||[Oct. 20th, 2015|09:06 pm]
On our way home from Kendal, we made a detour up to the Wall to see the Milecastle built of books by artist Dawn Felicia Knox.
The piece is called 'Simulacrum', and according to S., who knows about such things, is a reasonably accurate half scale model of a milecastle. The Hexham Courant quotes Lindsay Allason-Jones, who is, among other things, Chairman of the commissioning body, the Hadrian Arts Trust (they have a website, but it hasn't been updated lately). The idea, it seems, is to celebrate the introduction of literacy to Britain by the Romans. "It is because they did so that we know so much about Hadrian's Wall and those who lived here."
In this case, how should we interpret the temporary nature of the piece? Simulacrum is only intended to last a month. The same piece in the Courant quotes the artist: "The sculpture will begin to decay almost immediately - rain will permeate the books, the sun will crack the book covers and plants will begin to take root." Not yet:
The books are a bit windblown, a bit battered, but most of them are perfectly serviceable. I had to be firm with durham_rambler: "Look, here's something by Jean Cocteau - Les... something..." "Les Enfants Terribles, we have a copy." (Do we? I'm pretty sure we do...). The literacy handed to us by classical antiquity has not composted down into our national psyche, it remains a defiantly undigested lump, the imposed culture of the colonial power.
Or something. I suspect I'm overthinking this. It's art, and isn't improved by being squeezed to extract the message. Have some eye candy:
One last twist, though. Simulacrum is a scale model of a milecastle, but it's about the actual size of a turret; and it is situated in Walltown Quarry where turret 45B is, in fact, missing, destroyed soon after 1883 by the operations of the Greenland Quarry. Because the Victorians may have placed great value on a classical education, but they weren't going to let that stop them quarrying this useful rock.