Raising our own Grand Design

by Katie Anderson

Tessa Lynch’s Raising stands on high ground, looking out across Jupiter Artland to the hills beyond. The scene is created with a black stage on which a series of acts are performed. These are not performed solely by the artist, but collectively and collaboratively, by a small team of volunteers.

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As with most sited artworks (new word I’m trying out, it’s not exactly site-specific, this work could be taken anywhere but relates to the space it has been set in, in a manner integral to the work), it begins with the journey to the site. Mine found me hopelessly lost and entangled in the capitals warren of a one way system, attempting to pick up some friends and fellow aspiring builders from Waverley Train Station. We arrived, late and I, flustered and slightly shakey into the relative peace and greenery of the park grounds.

In our absence, Gail and Chris had been nominated the days new houseowners, and the nominated architects were pouring over a model of our stage set, suggesting altertions to gather the best views, a mix of intimate and open spaces… Our inner Kevin Mccloud was out, and restless. We drank tea (builders strength) and ate biscuits and mapped out the hearth of Gail and Chris’ new home.

The foreman nominated, and the hard hats doled out, the build began in earnest. The pieces of Raising, like a modern day kit house, slot and bolt together, suggesting and hinting at space as much as creating it. Each panel had been pre-designed to take advantage of light, views, privacy, shelter. The platform on which Raising was built was the area of the average modern home and although the structure very much lay within the conceptual realms of a house, very quickly members of the team became absorbed in the creation of rooms, “how many bedrooms do you want?” Idealised contemporary living still slipped through our kit house construction.

The piece was in part inspired by an old law, stating that if a house could be built and smoke drawn up the chimney in a day, it was exempt from taxation, and so within the hour Chris slotted the final piece into place and set about creating warm and flaming heart of the home. We toasted the house with cups of mead, in which builders were often paid at one time and gathered for a time in our scaled-up model. Amongst our group were art graduates, design students and a primary school teacher, and Tessa spoke of the mix of volunteers they had experienced over the summer – as each weekend, the structure is taken down and rebuilt by a new collective.

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The group dispersed naturally until we were the last standing exposed to the elements, neither inside nor out, looking outwards but also in, as we eventually stepped back to view the work from the top of Jenck’s landforms. Raising mysteriously vanished into the background from the distance, and only when nearing approach stood out, abstracted without the inhabitants into a series of grids and frames. From a hive of activity to a static creation, the power of this work was in the participation and collective creation and less of the objective observer or spectator.

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