WWI Commemorative Project in Kent

 

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EKR – The Friendly Army. 

WW1 Commemorative Project by Gabor Stark, in collaboration with East Kent Railway, 2014-2016

The DMAG Dover Museums & Arts Group project Joined Up has brought together museums, heritage and the arts in the Dover District. Artists were allocated to each of the ten participating cultural organisations, where they researched the site-specific connections to the First World War and created artworks that interpret each collection in a new way. Gabor Stark was the artist who worked with the East Kent Railway heritage line. The industrial railway, originally built to serve the Kent coalfield, today is run entirely by volunteers and visitors can ride restored heritage trains between the villages of Shepherdswell and Eythorne.

The Friendly Army consists of six sited sculptures that trace the historical connections of the site to World War One and mark the thresholds and crossings between the remaining line and its surrounding landscape. All materials were found on site and the sculptures were built together with the EKR volunteers. Placed permanently in the landscape, the sculptural pioneers now guard the tracks, visually re-establish the former links with the East Kent collieries and guide visitors and passers-by along a sequence of stations and situations.

 

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Dragoon

The sculpture is inspired by the war horses that were transported on the East Kent Railway line to and from the Hammill (Woodnesborough) Colliery during World War I. Shortly after the outbreak of the war the Hammill site was taken over by a cavalry remount unit and horses were stabled in the colliery buildings before being deployed to the front. In total, more than one million British horses were sent overseas and just over 60,000 returned. Dragoon also alludes to the heraldic dragon of The Buffs Royal East Kent.

Cross

The structure translates the EKR crossing signs along the tracks into three-dimensional elements. Placed beside Shepherdswell Road at the first farmers crossing after the Golgotha Tunnel, the sculpture alludes to wayside and conciliation crosses and pays tribute to the war memorials in Shepherdswell, Eythorne and other villages in East Kent.

Organ

Owing to the strategic importance of the East Kent Railway, which used to connect Richborough Port with the London-Dover main line, the army had a presence on the site in both, the First and Second World War. Mounted at the farmers crossing in Eythorne, Organ recalls the muzzles of the Howitzer railway guns that were stationed at the sidings at Eythorne and Shepherdswell in WWII.

Receiver

The sculpture references the acoustic location devices that preceded radar technology. Sound location was used from mid-WWI to the early years of WWII for the passive detection of enemy aircraft by picking up the noise of the engines. A few sound mirrors can still be found along the Kent coast. The two metal tubes of Receiver are EKR water pipes dating from the 1910s. They originally connected the water well to the storage tank in The Knees Woods at Shepherdswell, feeding the water towers along the tracks. The pipes now act as listening devices channelling the ambient soundscape at Eythorne Station.

Tower

The vertical form of Tower is derived from the chimneys and headgear structures of the collieries that were served by the East Kent Railway line. During World War I miners were employed to tunnel and plant explosives beneath enemy lines. The sculpture is placed next to the public footpath in Eythorne, linking to the Miners Heritage Trail and leading walkers along the remains of the former collieries and mining villages of the Kent Coalfield.

Pegasus

The winged sculpture takes its inspiration from the German airplanes that flew via Shepherdswell to Dover during the last Moonlight Raid on England on the night of the 19th to the 20th of May 1918. Pegasus is placed on the surviving brick abutment of Wigmore Lane Bridge, which used to continue to Tilmanstone Colliery. The statue marks the northern end of the remaining East Kent Railway line.

 

Credits

EKR – The Friendly Army, 2014-16

A project by Gabor Stark in collaboration with East Kent Railway

Shepherdswell & Eythorne, Dover District, Kent, UK

Part of the WWI DMAG Project Joined Up. Organised by Dover Arts Development, Joanna Jones & Clare Smith

Funded by Kent County Council and Arts Council England

 

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Clare and Joanna at DAD, to all fellow DMAG artist and to all staff and volunteers at East Kent Railway. Special thanks go to Alison and Mark Hopewell at EKR. Without Mark’s knowledge, skills and continuous support the project would not have been possible.

 

Links

http://artistsww1.uk/projects/the-friendly-army/

http://www.dadonline.eu/dmag-categories/east-kent-railway/

http://eastkentrailway.co.uk

On this blog

https://precariouspropositions.wordpress.com/2016/02/20/the-friendly-army/

https://precariouspropositions.wordpress.com/2016/05/14/three-sentinels-at-east-kent-railway/

https://precariouspropositions.wordpress.com/2016/10/22/cross-and-dragoon/

https://precariouspropositions.wordpress.com/2017/04/21/the-friendly-army-pegasus/

 

 

The Friendly Army – Pegasus

 

The Friendly Army_Gabor Stark19

The Friendly Army – WWI Commemorative Sculpture Project by Gabor Stark and East Kent Railway Trust, Shepherdswell & Eythorne, Kent, 2014-16

Part of the WWI DMAG Joined Up project, organised by DAD Dover Arts Development Ltd., funded by Kent County Council & Arts Council England

Pegasus, the last sculpture of my World War I commemorative project at East Kent Railway, was installed this week. The now complete Friendly Army consists of six sited sculptures that trace the connections of the East Kent Railway heritage line to the history of WWI. Constructed out of materials that were found on site the sculptures mark the thresholds and crossings between the remaining line and its surrounding landscape. The sculptural pioneers guard and survey the tracks, visually re-establish the former links with the East Kent collieries, and guide visitors and passers-by along a sequence of selected stations and situations.

Pegasus marks the northern end of the remaining EKR line and is placed on the surviving brick abutment of Wigmore Lane Bridge, which once continued to the adjacent Tilmanstone Colliery. The sculpture takes its inspiration from the German airplanes that flew via Shepherdswell to Dover during the last Moonlight Raid on England in May 1918.

“The last moonlight raid on England took place Whit-Sunday night, 19th – 20th May 1918. Gunfire at Dover opened at 10.50 p.m., and continued vigorously until 11.15 p.m. A quarter of an hour later the machine which had been trying to get in flew down the valley from Shepherdswell at quite a low height, and, although fired at, passed under the barrage and dropped four of the heaviest bombs that ever fell on Dover. The first hit the middle of the roadway in Widred Road, Tower Hamlets, doing a great deal of damage to the surrounding property; two more were dropped together opposite Priory Hill Villas, Priory Hill, one falling in the roadway, and the other just inside the Ordnance Department fence. Both did a great deal of damage to the houses, stripping off the tiles, bringing down ceilings, etc. Fortunately, beyond a slight injury to Miss Joad, of 6, Priory Hill Villas, no one was hurt, although the inhabitants of those houses and the ones in Tower Hamlets were a good deal shaken by the terrific concussion of the explosion. The fourth bomb, which did not explode, fell in the Priory Station Yard, near the turntable. This machine, it is believed, was brought down in the sea by our guns. At midnight there was prolonged firing at another enemy machine, apparently one of the giant machines with four or five engines. Ultimately it was hit and brought down in the sea, the body of one of its occupants, a squadron commander, wearing the Order of Merit, the highest German Order, being picked up the next day, and afterwards buried at St. James’s Cemetery. At 12.40 a.m. an enemy machine dropped six bombs at St. Margaret’s, which fell on either side of Sea Street, St. Margaret’s, almost in exactly the same holes as were made in the raid in February. Another half dozen were dropped on the Swingate Aerodrome, without doing any damage. These were the last bombs dropped on England.”

Bavington Jones, O.G.: Dover and the European War, 1914-18. Originally published in the Dover Express, 1919

The Friendly Army_Gabor Stark20The Friendly Army_Gabor Stark21The Friendly Army_Gabor Stark22

 

Links

http://artistsww1.uk/projects/the-friendly-army/

http://www.dadonline.eu/dmag-categories/east-kent-railway/

 

 

Finally Unfinished Ruins – Surreal Estates Of Failed Speculation

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eVolo 2017 Skyscraper Competition

Entry by Gabor Stark, 2017

 

‘Finally Unfinished Ruins’ inverts the conventional relationship between the physical presence of tall buildings and the financial potency of property developers and their underlying economic systems. Whereas vertical building typologies – the spire, the tower, the skyscraper – normally both stem from, and at the same time represent, cultural, political and ideological regimes and their economic power, this project postulates the inverted logic: What if there was an architectural expression of the absence of capital and resources?

The nine towers depict a paradoxical San Gimignano of folly investment, financial debacle and speculative failure. Each collage is derived from the photograph of an abandoned construction site. The original investment ruins were found in the eastern part of the Mediterranean, but could as well originate from other parts of the world. The situations as found are variations on the theme of the global-banal and modern-mediocre vernacular, ubiquitous mutations of Le Corbusier’s Dom-ino House: Naked skeletons, partially filled with brick walls; concrete floors and roof slabs; unfinished staircases; the bare bones of a house; the half-built nightmare of what was supposed to be a dream family home.

In all montages one element of the existing situation is multiplied, rotated and stacked in order to transcend the conditions of incompleteness, pause and failure into an alternative speculative proposition. The composite constructions exist exclusively as digital images. Freed from the constraints of gravity, materiality and economic common sense, they explore a pataphysical [1] architecture of autonomy in which the picture plane is the only limit. The implausible tectonics and false perspectives that result from repeating and shifting the fragments of the photographic material confirm the status of the towers as pure projections.

This pangeometric [2] photosurrealism affirms the intentional absurdity of the ‘finally unfinished’ [3] structures and locates them in the realms of the speculative arts as well as an alternative architecture of speculation. More reminiscent of Brancusi’s ‘Endless Column’ than Sullivan’s ‘proud and soaring thing’ [4], more a Beckettian way of building for Godot than normative architectural practice, the towers present melancholic monuments to ruined investment, to be repeated ad infinitum. “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” [5]

 

[1] As in ‘Phataphysics, the literary trope by the French symbolist writer Alfred Jarry (1873-1907)

[2] For Pangeometry see El Lissitzky: “A. and Pangeometry”, 1925

[3] In 1923, Marcel Duchamp famously declared his ‘Large Glass’ as “finally unfinished”

[4] Louis Henry Sullivan: “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered”, 1896

[5] Quoted from Samuel Beckett’s novella “Worstward Ho”, 1983

 

 

PolyCatOikia – PAFOS 2017 European Capital of Culture

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PolyCatOikia – Unité de la Cohabitation

A project by Emilio Koutsoftides & Gabor Stark. Pafos, Cyprus 2017

 

Here some photographs of our completed – and inhabited! – public art project for PAFOS 2017. Together with the other six installations of the SECOND NATURE project the object will remain in the Municipal Garden in the Ktima district for the duration of the European Capital of Culture programme.

 

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Commissioned by

SECOND NATURE – PAFOS 2017 European Capital of Culture

www.pafos2017.eu

Contractors

  • Andreas Tsappas, timber
  • Charalambos Komodros, steel
  • Multibuild Ltd., concrete

With special thanks to

  • The whole artistic team and all volunteers at PAFOS 2017
  • Valentinos Stefanou, curator of the SECOND NATURE project
  • Christian Naydenov & Konstantinos Karseras for the additional animal photography
  • Margaret Paraskos, Cyprus College of Art
  • Costas Koutsoftides, Koutsoftides Architects

 

PolyCatOikia_Logo

 

The installation presents a man-made habitat for the four-legged residents of the Municipal Garden in Pafos: the stray cats of Ktima. The project interprets the culture-nature relationship addressed in the SECOND NATURE brief by focusing on the human-feline cohabitation in Cyprus – an interspecies bond, which can be traced back as far as the 10th millennium B.C.

The form of the modular structure references modern abstract art as well as the key architectural typologies dominating the urban fabric of contemporary Pafos: the hotel complexes along the coast and the ubiquitous building type of the polykatoikia. From the perspective of a human visitor the perception of the object fluctuates between minimal sculpture, the scale model of a building and a piece of public furniture. The local cats however, immediately recognize the potential of comfort, shade and shelter as well as the chance of being admired – and being catered for – by their human friends.

The PolyCatOikia operates like a hotel resort – only for cats. It features fourteen semi-enclosed private suites, so-called Cat Flats, plus four communal restaurants, or Feeding Loggias. The complex comes all-inclusive with an open-plan ‘Bikini-level’ on the fourth storey and a roof terrace-cum-viewing platform for the cats’ favourite activities of sunbathing, being lazy and on top of things. The modularity of the quasi-architectural structure is balanced by the meandering circulation system of kitten-safe ramps, bridges and balconies, allowing for manifold catwalks and choreographies.

Staffed by human visitors, who come along to treat the residents to food, or to simply watch and enjoy their feline grace, the PolyCatOikia forms a cultural habitat for cat and man alike, or free after Le Corbusier: an Unité de la Cohabitation.

 

Historic Context: The Legend of Saint Nicholas of the Cats

“It is wonderful to see them, for nearly all are maimed by the snakes: one has lost a nose, another an ear; the skin of one is torn, another is lame; one is blind of one eye, another of both. And it is a strange thing that at the hour for their food, at the sound of a bell, they collect at the monastery and when they have eaten enough, at the sound of that same bell, they all depart together to go fight the snakes.”

The Venetian Francesco Suriano on visiting Cyprus in 1484

 

“In 328 A.D., St. Helena visited the island of Cyprus and found it almost totally deserted of most of its inhabitants. This abandonment was a result of a severe and prolonged drought that had last for 36 years. St. Helena’s ship landed at the site of the future monastery of St. Nicholas and found the area swarming with poisonous snakes. She decided to help rejuvenate the island of Cyprus and upon her return to Constantinople, she arranged for an entire shipload of cats to be sent to the area where her ship had first landed to devour the poisonous snakes. St. Helena also reported the dismal state of the island to Emperor Constantine and he appointed Duke Kalokeros as the new Governor of Cyprus. Duke Kalokeros was mandated or required to revive and encourage people to return to Cyprus. It was during this revival period that the Monastery of St. Nicholas of the Cats was constructed. According to legend the monks of the Monastery of St. Nicholas are to feed the cats a little meat morning and evening each day so that they cats would not continually consume the poison of the snakes. In 1983 nuns revived the Monastery of St. Nicholas of the Cats after many years of neglect. The monastery is again swarming with cats which are said to be descended from those brought to the island by St. Helena.”

Source: Centre for Middle Eastern Studies / cmes.arizona.edu

 

Natural-Cultural Context: The Cats of Cyprus

The relationship between humans and cats in Cyprus goes back in time far further than the legend of Saint Nicholas. In 2004, a Neolithic burial ground was excavated in Shillourokambos, containing both a human and a feline skeleton, laid close to one another. The grave is estimated to be 9,500 years old, preceding the ancient Egyptian civilisation, which until recently was commonly believed to be the origin of the domestication of cats.

Today however, Cyprus and Pafos are more famous for their feral and stray cats. Escaped from domesticity, colonies of cats populate hotel complexes, restaurant terraces, public parks, abandoned buildings and other urban niches. The cats have become part of the local vernacular and of the touristic branding of Pafos. The PolyCatoikia project alludes to, and raises awareness for the historical as well as contemporary, the natural as well as cultural ecologies of this man-animal coexistence.

 

Second Nature: Economic Ecology

In recent years, a correlation between the difficult socioeconomic situation in Cyprus and the growing population of stray cats has occurred. When the economic crisis hit the island, public funding for the sterilisation of stray animals was cut drastically. The resulting growing number of cats put animal shelters under pressure and local animal rights activists became concerned by the rising number of poisonings and acts of cruelty against cats. “The problem is people don’t have money anymore to make it to the end of the month, so they can’t provide for their cats or much less sterilise them”. (Source: ANSAmed)

The same economic climate led to an increased urban deprivation in many Cypriot places including Pafos and especially Ktima. Together with a change of local housing and retail patterns these transformation processes resulted in a growing number of vacant buildings, closed down shops and the general decline of public urban spaces. Made worse by a long-lasting legal dispute, the Municipal Garden fell into a state of disuse and neglect.  The following stanza by the poet Kostis Palamas presents a quite apt description of the current state of the park:

 

Halasmata (Ruins)

I returned to my golden playgrounds,

I returned to see the wondrous palace,

Built just for me by love’s divine ways.

Blackberry bushes now cover the boyhood trail,

And the midday suns have burned the playgrounds,

And a tremor has destroyed my palace so rare.

 

The seven Second Nature installations aim to revitalise the park and to restore the community’s pride of its civic spaces. The PolyCatOikia project aims to contribute to this culture-led, urban and natural regeneration process. By providing a habitat for animals as a cultural attractor for humans, it catalyses the care of the local community for its urban environment and its feline population: “A place that looks after its cats looks after itself.” And vice versa.

 

Location + Curation: Community & Cultural Events

Placed parallel to the 25th of March Street the linear structure acts as visual filter between the street and the centre of the park. Located amid the trees next to the existing footpath, and in proximity to the restaurants across the street and to the statue of Kostis Palama, the structure is easily accessible and visible from both the heart and the southern perimeter of the park.

Together with the other six installations the project attracts old and new, local as well as international visitors to the Municipal Garden and acts as a stage for community events, cultural and educational activities. With the cat residents as the protagonists, the sculptural object demarcates a place that can be used for local history and storytelling events, cultural and natural science talks, drawing and poetry workshops, and other formats that bring together different age groups, Pafians and tourists, animal lovers and the arts community at the same time.

Together with the other six installations of the SECOND NATURE project the object will remain in the Municipal Garden in the Ktima district for the duration of the PAFOS 2017 European Capital of Culture programme.

 

Epilogue: MY CATS

I know. I know.
they are limited, have different
needs and
concerns.

but I watch and learn from them.
I like the little they know,
which is so
much.

they complain but never
worry,
they walk with a surprising dignity.
they sleep with a direct simplicity that
humans just can’t
understand.

their eyes are more
beautiful than our eyes.
and they can sleep 20 hours
a day
without
hesitation or
remorse.

when I am feeling
low
all I have to do is
watch my cats
and my
courage
returns.

I study these
creatures.

they are my
teachers.

 

Poem by Charles Bukowski