The yellow on black sign was adopted by Kate Maple, Curator & Exhibition Organiser at Solent Showcase, Southampton Solent University to be displayed outside their building for the whole of 2018. On 5 May 2018, Kate Maple co-organised the TEDx Southampton event at the Nuffield Theatre opposite the gallery with James Dyke from the University of Southampton. They invited Ellie Harrison to speak about the Early Warning Signs project in relation to her theme of Art, Activism & the Absurdities of Economic Growth. At the end of the year, the sign made the long journey over land and sea to Derry~Londonderry in Northern Ireland to take up residence outside the city's Centre for Contemporary Art.
The piece came to Solent Showcase gallery in December 2017 from the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts (ACCA) in Brighton. This was really fun as it was the Creative Director Laura McDermott with whom we sorted the exchange and delivery, and so inadvertently made contact with and had something in common with another gallery on the South Coast. Laura said: “…Glad to hear the sign is staying on the South Coast. We’ve loved having her here.” I loved the piece being referred to as ‘her’.
I (exhibitions assistant) have a strange relationship with the Early Warning Signs project. It follows me around. When I lived in Glasgow, I used to see one of the signs outside the GoMA, and had the same intrigued confusion about what it was that I recognised in the faces of the people of Southampton passing it here. Then once on a visit down from Scotland on a night out in Brighton, near where I’m from, swaying in the street waiting for my famous Grubbs burger take away, I turned and saw one through the window in the corner of what a appeared to be a large empty room (at ONCA). It’s only once I'd met artist Ellie Harrison in a DJ booth at a club night I used to run in Glasgow that it all started to make more sense. On moving down to Southampton, and before I had even started working for the gallery, I suggested that Curator Kate Maple should put in a bid to ‘adopt a sign’. Coincidentally, I later started working for the gallery, and who was there to greet me, but a sign from the Early Warning Signs project.
Southampton is a city where the Early Warning Signs project is very well placed. Southampton has extremely bad air pollution. The constant ferries, cruise liners, tankers in and out the docks contribute greatly to this. There are a series of well-established groups creating conversations and taking action on climate change, air quality and sustainable living etc. Groups such as Dangerous Ideas Southampton, Transition Southampton, The Art House, October Books, Green Action Southampton (a student group at the University of Southampton), Southampton Cycling Campaign, Southampton Repair Café, Southampton Freecycle Group and so many more are all continuing the conversation for climate change and sustainability. The sign was part of Clean Air Day in June in 2018. All in reaction to the problems with pollution in our city. In fact Kate Maple the Curator of Solent Showcase is a big part of the climate movement in Southampton. With her husband Paul Maple, they produce documentary films about climate change. They also run TEDx Southampton, which is usually themed around sustainability and climate change. Sparked by the collaboration with the gallery, Ellie Harrison did a talk at the last TEDx Southampton in May 2018 titled Art, Activism & the Absurdities of Economic Growth. Considering our situation with air pollution, I feel it was really important for Southampton to make a connection with an artist such as Ellie, and her work.
Delivery of the piece onwards was as fun as receiving it. We got to make a connection with another gallery, this time in Northern Ireland, the Centre for Contemporary Art in Derry~Londonderry, through the Director Catherine Hemelryk. It was determined that we drag her sister into the operation, and I was tasked with taking the piece to her house in a small village near Oxford, where Catherine was going to be visiting for Christmas and so could collect it and then take it the rest of the way. Whilst ringing the doorbell, I was called to from the other side of the road by a local, asking 'are you dropping off the art work?' Apparently it was the talk of the town. I was informed she was just at the village hall and would be back in a minute. It stuck me that not only had the Early Warning Signs project encouraged conversation about climate in a direct way within Southampton, it had also encouraged conversation in general between strangers, and in this UK of nuclear families, broken communities and individualism, we’re going to have to learn how to talk to each other once again to get through this together.
Team Showcase, Southampton