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The Ark by Beth Derbyshire

Date uploaded: May 13, 2013

The Ark
Beth Derbyshire
Leeds – Liverpool canal, Pennine Lancashire
23 May – 8 June 2013

Beth Derbyshire presents The Ark (2013), a moving sculpture comprising a wooden structure resembling the typical terraced housing of Pennine Lancashire, placed upon a narrow boat. Inside, newly commissioned films explore the industrial and cultural heritage of the region. Travelling from Blackburn to Brierfield down the Leeds – Liverpool canal during May and June, The Ark will stop at communities along the way in a celebration of the diversity and heritage of Pennine Lancashire landscape and cultures.

Seen from the tow path, The Ark appears as a wooden house floating on a boat, representing the housing style so abundant in Pennine Lancashire. The sides of the house are intricately cut into shapes referencing Islamic textile patterns, and the main wall is carved in a paisley pattern, a droplet-shaped vegetable motif of Persian or Indian origin. Symbolising the influx of South Asian immigrants who came to Lancashire in the 1960s and 70s to work in the textile industry, The Ark merges these patterns with the domestic aesthetic of the industrial north.

The roof of The Ark is a living meadow, a symbol of the flower-rich grasslands of the region’s disused quarries, a contrast with the factories and mills it passes on its journey down the canal. The Ark reflects on the historical purpose of the canal as an industrial pathway that transported local materials and linked communities together, leaving a rich social, cultural and historic legacy in the area.

Housed inside this structure is a film wall showing five newly commissioned films, The Keepers, following a series of local people, ranging from fell runners, steam operatives, a former mill worker, a park officer, a heritage enthusiast, an Asian interpreter and a retired teacher who all have a special connection to the area. Their narratives take the viewer on a journey exploring how their stories inextricably link them to the surrounding landscape.

Beth Derbyshire, lead artist of The Ark, said: ‘The Ark is an emblem that appears across Christian and Muslim religions and is presented as a universal identifier of hope that captures and preserves memories and stories that relate to both the communities, history and landscape of the region. The Ark embraces themes of shelter, home, cultural import and rites of passage liberating oral histories and reflections on personal journeys from people who have grown up in the area and working with the new incoming communities that have settled in Lancashire during last 50 years. The Ark celebrates the industry, natural resources and communities that have shaped and been shaped by the natural landscape of the region.’

Beth Derbyshire is a multi-disciplinary visual artist working in innovative ways in the public realm, embracing subjects such as war, remembrance, nationality, identity and environment. In 2012 she presented the Rootless Forest in Birmingham and the Black Country, a mobile artwork comprising of a mini-forest made of real trees and soil planted on a boat that travelled along the Birmingham Canals. In 2005 her acclaimed project Message involved 45 veterans of World War II, The Falklands, Gulf War and other conflict signalling messages by semaphore from HMS Belfast to Horseguard’s Parade in London, marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. She is currently Wheatley Fellow at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design.

Currents, a programme of artists’ talks and events will take place at each location to explore the themes of the project and will use the Ark as their hub.

The Ark will be moored in the following locations:

Blackburn Town Centre.
Outside Blackburn Town Hall, King William Street, Blackburn. Thursday 23 – Saturday 25 May. 11am-5pm.

Canal in Clayton-le-Moors
Tuesday 28 May. 12-5pm.

Burnley Town Centre
Vitry Square, Grimshaw Street. BB11 2BD. Saturday 1 – Monday 3 June. 11am-5pm (Cont'd)

Canal in Brierfield
Thursday 6 – Saturday 8 June. 12-5pm.

In between these times the Ark can be seen making its way down the Leeds – Liverpool canal.

Click here for more information on the project, associated events and full schedule.

Click here to download the poster highlighting the events.(127 KB)

The Ark, Image courtesy of Queen and Crawford.

The Ark, Image courtesy of Queen and Crawford.