British artist Susie MacMurray is creating a powerful new site-specific installation ‘Witness’ at the National Justice Museum in Nottingham’s former Shire Hall, County Gaol and law courts.
The special exhibition has been commissioned to mark the Museum’s 25th anniversary this year.
‘Witness’ will comprise seven freestanding sculptural pillars made from rope and will be installed outside, in the Museum’s 18th century exercise yard. Evoking a sense of place, the imposing sculptures will respond to the site’s complex history of judgement and imprisonment. The installation invites visitors to reflect on the stories of those who passed through the building, and to consider the strength and resilience required to bear witness.
Built from heavy rope the artwork will be created in situ by a process similar to the traditional craft of French knitting, using a specially constructed giant spool to weave the rope into columns. This act of making connects to the historic use of rope in penal labour; the painstaking process of picking apart old rope, known as ‘picking oakum’, was one of the most common forms of hard labour. The physically arresting structures will stand silently in response to the rope noose hanging on the gallows erected at one end of the exercise yard.
The pillars, which are given strength by the act of twisting and intertwining the rope, will be left in place as they fray and weaken through exposure to the elements.