Artist's Statement: Rachael Champion on quarrying at the National Stone Centre

| 04 September 2013

Artist’s Statement: Rachael Champion is a New York artist who enjoys working with building materials, plants and ambiguous found objects. For this weekend’s Wirksworth Festival in Derbyshire, she’s made Forced Landscape, a site-specific installation at the National Stone Centre...

A photo of a female ladder balancing on a stepladder to water an artificial green plant
Rachael Champion tending her installation, Carrying Capacity (2011) at the Zabludowicz Collection in Kentish Town© Richard Dawson
“I have never made a piece like this before. It's exciting to think about going into the ground to make sculpture as opposed to constructing something on top of a surface. It's an inverted sculpture.

The actual size and depth of the work was determined by what was happening in the ground where we decided to dig. It makes me feel like I'm collaborating with the grounds of the National Stone Centre.

I hope the sculpture is surprisingly deep to a viewer when they approach the work. The quarries surrounding Wirksworth have immense depths and heights depending on where you're standing.

There is something strange that happens…a kind of shift in scale when your body engages with the quarries. The surface of Wirksworth is teeming with holes, tunnels, peaks, steep hills, and passages all of which are a result of either an industrial human intervention for mineral working or a geological circumstance.

I hope that the works puts into question the notion that humans have a great impact on the formation of the landscape and are as responsible for the shape of things in Wirksworth as the limestone formations are from 330 million years ago.

The Wirksworth Festival interests me because the entire town becomes a venue. It is an unconventional way of experiencing artworks.

I am interested in the site-specificity of this opportunity and also the engagement the community has with the festival.

This is an artwork which penetrates the ground, forming a tapered sculptural cavity, clad in mosaic glass tiles and cement. It is influenced by the character of Middle Peak quarry, including its famous blue quarry lake.

My practice is engaged with a discourse relating to industry, technology and nature. The concepts behind Forced Landscape are motivated by these concerns.

I question the relationship humans have to the natural world and wonder about the boundaries and separations between the two. I have also made outdoor site-specific installations in the past, though none that have actually penetrated the ground.

My work begins with either a space or a material. There are ideas that exist throughout the practice but the initial response and point of departure for a work is more often determined by something physical.

A commission like Forced Landscape requires a very different approach to working in comparison to my studio practice. For a commission, the bulk of the work needs to be thought out in advance whereas in my studio, a work will develop in a more organic way.

My work often requires information or materials from other industries. I have worked with people from the National Grid, agricultures, oil recycling facilities, and hydroponic experts.

All of these interactions have assisted me in the making of my work and have also provided me with exciting research experiences.

I want the work to be a physical experience for viewers as well as an intellectual one. For me, there needs to be content as well as abstraction.

It's a hybridising of components from different places that make up a new kind of understanding or question without being too didactic or conceptual.”

  • Forced Landscape runs September 7-8 and 14-5. Open 10am-5pm (4pm 14-15). Admission free. The Wirksworth Festival 2013 runs September 6-22 2013. Visit wirksworthfestival.co.uk for full details.

More pictures:

A photo of a female artist working in a kind of outdoor multicoloured pit in woodlands
A photo of a female artist working in a kind of outdoor multicoloured pit in woodlands
A photo of a female artist working in a kind of outdoor multicoloured pit in woodlands
A photo of a female artist working in a kind of outdoor multicoloured pit in woodlands
A photo of various outdoor installations in a white room, including grass and ladders
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