Early Warning Signs

Castlefield Gallery

Castlefield Gallery

2 Hewitt Street
M15 4GB

This sign was adopted by artist Mike Chavez-Dawson, while he was in residence at the new Lionel Dobie Project space in Manchester at the end of 2012. He arranged for it to be jointly hosted by Lionel Dobie Project and Castlefield Gallery, which are situated opposite each other on Hewitt Street. The sign was displayed outside Lionel Dobie Project for the first half of the year, before being moved to Castlefield Gallery to coincide with the launch of their Spaceship Unbound exhibition.

At the end of the year, the sign was transported by Kwong Lee, Director of Castlefield Gallery to FACT in Liverpool, to take up residence their for the whole of 2014.

End of Year Report

By Jennifer Dean, Communications & Audience Development Coordinator, Castlefield Gallery

Castlefield Gallery and Lionel Dobie Project are located opposite each other on Hewitt Street, a busy thoroughfare for commuters using the nearby Deansgate train station. The sign came to Castlefield Gallery part way through the year, coinciding with Spaceship Unbound, an exhibition that used Margaret Atwood’s post apocalyptic novel The Year of the Flood as its starting point.


The sign was pretty cumbersome so carrying it outside and taking it in at the end of the day became quite a chore for the volunteer gallery invigilators and gallery staff and by the end of the year most were probably quite happy to see it go! When the sign was at Castlefield Gallery there wasn’t anything suitable for the sign to be chained to so we had to monitor the sign regularly throughout the day. The biggest risk of having it untethered though, was probably not from anyone trying to steal the sign but from Manchester’s temperamental ‘climate’ conditions and on a couple of occasions the wind was so strong we literally had to catch the sign it as it tried to WALK off! We did try to tighten the bolt at the bottom of the sign but it was quite difficult and didn’t really work, so disappointingly we did have to keep the sign inside during high winds as we were afraid someone may be injured or it may cause an accident if it blew into the nearby road.

Audience / Feedback

The exterior of Castlefield Gallery is fairly discreet and many people often struggle to find the gallery but having the sign did prove useful in signposting visitors. There were hand-outs with information about the sign available at the entrance of the gallery and when staff were giving introductions to groups they told them about the sign. There was a noticeable amount more interaction with the sign from visitors to the gallery during the Spaceship Unbound exhibition compared to with the rest of the year - which is to be expected due to the themes of the exhibition and the subject of the sign being in the forefront of visitors minds.

Comments by artist Mike Chavez-Dawson

Early Warning Signs (EWS) by Ellie Harrison for me is a nomadic touring sculpture that highlights a variety of readings - it mediates a dialogue and connects institutions of all levels through a complicit custodian scheme.

This particular piece by Harrison seemed to embody the nature of my research (testing artworks as curatorial entities in there own right) whilst in residency for the Lionel Dobie Project, which was a neighbour to the more established and newly reconfigured Castlefield Gallery | Agency, and to draw them into co-hosting the sign by Harrison was just the beginning as the works sentiments and parameters are neatly 'dialogic' and go beyond its physical location, documentation online etc. In addition I attempted to offer a conceptual residency within the concept of the piece and the situation it was placed within, but this didn't seem to appeal with the local artists, plus it was to be done on a cost only basis.

For me the fact that the piece has co-existed between two art initiatives whilst under my brokering curatorial remit has fulfilled my initial objective - and the fact that the piece is migrating elsewhere continues it accruement of institutional support, whether the sentiment and message of the piece functions is neither here nor there, the climate will always change and whether this is good or bad is ultimately up to us.

Photos: Warren Fournier