Basque children exhibition installing now!

Claire Hignett uses the properties of domestic textiles to explore memory and the items we keep as souvenirs of our lives. She is interested in the tension between transience and permanence, security and insecurity, protection and abandonment.

Claire discovered that in 1937 a group of Basque children came to Salford as evacuees from the Spanish Civil War. To ensure these children will be remembered for a little while longer, Claire has used her sense of play to create dolls to represent them, bags to protect them, and a game to tell their story.

The exhibition ‘In Search of the Basque children: From Bilbao to Southampton’ will run until 1 July.

Print and Process exhibition private view

The Private view of our Print and Process exhibition is taking place on Thursday 19 April, 17.30-19.30.

This exhibition runs across the Level 4 Gallery and the Special Collections Gallery, with prints from Special Collections, from the University Art Collection and from WSA students.

All welcome!

Cartographic Operations on Level 4

A new exhibition on mapping opens on 20 February. ‘Cartographic Operations’  will sit alongside the exhibition in the Special Collections Gallery, ‘Beyond Cartography: Safeguarding Historic Maps and Plans’, and there will be a joint Private View on Tuesday 28 February, 5pm to 8pm.

Some text about the show (images to follow):

In Bernhard Siegert’s ‘The map is the territory’, he refers to the idea of ‘cartographic operations’. The suggestion is that our way of seeing the world is not simply represented in maps, but that map-making is itself a play of competing signs and discourses producing our subjecthood. These are the coordinates we come to live by, which in turn influence the marks and signs at our disposal when we seek to make and share representations of the world.

This exhibition brings together three alternative cartographic operations.

Jane Birkin’s 1:1 is a direct mapping of infrastructure behind the white space of display. It is ­a piece produced by performative procedure: a regulated operation where authorial control is established at the outset and rules are strictly followed. Electric current and metal are plotted using a DIY store metal/voltage detector and the information transferred simply to print.

There are literary precedents for mapping at this scale. In Jorge Luis Borges’ short story On Exactitude in Science cartography became exactingly precise, producing a map that has the same scale as its territory. And, in Lewis Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno Concluded, a German professor tells how map-makers experimented with the use of ever larger maps, until they finally produced a map of the scale of 1:1. ‘It has never been spread out, yet’, said the professor. ‘The farmers objected: they said it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight!’ In this case, the gallery wall is covered, shut off from light and eyes. Although 1:1 is an impassive engagement with the rule-based activity of cartography, it simultaneously performs an affective act of display.

Abelardo Gil-Fournier’s Marching Ants draws upon historical photographic sources of landscape transformations driven by the building of large water irrigation infrastructures as part of 20th century Spanish land reforms. The work is a reminder of the use of forced labor to transform the lines of maps and diagrams into tunnels and channels in the earth. An economic exploitation of political repression that took place during more that 20 years within Penal Colonies that have been since then removed and forgotten.

The marching ants effect, also known as marquee selection, is the animated border of dashed lines often used in computer graphics programs where the dashes seem to move slowly sideways and up and down, as ants marching in line. It is the visible sign of a potentially immediate transformation within the surface of the screened image. Considered from the point of view of an aerial landscape, operations such as gridding, ordering or leveling land, the marching ants are a form of cultural technique, the tracing of an interaction between imaging technologies, environment, geography and governmental knowledge

Sunil Manghani and Ian Dawson’s Not on the Map is an image-text installation built into the gallery space. It draws upon maps held in the University’s Special Collections, picking out details from a volume of Spanish maps from the Ward Collection and military maps of Portugal taken from the Bremner Collection. These details are placed in dialogue with tracings from early and recent figurative works by Jenny Saville – the noted contemporary British artist associated with the Young British Artists of the 1990s and well-known for her large-scale female nudes. The rendering of her work here offers a play on the distinctions between perception/sensations and geography/landscape, which combined with details from real maps only blurs and disorientates our ways of reading lines, sites and points of view. In recent work, Saville shows bodies together, such as an infant wrestling in a mother’s arms, couples embracing, a fight, and children playing in the sand. Such scenes take us into uncharted territories, which we might liken to the enigmatic inks of long forgotten maps. Unlike the spectacle of the body in Saville’s early work, the configuration of images staged here pose as private, idiosyncratic landscapes made up of no single definite lines.





Elastic System at Hartley Library

Elastic System is an interactive artwork that was produced by Richard Wright whilst he was Artist in Residence at the British Library. The piece was launched at the British Library in September and is now in the foyer of Hartley Library  where it will remain until the end of February 2017. Brought to Southampton by the Special Collections exhibition team, Elastic System already has connections to this University: it is part of a wider AHRC-funded research project, ‘The Internet of Cultural Things’, in partnership with Kings’ College London and Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton.


The on-screen photo-mosaic is based on the only known portrait of the librarian Thomas Watts, shown above. In 1938 Watts invented his innovative ‘elastic system’ of storage in order to deal with the enormous growth of the British Library’s collections. Generated from 4,300 photographs of books currently stored in the British Library basements at St Pancras, the mosaic allows the visual browsing of parts of the British Library’s collections that are normally hidden. It is connected live to the British Library’s electronic requesting system and by clicking on a book, you can find out more about the item and how to request it from the British Library.

When a book is requested it is removed from the ‘shelf’ to reveal a second image underneath. This image represents the work that goes on in the Library’s underground storage basements. Elastic System encapsulates the many layers of information ecology that makes up a library: visual, data and infrastructural systems in co-operation as a living organism of data.

Come and try it out — and find out more about the wider project at

‘Proof’ exhibition event


There will be an event for  WSA Graphic Arts’ ‘Proof’ exhibition in the Level 4 Gallery on Tuesday 19th April, 17:00 to 19:00.

The Special Collections Gallery exhibition ‘The Book The Object’ will  also be open 17:00 to 19:00, so come along and see two very different exhibitions about the book.


‘Proof’ runs until 20 April
‘The Book The Object’ runs until 27 May

Re: Making private view

Please join us for the private view of Re: Making on 25 February, 17:00 – 19:00. This will be held jointly with the private view of the Special Collections Gallery exhibition, The Book, The Object – an exhibition of wonderful and rare examples of books, from the 15th to the 21st century. Emphasis is on the book as a material object, which provides a fascinating dialogue with the objects on display for Re: Making.