Heather and Ivan Morison
Tideway Artists in Residence for 2018-2019
When you dig, you find things, and if you don’t you still find earth, clay, mud, soil, stone and then you can make something.
We will begin with site visits, meeting staff members, understanding the plans, materials, construction, ecology, geotechnics, archaeology, history. We will read around the notion of tunnelling and digging, starting with science fiction, poetry and philosophy. We will convene meetings and present our work, lines of enquiry, and ask questions. We will then weave and leak our thoughts, observation, images, conversations and discoveries into our studio in Herefordshire, where they will mix into the artistic processes and whirl around with other art works, projects and thoughts.
Then we will make something that connects this artistic process, the tunnel and the people in it and above it.
Heather and Ivan Morison
Studio Morison (Heather Peak and Ivan Morison) were selected as Tideway’s second Artist-in-Residence in June 2018. They were tasked with exploring the theme of ‘digging’, reflecting Tideway’s commencement of tunnelling in late 2018 and the peak of construction which was reached by the end of 2019. Heather and Ivan were invited to actively consider the projects’ huge workforce and scale of construction.
They spent 12 months visiting Tideway offices and sites, talking to people, reading, and gathering ideas, in order to get an understanding of the Tunnel’s construction and get to know some of the people involved in the undertaking of such a project, including geologists, miners, engineers, archivists, actors, welders, construction workers, archaeologists, project managers, landscape architects, architects, crane operatives and the communications team. Amongst the evocative and fantastical information shared with the artists were accounts of a skeleton unearthed during the tunnelling process; discoveries of long forgotten drains, jetties and a canoe; wonderment of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s flamboyant banquet, held beneath the River Thames and depicted in George Jones’ painting of c.1827; and learning of the presence of small statue of Santa Barbara – the Patron Saint of Tunnels, Explosions and Sudden Death.
The artists’ intention was to create an artwork that was ceremonial and celebratory, taking the geology, and the hole and dirt of the tunnel as a starting point. They arrived at the idea of a series of commemorative bone china cups, based on a geological sample of rock extracted from beneath the Thames. By taking a mould from this piece of rock, they were then able to create a series of casts in clay. Part sculpture, part performance and part functioning cup – the artwork is intended to tell the story of the tunnel being built under our feet, it will invite the owner to stop and take tea, it will stand as a symbol of the poetry of civic engineering and it will be a rather special souvenir and gift.
There are six versions of the cup, each commemorating one of the main tunnel drives on the Tideway project and its corresponding tunnel boring machine (Millicent, Annie, Ursula, Selina, Charlotte and Rachel) with a label on a fabric blanket that tells the story of the cup and how it relates to the project. Each cup has a slightly different glaze finish, with colouring that alludes to the distinct range of rock types below the Thames, to make it unique and differentiate it from the others.
The label for one cup read as follows:
This commemorative cup is an arts commission to celebrate the completion of the Drive A section of the Thames Tideway Tunnel by the tunnel boring machine Millicent. The cup is cast from a piece of rock extracted from the tunnel itself and is one of six variations, each one marking the completion of different parts of the overall tunnel and given to those who worked beneath and above ground in this remarkable historic feat. We commend and celebrate your work.
With thanks from Tideway
All 2000 cups have now been made and will be distributed to those involved in the construction of the tunnel as excavation of each section of tunnel is completed.