Cushendall’s Curfew Tower is a prominent landmark in the town of Cushendall. The tower was bought by Bill Drummond and has been converted into an artists’ residency centre. Bill Drummond invited Catalyst Arts to host a residency programme for a year starting in January 2010.
The artists in the residency have been selected from local emerging artistic talent and nationally established artists. Catalyst hosted 6 artists and artists’ groups at the tower.
Field is an artist run, non-profit organization based in Peckham, South-East London. Our main aim is to facilitate emerging artists by offering opportunities to create and exhibit work, and to establish mutually beneficial links with like-minded individuals and organizations.
For our take over of Curfew Tower we decided to split the residency into 2 halves: the first half hosting Maria de Lima, Mike Davis and Craig Dow, and the second Natasha Bird and Alicia Logan.
Natasha Bird at Curfew Tower – December 2010
During my stay at the Curfew Tower I produced work in two strands. Both were related to the unique architecture of the building, also drawing on the surrounding landscape and folklore of the area.
Inside the top floor room of the tower I produced string sculptures that formed tunnels between the windows. These yellow twine structures enclosed the openings in the space, creating a line that cut straight through the space – almost bringing the outside all the way through the room. These experiments were made in response to the experience of staying in the tower – of feeling very aware of being inside. In its past use the tower enclosed those who disobeyed the curfew and protected the keeper of the tower. These string tests were made while I thought on this history, and by playing with the amazing character of the architecture.
[13 Sep 2010] The silence of the [uninhabited] building as I am entering it for the first time in combination with its characteristic smell in the kitchen a moment of silence and rest during which I can hear the wind knocking against the door behind my back and later the AC adapter of my laptop making a high-frequency noise which it did not use to do anywhere else from outside the characteristic sound of cars driving on a wet street which is filtered as it spreads through the windows and inevitably reminds me of my grandmother’s place during my childhood then later in the shower the idea of writing a score on the bathroom walls for a song to be sung in the shower which uses the natural resonances of that particular space and when I am going shopping later the sound of my own voice as it tries to carry confidence towards the inhabitants of the village which I will [inhabit] myself for the next six weeks at night in bed surprise that the building itself does not make any noises which one needs to get used to like in the case of many other houses when one spends the first night there only once in a while the wind howling around the top of the tower and the occasional car passing by but other than that unexpected silenced which [14 Sep 2010] is interrupted by my own getting up in the morning and turning on the radio which only works on long wave and therefore has a very characteristic sound which in combination with the old-fashioned English of a Westminster parliament debate sounds like a re-broadcast from the 1950s before I do some work at the desk in the living room which is constantly interrupted by a sound of knocking whose source I cannot identify and of course the sound of air coming out of the shower’s cold water tap instead of cold water so I go for a walk […]
THE GREENHOUSES OF CUSHENDALL
I sit for a while just left of the main strand, looking at the sea and listening to the waves lapping.
I walk up the hill behind the tower leading away from the town and the sea. The houses thin out to become a country road. Fuchsia hedges and abundant blackberries compel me to pick them though I have no bag. I vow to return with a bag and walk on but then start to look for a discarded plastic bag that I can use. There are several plastic bags filled with rubbish but then I find a usable empty bag. I walk past a field being ploughed and somehow feel part of the work being done, meshed into the moment like everything in that space and time is co-existing. I start to pick blackberries and notice the change in focus, previously had been outwards looking at the view, the fields, hills and mountains in the distance. Now all I see are blackberries, the pace is slow and it is hard to move without being stopped by more berries presenting themselves for picking. Eventually the bag is filling and I decide to return trying not to pick more berries as the bag is becoming uncomfortably heavy, but it seems impossible once started to ignore ripe berries. There is an incredible abundance, I feel like urging all the residents of Cushendall to pick blackberries and make jam. There is something very basic about this activity. The last time I remember making jam and picking berries was in my childhood with my mother, grandmother and aunts. It seems a strange task to do alone. This walk has a theme of redness, red stained hands, rosehips, red hawthorn berries, red admirals and peacock butterflies that stop occasionally.
While on the residency I intended to think more about domestic scale actions and gestures. My idea was to work with people, talk to them about everyday actions and think about how normal everyday actions could be thought of as a performance or the basis of performance.
I also wanted to look at domestic relics, those things in the house that have gained importance beyond the sum of simple materials through being involved in significant activity. Before I started any focused purposeful talking to the folk of Cushendall, I decided to do a bit of cleaning. To take off the layer of use and non use that is representative of a fresh start. I washed the windows and began to sand the kitchen table. I video recorded these actions but didn’t record washing dishes or mopping the floor.
I realised at another time that I was documenting the domestic actions of my Dad. My Dad had a thing for sanding back the coffee table. My sister and me used to laugh that it would be like a wafer by the time he was satisfied with it.
Simultaneously I listened to the radio. As usual on Radio 4 there was interesting stuff on about art and history sometimes.
The action of sanding became a bit of a preoccupation while the action of recording it felt personally intimate and placed an aesthetic slant to my perception of what I was doing. In the apparent smallness of that activity there is, I am discovering, a serious profundity, I think.
Having had a hectic previous few months, my stay at the Curfew Tower gave me lots of time and space for free-thinking and making. With long hours in isolation and silence, without a mobile phone signal, TV or internet I began to realise how sequestered the tower felt. However the fantastic people and unspeakable beauty of the place quickly assured me I would have an enjoyable stay!
Over the course of an hour, hitting the shutter every 30 seconds and using a macros lense I took a series of photographs of the comings and goings of Cushendall through the huge keyhole in the tower’s front door.
I quickly became fascinated by the caravan parks dotted around the Glens area. These modular structures with such potential for mobility, temporary architecture on blocks, became the object of much of my thoughts. Their satellite dishes and antennas cracked me up! These ideals of a utopian holiday destination in prefabricated trailer homes, where the sky is always blue became manifest in the drawings, paintings and collages below.
The 3rd of May saw Cushendalls’s U21 local hurling team Ruairí Ógs play Rasharkin in the first round of the Hurling Champions. Ruairí Ógs won with a resounding scoreline of Cusendall 7-13 Rasharkin 1-13. In honour of their victory and as a goodbye present of sorts, I established a temporary pirate radio station on board the tower’s rooftop. Using a home made coaxial cable antenna and a 50mW transmitter I broadcasted Queen’s “We are the Champions” on repeat for one hour on 106.5FM. I played a selection of my own favourite songs for another hour!
The Curfew Tower is a fortified building built in the early years of the nineteenth century. It has five floors, one room on each floor. From the ground up: dungeon, bathroom, living room, bedroom, bedroom. There is a kitchen adjoining the back of the tower. The tower has all modern conveniences. The accommodation allows for no more than two artists in residence at any one time.
Successful applicants have to find their own way to the tower. They will be required to knuckle down, making work that is a response to the tower, the locality or the people of Cushendall.
Some aspect or evidence of the work generated by each artist is to be left behind in the tower. This work will form part of The Curfew Tower Collection. The people of Cushendall will make you feel welcome and the local scenery is beautiful.
My time in the Curfew Tower took place during the coldest winter of my lifetime in January/February 2010. Having been vacant for the past month, I initially had to acclimatise to my new surroundings and was initially tasked with getting the warmth back into the nineteenth century Tower. With the heating turned on indefinitely, I took solace in the local pubs over the first two days. It was here that I engaged with many of the local people of Cushendall, discussing the history and traditions of the town, as well as the activities of past residents of the Tower, both before and during the time of the residency programme.
Over these initial two days of the residency I decided that it would be this interaction that would form the basis of my work for the Curfew Tower, and in direct response to the act of being taught how to play and gamble on the local card game ‘fourty-five’ over an evenings worth of drinks, I made the decision to create work that would reproduce this sense of community.
The resulting work from my time in Cushendall took two forms, the first being a set of 52 ‘packs’ containing; one unique playing card, a number of matchsticks (for gambling), the rules to the game of ‘fourty-five’, and directions to the pub where I was first taught the game. These were left in the Curfew Tower for future residency artists to take and hopefully engage with the welcoming people of Cushendall as I first did.
The second piece of work made was specifically for the open day in August where the people of Cushendall are invited into the Tower to vote for their favourite piece of work from the past years residents. For this I made my own Curfew Tower playing cards and tried to use these to build a card tower that would resemble the Curfew Tower itself. The task of building the playing card tower allowed me to engage and invite audience members to take part, with the work being more about the social interaction rather than the task of building the card tower.