The yellow on black sign was adopted by Catherine Hemeryk, Artistic Director of NN Contemporary Art and was displayed outside their building in Northampton for the whole of 2015. On 14 January 2015, Ellie Harrison was invited on BBC Radio Northampton to speak about the Early Warning Signs project. From September - December 2015 it also formed part of the ArtCop21 programme to coincide with the UN Climate Summit in Paris. At the end of the year it continued its journey through the East Midlands to QUAD in Derby.
NN Contemporary Art hosted sign 1/4 throughout 2015. The yellow and black sign spun (or sometimes just sat quietly) on Guildhall Road in front of our gallery windows every day we were open and when we were closed the sign sat on the other side of the glass so passers by could still see it. We are positioned at the top of a hill with a wide vista both up and down the street so the sign was particularly eye catching to all approaching the road. We did not need to chain the sign down as it was in direct eye line of our gallery desk plus and we are in a bright and open part of the town centre.
The visitor responses were either entirely positive or perplexed. We did not experience any animosity or anger during the year but we did receive questions asking about the work. The visitor comments included:
• Powerful and stark work
• Oh look! Modern Art!
• I came in because I saw Ellie Harrison's work outside - I saw it in London and was really pleased to see it here in Northampton, what a great space
• People looking at the climate change: "It's raining"
Over the year we had many people, particularly children interacting with the sign, for example one little child spinning it to show his mother. Visitors and passersby took photos and videos of it and it provoked a lot of questions including: "Why is this here?" and "What is it about?"
The sign was easy to manage and became part of the every day routine of the staff. There was not a day it did not go out. It was somewhat cumbersome but manageable, particularly the days it came back in wet. The unexpected outcome for us was how acutely aware it made us of the weather. Whilst weather is not climate, it was highlighted by the presence of the work. We all knew our position on the hill could be windy sometimes but the sign quantified the wind's presence and changes with its sometimes terrifying number of spins (before our staff would adjust it with the speed wheel). Over the year we saw the sign sit through fluffy snow, pouring rain, baking hot sun (where it would also act as a sun dial in the afternoons - it was west facing) and many days we saw the weather changing hourly as the piece was subjected to our maritime climate. We liked being part of a larger project, particularly as we are in the Midlands which by its very nature of being in the middle is a connecting point and we will continue to follow 'our' sign as it treks across the UK over the coming years.
Photos: courtesy NN Contemporary Art & Joe Brown