home  about  members  now showing  news  press  archive  contact  F.A.Q's  links


Michael Branthewaite
6th July - 18th August 2001
additional text/images
Michael was asked to complete a four-week residency in the gallery that culminated in a two-week show, although the gallery was open to the public throughout. This allowed him not only to continue making the experimental kinetic objects that have dominated his work practice, but also to explore in more depth the idea of durational installations, performances, video and written documentation which were all present in the final show. This was the first summer residency at RED and provided to be a valuable learning experience for the gallery. Most notably it has broadened the range of opportunities we are able to offer artists.


"During my residency at RED GALLERY, I intend to investigate the relationship between the artist's conception of an idea and the final product/object.

The idea I will focus on will be the processes undertaken during the development of an idea, exploring the activities of the artist.

In the final exhibition, I will present art-machines and facilitators that will have produced or will produce work over a period of time, representing the artist's endeavor.


Well where do I start? In fact if work out where I am then I may be able to start. First of all I came to Hull nine months ago with an BA hons in fine art and very little else. I approached the red gallery by way of proposal and visited all the exhibitions I could, having taken a job at a putty factory after claiming income support for three months.

After a number of months I received a proposal from the red gallery suggesting that I worked in the gallery as a kind of residency followed by a two week exhibition. I accepted, The opportunities to exhibit or perform work are rare enough so the chance to work in the gallery as a space was far to tempting.

Three days before my residency in the gallery was due to start I was awarded the opportunity to build or perform an auto-destructive sculpture or work. This proved to be a radical turning point in my views and opinions on my practice and methodology during the course of my residency.


Room 1. Bottle Catapult
  • Machine to through glass bottles
  • Target construction made from flag stone paving
  • 6ft of catapult elastic
  • Artist to build and use machine but in accordance with guide lines below

  • Guide Lines and usage for Artist
  • The Artist must play no role in the hands on creation of the incident
  • After the machine has operated the artist must brush the shattered glass that has left the tarpaulin activity area to the out side perimeter of the aforementioned area.

  • Room 2. Red Balloons: Video documented performance installation
  • Balloons inflated behind security bars in skylight with glass moulds attached.
  • Rotating wooden cam powered by electricity.
  • Cam provides agitation of balloons.
  • Artist assists only with the continuation of the operation, he must therefore only free or move balloons and in no way assist or control the events.

  • Guide lines and usage for artist
  • Start machine.
  • Start video.
  • Behave in a way that will only represent one as an assistant and observer.
  • Stop video when final balloon is displaced.


    My three week residency has finished now and the exhibition Liquidation has started. So how do I feel? Well, about the show, good , but I would like to talk about the various aspects and incidents that gave the show its final appearance and content.

    First of all during the third week of the residency I took ill with a stomach virus which then spread to my chest and less importantly the rest of my body leaving me unable to leave the house for six continuous days. I then made a slight recovery but was subsequently taken to the doctors two nights later. This incident influenced the final show greatly; I was forced to consider what I had been doing to great lengths. With only three days left to work in the gallery and one day to prepare the space for the public, I had to consider what exactly I had been working towards and how in the time left, with three incomplete works, I was going to turn an interesting mess into a coherent exhibition.

    What had I been working towards? Most of my time at Red was used experimenting with materials. I subsequently had a good knowledge of how and why my chosen materials would function. I also had one piece planned, '6 flags around Hull',so I only had to carry out the procedure, albeit in a rather unplanned way! This was made worse when, after changing the original plan to walk around I chose to use my car, which broke down two thirds of the ways through, I completed the final two tasks on foot.

    The benefits of the delay in completing the show was my chance to fully assess the means with which I intended to present my activities. I feel the show benefits from a very free feel although a strong sense of continuity of thought and content runs through all of the work.

    6 Flags around Hull. (originally six red balloons)

    A work to identify the Artist position in the Gallery. I remember someone once quoted to me that if you were lost in the middle of nowhere you should stick a sign in the ground with a name of your choice on it. With 6 Flags around Hull I wanted to use the position of the gallery as the basis of a concept. I identifyed the gallery on a street map then took a compass and marked a circle with Red Gallery as the fulcrum. The circle was divided into six and each point marked off around the perimeter. At each point I was to take a red flag stone and equipment including a thermometer, compass, piece of string, dictaphone and camera. The flag stone was to be used as a point of reference while the equipment was used to measure and record information from each particular location. The measurements consisted of wind direction, measured with the string and compass, temperature measured with the thermometer, verbal description of wind speed and weather, plus back ground noise and a photograph of the flag stone in place. Video documentation was also taken for the Gallery.

    After viewing the piece I would like viewers to assess where the artists activity takes place and how it becomes 'Art'. The final work represented as photographs, recordings and a data sheet presented in a box, is in fact the only way a viewer can experience the work(except in the video diary). Does it matter that I completed and presented the tasks then? In one word, yes. By making work and exploring the relationship between artist and art work I have opened up an area of personal experience, exploring the relationship between myself, my objects and the place they are to be presented.

    Water piece (Floppy sink)

    First of all I wanted to make a mould of the sink in the gallery. I somehow wanted to pull part of the gallery away from itself and redefine it in a different context. I moulded the sink with window sealant then layers of plastic bags cut into strips. This obviously needed supporting, so I built a frame with a cage around it. Having done this I decided I would like to pump water into the sink. I obtained a pump through a local pet store and a paddling pool to stand the frame in. After this I decided to add some bits of hose to channel water thought the points prone leaks making use of chance in the manufacture of the work.. Testing the piece revealed that water splashed out of the pool and onto the painted floor making it very slippy. I positioned Newspapers around the base to absorb the excess water and fixed them to the ground with safety tape.

    This is a difficult work to explain in terms of ideas, as each step influenced the next, yet the final product does not have any meanings or direct relationships with the original conception., as a result, I never really knew what direction the final form would take, it simply represents its own making.

    Cam shaft (Bottle shifter)

    In the second room of Red I spent time making time based installations (documented on a video playing in the same room). The first comprised of what became a private documented performance,. using the security bars which protect the skylights, I began to inflate balloons on the sky light side. To do so was very difficult. Even though I am tall, I still had to climb up to the bars to inflate the balloons. After filling the sky light up with balloons I began to attatch bottles to the knot in the balloons by string. After this was completed I intended to leave the installation until the balloons deflated, releasing the bottles to smash on the floor. I intended chance to play a role in how the aesthetics of the action were presented. This proved to be taking too long in happening so I decided to intervene to maximize the time left in the gallery.

    To accelerate the process, I constructed an eccentric shaft which was then rotated by a sewing machine motor. The whole unit was then mounted on the sky light side of the security bars. With the shaft rotating and creating friction against the balloons, it took approximately one hour for all the balloons to burst.


    In the final show the whole assembly was dismantled and reconstructed. Being interested in domestic materials, I manufactured an authentic cam shaft out of two broom shanks and blocks of 2" x 1". Bottles where then attached with paper clip and elastic band brackets. These in turn where attached to the cams with string and sections of elastic bands.

    The windscreen wiper motor was then transferred from the third 'room bottle' catapult to power the cam shaft. In motion, the bottles rise and fall with the elastic bands stretching as the bottles fall; the machine develops a natural rhythm. I am particularly interested in this set of circumstances: certain characteristics between adjoining materials make a natural relationship, even thought the materials are man made or produced.


    Other supporting work was then mounted onto the walls such as sketches, drawings and photographs. These were fixed to the walls with gaffer tape to stay with the undressed theme of the rest of the show.

    Bottle catapult

    I am particularly interested in work reviling its process of making. The bottle catapult is constructed from a steel frame with a car windscreen wiper motor mounted into it. The motor then has a reel attached to its reduction cog, the reel having a substantial amount of string attached. In operation, the end of the string is attached to the length of catapult elastic, which has the bottle attached to it with elastic band and paper clip brackets. Attached to the machine are two hinges one which the string runs through (a) the other with a craft knife attached (b). In operation when the elastic reaches the hinge (a) it pulls the hinge back. Attached to this is hinge (b) which is forced back against the string cutting it. This releases the elastic and bottle which is propelled toward the flag stones mounted on the adjacent corner of the room.



    The bottle catapult was designed to change materials without directly relying on the artists touch or workmanship. I used the bottles simply because they were there and readily available from the nightclub around the corner. After three weeks of propelling glass bottles at two paving slabs in the corner of the room, a substantial pile of smashed glass had built up and reviled a single minded attempt to smash a large quantity of bottles over a given period. The process of unwinding string and attaching bottles, however, was long and did not suit the violent nature of the machine in action. For the opening of the exhibition I wanted a much more spectacular and definite action to take place this came in the form of a battery of bottles being arranged from the catapult corner to the target corner of the third room. On the end of catapult rubber, normally used for attaching bottles, a 14" long piece of angle iron was attached. When released, the bar would destroy, interfere and adjust the arrangement of bottles. Again the idea of the artist touch was addressed: The artist only being responsible for designing ,manufacturing and instigating the action. However the artist is not responsible for the outcome, using chance as a means of production.


    I discovered much about myself during my time at Red. I came to understand that my ideas are much stronger when their integrity is still intact I found that strength comes from the work itself and not how cleverly it is integrated into art history or any prevalent art scene. The reward is seeing an idea turn from an uncanny thought to a definitive conclusion where the direction taken next is a new entity and no complete understanding is achievable because of infinite possibilities. I have survived with my instincts and intuition still intact. I believe the body of work I have produced shows that artists are freer than ever to explore a vast range of media and representation to meet there goals and accomplish thought provoking and diverse exhibitions. The exhibition only being a means to show how far an idea can go before it becomes something else i.e. the context of the work is limited by the gallery. I would like to think that the gallery shows how work operates in that particular environment, but does not limit the work solely to its condition, so that the idea can be presented to the viewer as full of possibilities in different environments and materials. After all without context where would any art exist?

    Michael Branthwaite, 2001

     home  about  members  now showing  news  press  archive  contact  F.A.Q's  links
    RED Gallery is sponsored by:

    © RED Gallery (disclaimer)
    Site created by © FJ Design