The Politics of Heritage vs. the Heritage of Politics by renowned German artist activist Thomas Kilpper, is an ambitious exhibition comprising a large-scale site-specific floor carving, commissioned by Edinburgh Printmakers to celebrate the launch and heritage of our new home Castle Mills.
Heralding a new era in print for Edinburgh Printmakers and inspired by a research residency in Fountainbridge in 2018, Kilpper’s commission takes the form of an installation depicting politico-heritage themes arising out of his research into the archives of Castle Mills and its past incarnations as the HQ of the North British Rubber Company (NBRC) and later a brewery. This artwork signals the building’s redevelopment as a world-class hub of creativity – the past and future function of the site united across time through the buildings continuing use and dedication to production and innovation.
Kilpper has covered the entire gallery floor with rubber, creating a giant floor based printing template, providing him with a rubber matrix on which to carve images that relate to the social history of the building. Kilpper has carved portraits of people who lived and worked on the site and those that will work in the building in the future.
The Castle Mills site is rich with industrial and social history; it was famous for its innovative rubber products such as footwear for soldiers in WW1, hot water bottles, tires and flooring materials. Although the way of working at the rubber factory at Fountainbridge was totally embedded in mainstream capitalistic factory production, there is little record of any class conflicts or dissent between the management, migrant and local workers.
This exhibition is a fictional narration, touching upon the site’s heritage and many local stories and records. The artist’s unique research interests forming the narrative and using the history and images of the past to spark public dialogue on the questions of significance today and pondering the prospects of tomorrow.
“Right now across the world decisions are being made by politicians that I think need to be challenged. Decisions on the environment, on coexistence and our way of living together. It is a phenomenon that societies are getting more polarised, right-wing parties reappearing and sowing prejudices and hatred against minorities, and politicians unwilling to protect the powerless in our society and instead promoting the interests of the banks and giant corporations. We have a shift back to the dark side of nationalism, not only Trump’s "America first” slogan but also UKIP, the Italian, Austrian, Polish government or even Marine Le Pen’s policy paradigmatically indicate. Coming to Edinburgh at a time when Britain is planning to leave the European Union while Scotland would prefer to stay, will be very interesting. As an artist I am dealing with aesthetics in the broadest sense which includes questions around how to address conflicting social issues.
These questions highlight fundamental concerns about our future, that I hope to be able to examine through this project.
Castle Mills, after being abandoned for several decades, shall again be brought to life and become a space for production. This time a place of artistic production based on a diverse range of critical voices at a challenging time in our history.”