Andrew Hutchinson: Belsay Boxed
Blue Sky Idea
My proposal is to encase the whole of Belsay Hall in a packing crate. A wooden box built around the hall with the words ‘Fragile’ emblazoned on all sides. This will remain in place for a decade protecting its fragile contents while itself becoming weathered and worn.
When buildings and objects are placed in the hands of conservators, the process of exchange transitions the object from the everyday into a historical artefact. As a result despite the fact the object itself has not changed, how they are perceived is and they are the thence forth handled differently.
These historical sites or objects become moments in time that we use to communicate stories. But these moments in time have to be preserved and the easiest way to conserve historical buildings or objects is to protect them from that which will erode, wear and damage them. Namely: the ravages of weather and lifeforms (primarily people with some animal and insect assistance).
I propose that Belsay Hall joins the majority of objects in the historical record which rather than being on display are stored in simple unassuming packing crates until they are needed to be displayed. This in part is an echo of what happened to the entire contents of Belsay Hall before it was commanded to “remain empty” – it itself becoming the last artefact to be boxed up and as a result ensuring it remains completely empty.
I also hope this will also provoke thought and discussion on how we classify our world. When does a ruined castle change from being an eyesore to being so loved it is seen on postcards and tea towels? When does an out of fashion tea set become a priceless part of a collection held within a hermetically sealed display case? When does an area of land stop being an overgrown mess and be treasured as wilderness habitat?
When it was built, Belsay hall was a modern piece of design, which would have become and old fashioned style of building and now a prized historic site. The hall hasn’t changed – its context has so after 10 years in a box, would people be glad to see the Hall again or would they have fallen in love with the box itself? Would the box become of historical importance meaning it then had to be protected as well?
I am a woodworker based in the hills of Weardale in County Durham. I design and make wooden furniture and objects as well as using my practice to explore the nature of these pieces, assessing notions of value and the importance of context affecting perceived importance of objects.
I am interested in the non-physical qualities applied to objects that affect the way they are consumed. In its simplest terms, I am fascinated by how easily value, status and nature can change depending on persona and descriptors of those who create, sell or exhibit them.
If I make a box as a woodworker it is utilitarian; if I make that same box as an artist or designer does that affect its value and the reverence with which it is interpreted?
– Andrew Hutchinson