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Diocletian Sign

I wanted to make a painting to enter into the Ferens open exhibition but I had a really bad reaction and the skin on my hands flared up making painting impossible. I decided instead to finish the first part of my Waiting For a Sign project--Diocletian Sign.

It began with an idea I had of metal detecting the grass verges of our council estate and finding a Roman coin buried there. I'm not a fan of the Romans or of empires in general but I liked the absurdity of the idea. There was a Celtic artefact found at the northern edge of the estate a few decades ago and so the scenario is totally plausible. I've always liked the idea that hundreds or thousands of years ago momentous events could have happened in obscure suburban places like this.

Having said all that, it's the sign post which is the real focus of the project, not the coin or even Mr Diocletian. The sign post is one of about 17 dotted around Dent Road and I plan to make a sign and an audio/video piece for each one, eventually forming an open air ritual landscape.

Featured in the Diocletian video is a crumbling folly which is part of the nearby Risby manor. It was built by Eaton Mainwaring Ellerker in the 1770s beside a lake also created by him as part of a large naturalistic garden project. Unfortunately the manor house burned down and he died before the project could be completed so the place has been sort of frozen in time. Apparently his son renovated the house and tried to carry on the project but it burned down again and was demolished.

The place does have a haunted feeling about it. I visited quite often earlier this year and I began to see similarities between the crumbling folly and the rusting signposts. Both are in a state of disrepair with their original purpose and significance having been forgotten.

It occurred to me that the folly was built at the time when the common fields around what would become our housing estate were being enclosed by Parliamentary acts. This was a process by which vast acres of common land were taken out of the hands of the people and consolidated into large private farms.

While studying old maps a while ago I realised that some of the old trees between the houses on our estate are actually the surviving relics of these ancient field systems, some of them even dating to the medieval period. I like the ideas behind the video but making it and the audio was a huge amount of work. My music and video abilities are quite rudimentary and the thought that I have so many more to make is daunting. But I know the finished product will be powerful and full of meaning.

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