Invisible Decorations

Royal College of Art and Grizedale Arts
December 2004

Lawson Park is a farmhouse sat on the west side of Grizedale Forest, it overlooks Coniston Water and across the lake, Coniston village, framed by a backdrop of craggy mountain peaks. Planned as the new residential and administrative base for Grizedale Arts, Lawson Park will not exhibit artworks or be open to visitors. Instead, the work of Grizedale Arts is performed and shown in existing public spaces from village fetes to mountain-tops, and is often created in collaboration with people from the local community. Despite this engagement, many villagers in Coniston are dismissive of the artists on the hill.

Lawson Park - View

In the run up to Christmas, Coniston village is bathed in an array of Christmas decorations and lights. Beyond a defined village perimeter the lights stop. Their use is regulated to preserve the aesthetics of this famously romantic landscape. Grizedale Arts have, in the past, taken down outdoor work that uses visible light at Lawson Park, following prolonged complaints from a small number of villagers upset at the distant point of light interrupting the dark serenity of the hillside. The preservation of this landscape's image is engrained into local culture and economy, opposing interest groups often vying over ownership of land and vista.

Lawson Park - Panorama

Invisible Decorations

A large-scale Christmas light extravaganza adorns Lawson Park and the surrounding forest trees throughout the festive season. The lights, broadcast their image into the valley invisibly, encountered by the visitors and residents of Coniston at a single point across the Lake. A small hide, similar to those used for watching wildlife, houses a night-vision telescope through which the infrared lights are visible.

The project may well be dismissed by the village as an aesthetic and cultural vulgarity, or perhaps enjoyed as an intriguing novelty. The aim is to contribute to a wider discussion of the many contradictions that form the relationship between these two places. Contradictions shared by much of the Lake District in contrasts between: the nostalgic and the contemporary, community and the individual, connectivity and isolation, nature and technology, and in public and private ownership of both property and the area's aesthetic.

The hide in Coniston Village

The view through the night vision telescope

Application built in Processing to encode morse code messages in the flashing star on top of the house.

Invisible Decorations - Exhibition

Light and telescope prototype
Work in Progress exhibition, RCA, March 2004

Invisible Decorations - Exhibition View

Viewing the invisible lights through the telescope
Work in Progress exhibition, RCA, March 2004

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