Flow Chart & Returning the Stolen Water
Flow Chart and Returning the Stolen Water were commissioned by the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham in 1997.
The Flow Chart project took place in the Ladywood area of the Birmingham, and the Returning the Stolen Water performance was at the Worcester Bar in the city centre as the finishing event of the Ikon Gallery's Process and Participation conference.
Both projects refer to the difficulties that a stranger to a town has in trying to identify what a city or a neighbourhood are about... about things being lost and found... about belonging or not belonging. They focused on simple common denominators, such as the human body's need for clean drinking water, or the need to feel safe when you walk home, or the feeling that you belong somewhere.
Both of the site-specific projects related to water. Birmingham's intricate canal network (as many waterways as Venice), created growth and wealth, which led to it becoming the interland hub of England's colonial trading. It was also the first city in England to have piped drinking water, which was introduced to the Ladywood area, because of the high mortality rates of the canal workers who lived there. The art projects use frozen water to investigate water's preciousness and mutability. They were highly relational, and deeply informed by the collaboration and participation of many organisations and individuals.
Both artworks contrasted the differing dynamics of supposedly intimate spaces, such as the home, with public spaces within the city. They also acknowledged that different areas and spaces became animated and dynamic at different times of the day or week.
Returning the Stolen Water involved ice keys created with water ‘stolen’ from the Worcester Bar. There were 100 ice keys cast using this canal water. They represent the fictional key to the City of Birmingham. They were cast from an original key displayed in the Withenhall Lock Museum, located just outside Birmingham.
The Worcester Bar was the site of a dispute between two canal companies, who accused each other of stealing water. They created a dam to keep their water to themselves, resulting in goods having to be manhandled over the barrier. The goods often were ‘lost’ in this process.
The ice keys were released back into the water from a barge, as part of an event involving a sound recording relating past and recent histories of the site.
The freezing process took 3 months, the melting process took 3.5 minutes.
The Birmingham Area is renowned for it's metal working skills. This includes the delicate mechanisms of locks and keys.
Birmingham was one of the first cities in England to use locks on front doors. It was argued that because different classes lived near to each other, 'envy lines' began to occur. Residents policed their own territories by locking their doors.
Flow Chart involved local residents, who were asked if they would lend Edwina their front door keys. These were copied, then re-cast in ice.Collectively they are a brief visualisation of what is normally invisible – trust and a sense of whether a ‘community’ exists.
The ice keys were presented in a giant freezer cabinet, which operated as a metaphor for our need for support systems. The ice keys were only stable for a minute outside the freezer.
The ‘map’ revealed whether individuals trusted friends, neighbour's or family enough to give them a spare copy of their front door keys; and access to their home.
Flow Chart was exhibited in a central Birmingham superstore. The keys were viewed through the freezer doors, which contained quotes from conversations with residents about their keys, home, and perspectives on where they lived.
Returning the Stolen Water
Out of the Bubble
This book was developed out of the 1999 Out of the Bubble symposium, which explored how Fine Art education prepared students for practice as professional artists. It featured ways that artists engage with process and research.
Edwina discusses the Flow Chart, and Returning the Stolen Water projects in the book.
Publisher: The London Institute
Artists: Keith Khan, John Kindness, Edwina fitzPatrick, Adam Chodzko, Alison Marchant.
Texts by: Gerrie van Noord, Richard Hylton, Suzanne Oxenaar, Platform (James Marriot and Jane Trowell), Keith Khan, John Kindness, Edwina fitzPatrick, Adam Chodzko, Alison Marchant, Patricia C Phillips, Hugh Adams, Jane Calow, Judith Rugg, John Carson.
Editors: John Carson and Susannah Silver
ISBN: 0947 784 527