and I know Liz will do her best to celebrate us!”

I think we are drawn to the unknown. We and the artist have no idea what this relationship is going to bring and I think that is really exciting.

LW: “I feel that The National Festival of Making will be instrumental in providing me with the time and resources to develop new working relationships, networks and opportunities which will be central to the production of new works, in particular opening up dialogues with the local community. The research undertaken will also enable me to provide insights into the emergence of technology and the resulting ecologies that surround production, in particular automated systems and how they are altering our relationship with machines.”

Have you ever taken part in a project of this nature before?

LW: “Through the exploration of monuments and artefacts, my practice often involves spending time within workings factories and heritage sites to explore how technology and automation have altered our perceptions of production, duplication and labour. I am particularly interested in the human-machine relationship of both ‘conductor’ and ‘orchestra’ and these performative roles manifest during the process of manufacturing. An earlier work of mine titled ‘The Rhythm Machine’ explores these notions using modulated voices, factory transformations and animations, which culminated in a multi-channel video installation.”

ES: “We have never been involved with something like this before which is why we couldn’t pass up such a unique opportunity.”

What are the most important things your collaborator should know about you or your company before things get underway on ‘day one’?

ES: We are a global company with a family business feel. We strive to be leaders in our industry while giving excellent customer service.

LW: At the very core of my practice, new works are initiated through investigations into elastic tension of the industrial and post-industrial. It is through this that I open up dialogues with communities and collaborate as much as possible to activate a new work. I therefore feel that is important to engage, listen and respond in a way that collectively brings together these elements into a work.

What opportunities do you predict the Art In Manufacturing collaboration will bring to you or your organisation?

LW: Ultimately I feel the collaboration will be invaluable in providing the time and resources to research, write and produce new works centered on some of the most innovative and exciting developments in manufacturing. This will be pivotal in enabling me to produce a body of work, which recognises the changing face of the industrial landscape through the lens of technology and automation. In an area of the UK that has a rich industrial heritage, I am excited to establish strong working relationships with employees and the surrounding communities.

ES: I think this collaboration will bring out the beauty of what we do at Spiroflow. Everyone here has such an important role in making our company successful and this needs to be celebrated.

How do you see productive, creative or other impacts developing, or have developed, between the art and manufacturing worlds?

ES: I don’t think it is an unusual meeting at all. Da Vinci always merged mechanics with art in his work such as the design for a helicopter. I think this festival is just highlighting this historical link for the present day. Art finds the beauty in anything, and there is plenty of beauty in manufacturing!

Art finds the beauty in anything, and there is plenty of beauty in manufacturing.

LW: I currently hold the position of Sessional Lecturer & Printmaking Technician at the University for the Creative Arts. Here I run a workshop comprised of printing presses originally designed for mechanical reproduction and mass dissemination. These presses, which can still be utilised for this particular function, become extremely interesting when they are used as tools for creativity and experimentation. Similarly so, when the intention of something is removed, altered or interrupted this is when something fascinating happens during the creative process. As we continue to pursue automation through the evolution of the machine, I am confident that the repurposed and refurbished artefacts from our global scrapyards will continue to be used as tools within the creative process.

What making tool / piece of equipment you / your company cannot work without?

LW: I have many pieces of equipment that I work closely with, however for this particular residency I will need continuous access to video editing software such as Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects. This will enable me to edit, manipulate and create video content for the multi-channel video installation. I also work with a range of analogue AV equipment as a tool for experimentation and manipulation, and particularly enjoy the unpredictable outcomes that this produces.

ES: The people. As I have said before, everyone in the company plays such a vital role in the company to make us so successful. The skills and knowledge we have under one roof are just astounding!

What are they key stages of the daily routine in your artist’s studio, Liz?

LW: As a mixed media artist, my approach in the studio can be quite changeable dependent on the materials and processes I am using. However for this particular commission I intend to create a digital response in the form of a multi-channel video installation. Therefore I will be spending a lot of time documenting, recording and editing video and sound. I find this approach to working quite stimulating as it requires me to work in multiple locations and in different conditions. This can often lead to serendipitous outcomes within the process of making new work.

Tell us three things you know or have recently found out about Blackburn.

LW: Blackburn is where my ancestors worked in the paper mills in the last half of the nineteenth century. Blackburn is one of only a few towns in the country to have its own cathedral.  Blackburn is home to one of countries largest CD producers, PDO.

Visit Liz Wilson at www.lizwilson.work
Visit Spiroflow at www.spiroflow.com



2019 Trusts & Foundations

The National Festival Of Making Delivery Team

National Festival of Making is supported by the Arts Council England, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Brian Mercer Trust and Foundations and Partners. This project is part-funded by the UK government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

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