Tons Of Ice
So, Intensities and Surfaces was — I can’t even remember now. I think it’s like 36 tons of ice. It was a block of ice that was three meters by three by five, and it was in this space which was the Wapping Pumping Station, which was a space that I had actually been in the show in like ’92. So, it was a space that I knew from earlier on in my career, and I’d made a piece there, the first time, with these whistling tea kettles in this kind of chimney. And I’d been really — I really love the space, it’s this kind of very grand Victorian industrial space, and it had a lot of the derelict or abandoned machinery still inside it.
And when I first did this project in ’92, which was this group exhibition, I was quite overwhelmed by the space. I didn’t really know how to add something into this environment. And then Jules Wright approached me, who is a theater director, and she was the director of the Women’s Playhouse Trust, and I came across her. I knew her from when I worked at the Royal Court before when I went to art school. So, she knew me from there, and I’d worked with her, dressing shows for her and doing other things since I’d become an artist. She kept kind of coming in and out of my life.
And she was trying to get a lottery bid to get this building. She wanted the building to make it into a theater and performance space, and she approached me and basically said “You can have the whole building, you can do anything you want.” She just wanted to use the show, the project, as a way to get publicity to pitch — it was a part of her pitch to get the building for this other larger project. But I don’t know. So, I was kind of terrified, but I was kind of excited about it, and I decided to take on the main space in the building. So, it was a very simple, very formal response to the building in terms of filling it with ice in the boiler house, the space that would have been the hottest part of the building when the building was functioning. It produced electricity by steam power. And of course the building felt really dead and still. It was kind of — it was abandoned and you had this sense of all this energy and this activity that had happened there, but that had long passed.
And it was in Wapping, which was an area that now is incredibly gentrified, but at that point within this kind of transition, where — there’s a lot of social housing there. So, there’s a poverty there, a lot of social issues, and a lot of the industry that had been along the waterfront, had all moved out, and a lot of those warehouses etc. were being renovated and transformed into these luxury lofts with underground car parking. So, the people that were coming into these luxury apartments, didn’t really have to invest or interact with the other inhabitants of that area. And I found — I mean that happens all around the world. But it was kind of fascinating and problematic to me. So, the building itself is kind of surrounded with all these — at that point, with all these council flats.