Workforce (a work in progress), 2014

RE.THINK Residency and Commission, National Maritime Museum

I was invited to be the first artist-in-residence in the National Maritime Museum’s RE.THINK gallery prior to its opening in 2013. My brief was to investigate museums, art and empire in relation to Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle by Yinka Shonibare MBE.

As resident artist, I worked alongside the design, learning, interpretation and curatorial teams, developing the interactive components of the gallery, as well as devising a public project and making new work.

Focusing on the construction and ‘career’ of HMS Victory, I closely researched the components needed to build the ship. This led to questions about who contributed to its construction, and who gets included or excluded in the process of recording history. I developed a collective making idea to remember ‘all those people who fell through the floorboards of history’. I invited both staff and public to make a wax nail or fastening based on those retrieved from HMS Victory by its conservators, and then asked each maker to sign their name on a ‘nail smiths’ list. I wanted the people who made wax nails to become the echo of the un-named individuals who built the British Empire – the workforce across the globe who contributed in innumerable ways.

Workforce (a work in progress), is a collection of 21 cast glass, replica nails and fastenings encased by the nail smiths’ signatures etched onto the outer walls of the glass case. This modest collection is work in progress towards the completed work – a case filled with thousands of cast glass nails and fastenings, some made by me, and some made by other members of the public.