Pattern Language: The House Mill (2019) turns a corpus of old objects, formerly useful but no longer needed or even comprehended, into a photo book that is also a proposition about heritage sites and remnants, and how they may play a role in new community formations.
The disciplinary context is ‘critical heritage studies’, the locus an 18th-century mill in east London, now a cultural hub and visitor attraction. Artist in residence Cecilie Gravesen focused on its surviving ‘collection of more than two thousand custom-made mechanical patterns, once used for casting replacement components to keep the Mill’s machinery working’ (p. 5).
Workers and retired people from the local area were invited to view and discuss these objects, their interactions documented in a kind of typological conceptual style by photographer Robin Stein, chosen by Gravesen for his ‘masterly control of still life [and his] experience with the distinct language for directing hands in commercial fashion shoots’ (p. 8).
The notion of objects redeemed in the hand was explored also by TNWK (see previous post) in ‘How to Handle Things Not Worth Keeping’: http://www.radiotaxi.org.uk/tnwk/thingsnotworthkeeping/index.html.
While the artist Simon Lewandowski went one further, a while ago, in adding handles to objects http://www.wildpansypress.com/index.php/publications/100-things-with-handles/ )
‘Pattern language’ invokes architect and design theorist Christopher Alexander’s 1970s repertoire of approaches to designing human environments, intended to empower people to design homes and community facilities for themselves. Gravesen’s participants’ own language is also included, in the form of brief conversational exchanges, transcribed in an Appendix.
Something here in common with a project by Alex Julyan and Bill Gilonis, noticed here nearly 10 years ago, wherein objects were conveyed from one to the other purely through description, to produce new representations: https://theunderfoot.blogspot.com/2011/01/verbi-visi-2010-selected.html .
Cecilie Gravesen with Robin Stein, Pattern Language: The House Mill. Additional text by Dean Scully. Design by Anna Rieger. Printed at Circadian Press, Brooklyn, New York, 2019.
Cecilie Gravesen http://www.ceciliegravesen.com/
Robin Stein http://originaldocuments.net/#PatternLanguage
House Mill https://housemill.org.uk/
Centre for Critical Heritage Studies https://www.ucl.ac.uk/critical-heritage-studies/