A visit to the extraordinary installation Close Distance by Caroline Broadhead, Nic Sandiland and Angela Woodhouse this week was a real delight. The work, inspired by 17th century textiles from Woollaton Hall and the stories of those who lived there, has been created by three artists in collaboration using dance, construction and film. The works are displayed in a room not normally open to the public, up a narrow spiral staircase which creates a haunting sense of separateness in an empty, high up room. Access is only possible via tours (£3 for the Close Distance tours and £5 as part of a more general tour). We we lucky enough to be the only visitors on a damp Wednesday lunchtime and had the space to ourselves.
The Prospect Room is empty apart from the artists’ work and has views over the landscape from all sides – the wide vistas contrasting with the enclosed and claustrophobic work, much of it film of dance contained and compressed into drawers, boxes and cabinets. The sense of containment and restriction echo the narrative behind the work : the jarring contrast between master and servant in this house, between the spaces used by each.
Unlike other installations in historic properties, the space around these pieces gives the installation a more gallery-like emphasis. They are simply placed and speak for themselves, without the chatter and interaction of other objects, textures and colours around them.
It is a brave decision to position contemporary work in a space with very limited access. It works perfectly for the installation’s meaning and the visitor experience but I feel it will have very little impact on non-arts audiences. It is a challenging and enlightening experience and well worth the effort to arrange to see it. I visited with Jennifer Collier on a day of research, inspiration and thinking and it was the perfect quiet, contemplative exhibition for us to visit.
Two beautiful 17th century textiles are on show in the main hall, completely divided from the work which they have inspired. I would have preferred a little more explanation of how they related. The textiles are poorly described with little interpretation though they are well displayed and easy to see. The close up photographs show how the black silk thread has rotten leaving the impression of the stitches and the needle holes in the linen cloth. The fibre damage of the silk thread is caused by iron mordant use to create black dye which eventually damages the fibres but leaves the linen ground intact.
8 March – 1 May 2017
Wollaton Hall, Nottingham