The Great Thames Disaster

I chose to install my work ‘The Great Thames Disaster’ in the Generator Room on LV21, the room has a cold dark green steel floor, there are no windows, it is dominated by two large white air receivers for the foghorns and when the tides are approaching the light house 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 of the Princess Alice in 1878. 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.

I painted my fabric a neon pink, the colour and fabric refers to the number of women and children that died and comes from my research and development period from the ‘Princess Alice Umbrella’. 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 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 organised with purpose, some in orderly rows, like the Black Museum at the community hall in Woolwich and some collected together like islands, floating, drowning. The installation was intricate, vulnerable, the objects miniature in size, enhanced by the negative space of the Generate Rooms steel floor. The impact of the work demonstrated the toil of the human hand, decorative but communicating the scale of the loss, with a puff of wind or a ripple of water it could have disappeared.