The Great Thames Disaster

I choose to install my work ‘The Great Thames Disaster’ in the Generator Room on LV21, the room has a dark green, cold, uneven steel floor, with no windows and no air flow, it is dominated by two large white air receivers for the foghorns and when the tides are approaching the ship the room fills with the sound of lapping water and banging metal.

I covered the floor with fabric pieces, cut and torn into the shapes that would have floated up to the surface of the Thames from the sinking Princess Alice, pitiful possessions of various articles of male and female apparel emerging from the disaster: bonnets, walking sticks, gloves, newspapers, tea cups, purses and toys, along with unidentified scraps of fabric, raising the question wether they represent a passengers possession.

The fabric was painted a neon pink,  the colour and use of material coming from my research and development period from the ‘Princess Alice Umbrella’ and is a reference to the number of women and children that died. The textiles installation refers to ‘womens work’ and the domestic, it is in stark contrast to the interior of the Generator Room. The objects were drawn and cut by myself and young people from the Isle of Sheppey and Gravesend.

The floor is a symbolic space, (like the surface of the river), when it is decorated it reverses the ordinary value of things, it acts like a canvas and becomes a space to display, a place of beauty, revelation and value, a sacred space for gathering, like a ground drawing.

The pattern of the fabric objects on the floor I sometimes organised with purpose: the same objects collected together like islands, floating, drowning, and some geometrically, like the Black Museum at the community hall in Woolwich. The installation is intricate, vulnerable, the objects miniature in size, enhanced by the negative space of the Generate Rooms steel floor. The impact of the work demonstrates the toil of the human hand, it is decorative and communicates the scale of the loss, with a puff of wind or a ripple of water it could have disappeared.