By Leo Swarvett
I visited the opening of Seiko Kinoshita’s art installation “Threading Through Time” today.
It was situated in a low basement below the museum at Belper Mill. This is a fascinating space, divided into three sections by two rows of pillars stepped like pyramids.
In the furthest section to the left, adjacent to the river, were mountainous boxes of bobbins disguarded there since the active days of Belper Mill.
Seiko has worked for a long while with textile art, previously creating fabrics as the end product then casting out into more diverse commissions, like collaborations with scientists.
She lives in Sheffield but originates in Japan.
For this piece she visited Tomioka Silk Mill World Heritage Site and Usui Seishi, the largest silk mill in Japan, to record industrial noises to add to the installation’s soundscape, along with sounds from John Smedley Mill and Masson Mills, including vocal immitations of mechanical sounds remembered and re-enacted by ex mill workers, including Belper’s own East Mill.
In an elaborate fashion that must have taken forever to construct and the patience of a spider, Seiko has strategically threaded cotton, one thread at a time, from the bobbins, rigging them to one end of the mid section through the first tension bridging device, then spanning many yards to the other. These were made with the help of a part from her own loom and a welder friend. The effect is stunning and a picture would paint a thousand words here, but the main treat is seeing this for yourself in the flesh.
The array of threads resemble and represent the river itself, and perhaps relate to balanced tension and order in a weaving and construction sense. It is also a peaceful retreat from the loud stessful nature of modern life.
This is just a teaser. You should see it for yourself.
The exhibition runs from Friday 18th October to Sunday 3rd November, during museum opening times 11am-4pm
The cost is included with entry to the museum (£5 adults under 16s free)
Photos by Leo Swarvett – Click to enlarge
The installation has also been included in the national programme of events for Japan-UK Season of Culture because it connects the textile heritage of both nations.
Kat Tonks, manager at the museum said, “We’re really pleased to be hosting Seiko’s installation here this Autumn – it’s absolutely amazing to see it in situ. It’s great to see how she has been inspired by the heritage and social history of what happened in this part of the world.”
There is a second aspect to Seiko’s work here. “Threading through Communities” is a lantern lit walk for the community taking place on 26th October.
Seiko has created a lantern design inspired by the shape of the cotton bobbin, and the Japanese tradition of lantern festivals. The lanterns combine cotton thread, including John Smedley’s Sea Island Cotton, paper and other natural materials to thread through each lantern to create beautiful effects when lit.
She has worked with local community groups such as the Belper Clusters Heritage Group, schools, and church and craft groups to make the lanterns which will then be installed along the Clusters Housing, a historically significant area in Belper where the workers from the cotton mills lived – these are some of the earliest examples of industrial housing in the world. The event will shine a light on the significance of this area, and also transfer skills and ideas to the community groups about how they can continue this type of event into the future.
Photos of community lantern workshop at St. Peter’s church, by Lynne Henley
The lantern event will start at 6pm from George Street in Belper on Saturday 26th October and will include poetry performed by Captive Audience Theatre Company, written by Janette Burton of the Belper Clusters Heritage Group.
The event will end at St Peter’s Church, Belper with refreshments. This event is also included in the World Heritage Site Discovery Days Festival starting on the same day.
The commission was funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England for the World Heritage Site’s Great Place Scheme is the second of three programmed arts commissions. “Mr Arkwright” can still be seen at Cromford Mills until 3rd November, and the team is working with Constella Opera Ballet to bring an exciting outdoor performance to Darley Abbey Day on 20th June 2020.
Seiko said, “I feel very privileged to work on this project. Strutt’s North Mill is full of hidden interesting history and heritage. I was especially inspired by how the socially-minded Strutt family built a thriving community in Belper and I wanted to shine a spotlight on the unique areas they built and create an opportunity for communities to get together. I was also fascinated by the World Heritage Site status of Derwent Valley Mills and found many similarities to the Tomioka Silk Mill in Japan which was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 2014. I hope my installation brings together the unique aspects of those mills, memories and the future of the Derwent Valley. ”
Seiko’s work can be explored on her website: www.seikokinoshita.com