- Tod Hanson
- Port Sunlight Village Trust
- Arts Council England
Box Room is part of the Meeting Point 2018-2019 programme, and is displayed at Port Sunlight Village in the North West from 17 July – 19 September 2021.
Created by artist Tod Hanson, Box Room combines graphics inspired by the world’s first packaged and branded laundry soap, with references to the architectural features of the village and the industrial heritage of Lever Brothers famous soap factory.
Tod Hanson said:
“When it was first produced, more than 100 years ago, the red, yellow and blue of Sunlight’s packaging was loud and modern, crashing into people’s homes, shops and high streets. It still has that visual power today, I wanted to play with an iconic graphic and make it reveal something of the factory village behind it.”
Box Room is on show inside Port Sunlight’s church hall, which was once part of the MacFisheries shops complex in the village and thought to be used as a bakery. The outside of the 18 foot long box installation amplifies graphic elements from the Sunlight packaging, while inside is a room which fuses the functional design of a factory space with a decorative domestic interior.
Port Sunlight was founded in 1888 by William Lever to house the workers at his soap factory. More than 900 Grade II listed buildings are set in 130 acres of parkland and gardens and nearly every period of British architecture can be seen in the design of the houses and monuments, which were created by more than 30 different architects.
Sunlight soap was first produced in 1884 and gave its name to Port Sunlight village which, as well as the workers’ houses, had allotments, a cottage hospital, schools, a concert hall, an open air swimming pool and the Lady Lever Art Gallery.
Today, the houses are either privately owned or rented by the Port Sunlight Village Trust, and the Port Sunlight Museum tells the story of the Lever brothers and the creation of the village.
Kath Lynch, Director of Heritage at Port Sunlight Village Trust, said:
“Tod’s installation is totally different from anything that’s been on show at Port Sunlight before, but it still perfectly reflects the village, its landscape and history. It’s bright, colourful and bold and it shows Port Sunlight as seen through Tod’s eyes – I think it will really challenge people’s perceptions about Port Sunlight and will give people a new perspective on the village and its story.”
Box Room at Port Sunlight Village is open from Saturday 17 July – Sunday 19 September – visit www.portsunlightvillage.com for more details.
In his review of Box Room, Chris Sharratt said:
“Box Room […] can be seen as a meeting place for unpicking what capitalist consumer culture proposes and what it actually delivers, whether that’s the allure of a better, more comfortable life through ‘perfectly pure’ soap suds, or the social control that inevitably came with the workers’ village model of Port Sunlight, with the factory a short walk away from home and the boss living just round the corner.” – read the full review here
- Appeal to new audiences by challenging people’s perceptions of the site, the village’s significance, and PSVT itself.
- To commission a socially engaged practitioner to work with the residents of Port Sunlight to realise the project.
- Appeal to a new cultural audience but also existing visitors.
- Make the village more relevant by finding new ways of interpreting the PSVT story.
As participants in the Meeting Point 2018-2019 programme, Port Sunlight Village Trust was supported by Arts&Heritage through a process of sharing knowledge and presenting contemporary art projects and commissions in non-traditional art spaces.
Six museums based in the North were selected for this Meeting Point programme, and took part in a series of training workshops, visits to artists’ studios and meeting peers at other properties, to learn how they successfully delivered contemporary arts projects at their museums and heritage sites. Museums developed their own Artist’s Briefs.
A networking event between the participating museums and 60 artists from across the UK took place at the National Centre for Early Music, York, following which artists were invited to send in an Expression of Interest to museums that interested them.
Four artists were shortlisted by each museum to draw up a more detailed proposal and were paid £500 each to do so.
Port Sunlight Village Trust selected Tod Hanson for the £11,000 commission in Spring 2019, to produce Box Room in Summer 2021 (following delays caused by Covid).
Tod Hanson is an artist based in London and Berwick upon Tweed. Growing up, Tod’s parents were involved in the theatre with costume and scenery. After studying graphic design and public art, Tod went on to do large scale projects for Greenpeace UK and decorating nightclub interiors. Tod now combines these formative influences to explore nature, technology and mapping, interweaving landscape, architecture and historic design style, into large scale immersive installations and public artworks. A world overamplified and speeding up.
Sophie Dixon at Grace Darling Museum
Grace Darling Museum commissioned Sophie Dixon in Spring 2019 as part of the Meeting Point programme.
Nuala Clooney at Middleport Pottery
In 2021 Middleport Pottery commissioned artist Nuala Clooney to produce an artwork in response to their site as part of the Meeting Point programme.