Patricia MacKinnon-Day

Constructing connections: Fiction, Art and life 2017

10th – 30th September 2017

Constructing connections: Fiction, Art and life Patricia MacKinnon-Day was the outcome of a two-year Arts Council of England research project. , extending earlier research: An Artist’s Anthropological Approach to Sustainability (published in The International Journal of Art and Design October 2016). Tressell’s seminal working-class novel and socialist tract, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ was a catalyst and starting point for research, blog, seminars, community engagement, exhibitions, and publication.

One of the artworks featured in summer’s exhibition at Croxteth – Constructing Connections: Art, Fiction and Life – is called The Air Monopolist, by artist Patricia MacKinnon-Day. This artwork consists of three parts: a copy of the 1973 auction book (edited by the artist), a projection of text from The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and individual bags of air. Each of the bags of air has been collected from the rooms of Croxteth Hall, and listed as lot numbers in the edited version of the 1973 auction catalogue. MacKinnon-Day also staged a performance event, in which the bags were auctioned off.

Implicit in the capsules of air is an exaggerated sense that fundamental resources can be seized and sold back to the people that need them. The piece points to a carefully-managed dependency that reinforces inequality. In The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Frank Owen (the book’s protagonist) discusses how poverty is created and managed through private monopolies. He is angry at how the workers unquestioningly accept and comply with a system that affirms the wealthy and their right to control resources, and disempowers the less wealthy. He says:

“If it were possible to construct huge gasometers and to draw together and compress within them the whole of the atmosphere, it would have been done long ago, and we should have been compelled to work for them in order to get money to buy air to breathe.”

The Air Monopolist asks us to think about ownership and power. It asks us to question, rather than accept, the increasing prevalence of monopolistic big-businesses and the systems and ideologies that allow these private organisations to thrive, whilst public institutions flounder.

Jess Holtaway

This project interrogates, examines and creates ideas for artworks in places where art is not normally practised or seen. It extends the contemporary discourse about bringing the uneventful and overlooked aspects of lived experience into visibility.
Time and marginalisation are key concepts in analysing and understanding the subtext of this research and outcomes. The research was placed within the context of Lucy Lippard’s idea of ‘weaving lived experiences’ within the ‘subject of place’ Lippard (1997), Paul Virilio’s study of the ‘infra-ordinary’ (1973) and Warwick’s reflections on artists engaged with communities. (2006)

The research investigated the material and digital process of making through a critical engagement with the site and involved an on-going process of questions: the social, how and in what way is a space used? the political, what are the ramifications and political complexities of a place? psychological, how does it make me feel? the historical, what are the historical traces and their significance? the physical, what can be seen, found and accessed?

The exhibition, blog, schools and public engagement expanded the themes and ideas identified through a series of installations developed in response to the text and site. Four Liverpool schools were invited to run a parallel project with outcomes shown in the Public Exhibition Space LJMU.

Academics based at the centre for Literature and Cultural History at LJMU contributed to the symposium held at Croxteth Hall. Tessa Jackson. OBE. has produced a critical review of the work for the exhibition ‘newspaper’ publication which will be disseminated throughout the UK and abroad.

Funding was provided by the Arts Council England, Liverpool John Moores, Liverpool City Council. IJADE (The International Journal of Art and Design), Robert Tressell Festival.