Cabot Circus is a shopping centre adjacent to Broadmead shopping district which opened in September 2008, after a ten-year planning and building project costing £500 million. The Cabot Circus development contains shops, offices, a cinema, hotel and 250 apartments and covers a total of 139,350 m2 (1,500,000 sq. ft.) of floor space. As part of the development London based art consultants InSite Arts were commissioned to develop a permanent and temporary public art commissions programme which included Neville Gabie’s ‘A weight of stone carried from China for you’.
In 2006 Neville Gabie was commissioned by Insite Arts on behalf of the Bristol Alliance to be artist in residence on a 37 acre city centre redevelopment in Bristol. With an onsite studio, Neville was give free access to any part of the building site as well as the opportunity to attend board meetings and site meetings.
Over that period Neville Gabie produced four publications covering several specific pieces of work, and two permanent works, including ‘A weight of stone carried from China for you’. In addition with the support of Insite Arts and Bristol Alliance and with Arts Council funding Neville Gabie invited and seven additional artists to make temporary work in response to the development.
As well as being built by a workforce from over fifty different nations, the materials used to construct Cabot Circus and its public realm were procured and processed from suppliers from around the world, the vast majority of which will never experience Bristol. In order to examine this fact Neville Gabie developed ‘A weight of stone carried from China for you’. This intimate installation reflects the global nature of the procurement and processing of materials, and celebrates those involved in contributing to the creation of this part of Bristol’s city centre. Taking the idea of the connections between source and final resting place ‘A Weight of Stone Carried From China For You’ was a documented journey taken by Neville which tracked the movement of a single granite kerbstone from its source in a quarry in the Fujian Province of China and its transportation by truck, train and ferry, to its final installation in Bristol’s Bond Street.
Kerbstones, though very visible, are probably one of the most mundane elements in any building development. How often have you looked down when you are crossing the street and thought about what you are standing on? And yet in the refurbished streets around Broadmead you are likely to be standing on a very small piece of a Chinese mountain. Although the artists intention was to respond creatively to a usually invisible supply chain the project also touched on the ecological aspects of contemporary construction projects, and their associated carbon footprints. The granite used in Broadmead was G654 and was sourced from the Jia Jhing quarry in the Fujian Province of China.
The kerbstone becomes a ‘touchstone’ for those who notice it amongst a sea of similar stones in Broadmead. It is a poignant reminder that within the creation of this very British city, there is also a small part of China.
The artist’s journey was made possible by Kevin Hives of Stonepave UK who were the contract suppliers for Broadmead and who coordinated Neville’s access to the Chinese government owned Jia Jhing quarry and to their factories in China without whose support this project would not have been possible.
Neville’s practice is focused on responding to locations which are in the process of change. In practical terms his work has been manifested as a series of temporary interventions, books and films made in response to specific locations or situations. These sites are not arbitrary or randomly selected, but fit together, being places in a state of physical or social flux. Projects are developed over a sustained period of time and often involve working in collaboration with other artists and writers. Previous projects include POSTS published by Penguin Books [photographs from this publication have been exhibited in Japan Korea, Germany, Portugal, South Africa and the UK] Artist in Residence at Tate Liverpool; a four month residency at Halley Research Station, Antarctica with the British Antarctic survey; three years as artist in residence on a building site in Bristol – Cabot Circus ‘bs1’ and a five year project in a North Liverpool Tower block ‘up in the air’. He has worked on residencies as far afield as Guangzhou in China, a remote town in western Australia at International Art Space Kellerberrin Australia, as well as working on a photographic project with the NGO ‘Right to Play’ in Afghan Refugee camps in Pakistan. The ‘Right to Play’ programme was established by a three-time Olympic gold medal winner Johann Koss. His work is included in the Tate Gallery and Arts Council Collections.
InSite Arts is a public art organisation founded by Sarah Collicott and Sam Wilkinson in 2001. InSite Arts works in partnership with its clients to generate and deliver innovative and relevant public art and arts initiatives in diversity of scales and in a wide variety of media.
InSite Arts develop strategies and artworks and have commissioned a wide range of projects from temporary events to permanent installations, from the more intimately scaled art projects through to major landmark installations integrated into the public realm and architectural schemes.
At the heart of their work is our staunch commitment to commissioning artwork which will inspire and intrigue, which become a fundamental part of a successful building, development, town or city. This can only be achieved by working closely with and supporting artists and clients throughout the course of the art project/programme, through to installation. Successfully conceived and delivered public artworks draw inspiration from a thorough understanding of location, the potential ‘audience’, history of the site and the aspirations of client and design team.