Strong Roomwith Dr Jane Wildgoose
Selected for ‘Kaleid 2014’ (London) and ‘F Book Show’ (Tokyo, Japan)

Strong Room, Roelof Bakker, Jane Wildgoose, Negative Press London, 2014, tactile experience, material qualities

Strong Room, Roelof Bakker, Jane Wildgoose, Negative Press London, 2014, tactile experience, material qualities

Maintenance Room

Strong Room, Roelof Bakker, Jane Wildgoose, Negative Press London, 2014, tactile experience, material qualities

Council Chamber

Strong Room, Roelof Bakker, Jane Wildgoose, Negative Press London, 2014, tactile experience, material qualities

Strong Room

Strong Room, Roelof Bakker, Jane Wildgoose, Negative Press London, 2014, tactile experience, material qualities

Artists’ book Strong Room (Negative Press London, 2014)

 

In Strong Room, photographs showing traces of preserved past human activity are used as inspiration for writing about the loss of tangible experiences and the lack of physical presence in the digital world, as well as exploring the historical and academic importance of paper-based archives and the potential of material qualities to prompt the imagination and evoke memories. The design of the book enhances its tactile content, employing three paper stocks, each with a unique physical quality.

The book was developed over a period of a year in which Bakker and Wildgoose exchanged ideas and interests, recognising a shared concern for the loss of the tactile experience in the digital sphere.

The photographs in the book show traces of past human activity inside three spaces at Hornsey Town Hall: the council chamber, a maintenance room, and a strong room which was photographed shortly before its contents were moved to a modern storage facility. At the time of recording, the building had not been in public use since the 1980s.

In his brief essay commenting on apps replacing physical objects, Bakker writes:

‘The “replacement” apps have no texture, no variety of finishes or materials, no difference in weight, scale, shape or design. They don’t require any physical handling apart from users’ thumbs scrolling and selecting options, a kind of “thumbing down”. You will never find a scratched and worn man-handled app in a second-hand shop.’

At the time, Wildgoose was halfway through her doctoral research in the School of Art and Design History at Kingston University London. In a paper about their creative collaboration in the European Journal of Life Writing, Wildgoose explains how her practice-based doctoral project was framed as an artist’s response to the UK Government’s Guidance for the Care of Human Remains in Museums (2005), and investigated the circumstances in which human remains were collected for metropolitan museums during the late nineteenth century, for the purposes of collecting data for what was then known as “physical anthropology” – but we would now call “racial science”.

The opportunity to reflect on her emotional response to the pernicious archival evidence that she discovered, in a piece of creative writing and in response to Bakker’s photographs, she writes, ‘provided an opportunity to explore a range of thoughts and associations that preoccupied me during my visits to the archives. The result was a sliver of life writing, the content of which, though central to the development of my thesis, would otherwise have gone unrecorded.’

Reviewing the book in the spring 2014 issue of Source Photographic Review, Daniel Jewesbury writes :

‘Here are tiny individual deaths, of experience and knowledge and tactile memory, quotidian interactions between the mental and the physical, in the old “real” world, that world which, we now know, is merely a huge explanatory model of digital information, like those coloured balls connected with white sticks that are used to demonstrate atomic structures; a model where things with mass and dimensions in space represent data forms which, in truth, have neither. The book captures the passing into irrelevance, or historical curiosity, of the world model, and its simplicity is the key to its power.’

Bakker and Wildgoose gave a talk about Strong Room in relation to material memories and the digital record on 8 June 2017 at IABA Europe 2017, Kings College, London. The paper, ‘Strong Room: Material Memories and the Digital Record’ by Jane Wildgoose and Roelof Bakker appears in European Journal of Life Writing, Vol 7 (2018), https://ejlw.eu/article/view/31507/28880

Strong Room was selected for ‘Kaleid 2014’, an exhibition of fifty new European artists’ books (19 July, Art Academy, London SE1) and for ‘F Book Show’ (26 March to 13 April 2014, 72 Gallery, Tokyo, Japan) an exhibition of new photography books from the UK curated by Photobookshow.

Photographs from the ‘Strong Room’ series won First Prize (Gold) at the London Photographic Association Still Life 5 competition (June 2011). The photographs were recorded at Hornsey Town Hall in 2010.

Strong Room has been acquired by Chelsea College of Arts Library (London, UK), MoMA Library (New York, USA), Brooklyn Museum (New York, USA), Yale Centre for British Art (Newhaven, USA) and Sydney College of the Arts Library (Sydney, Australia) and is part of the Library Project Collection, Photo Ireland (Dublin, Ireland).

Negative Press London www.neg-press.com/books
Jane Wildgoose www.janewildgoose.co.uk

Strong Room, Roelof Bakker, Jane Wildgoose, Negative Press London, 2014, tactile experience, material qualities