Installation view
10/01/19 - 20/01/19
For our first show of 2019, we have Shouldn’t Throw Stones – The view of a night watchman, which is a project by artist Kevin Casey. Part documentary photography, part archival re-presentation and recording, and part making ends meet, Casey has been documenting the former Pilkington Glass Headquarters for the past two years during his job as their nighttime security. Casey’s images and the collection of artefacts from Pilkington’s presents the social and cultural history of the St Helens glass industry.


Installation view
How did this project come about?

I was a Gallery supervisor at FACT. Several years ago they decided to make the majority of Front of House positions redundant and replaced paid staff with volunteers. I then completed my PGCE teaching qualification and was offered several paid teaching roles that fell through. I have always created work with my photography and video (both professional and personal projects) but not enough on a consistent basis that a regular (albeit low paid) wage could contribute to paying a mortgage and raising 2 young children.

After approximately a year on the dole I was offered a job as a Night Watchman at a site in St Helens (Merseyside). I knew someone who worked for a property company who had acquired what was the Pilkington's Glass HQ. I had no idea of its history, had only visited St Helens a few times and had never worked as a Night Watchman before. I was given a quick tour of the 32 acre complex, its several interconnected buildings, halls, tunnels, workshops etc... was given the keys and told "All yours, see you in the morning". Whilst on patrol of the site I began to photograph the locations , mainly to help guide me through it as it is very easy to get lost. My camera acted as a navigational tool rather than an artistic one. As time went on I would discover more locations, items, photographs and would research the history of the company and it's workers. Gradually the project started to develop. I shared some of my images and findings online with local history groups and other forms of social media. I was lucky enough 'The Double Negative' (online Arts magazine) featured my work in progress, from there I had contact from a wide variety of creatives who wanted to collaborate. The project grew bigger with more recognition which gave me the confidence to apply for funding. I received Arts Council Funding to then deliver the project.

Do you think artists have a responsibility to work with archives in this way?

Not necessarily, I think artists have a responsibility to themselves to create work how they see fit. What they choose to do with any other affiliated representation of others in found images and documents then becomes a personal or moral viewpoint of being responsible. There could have been many different versions or interpretations of this project. There is a vast number of subjects related to Pilkington's wether it be archival or commenting on change in UK manufacturing, workers rights, architecture, current documentation of the site and my own experience/viewpoints. I would never claim to be any kind of authority into any of these subjects apart from my own experiences and discovering the remains affiliated to the site. I was not invited to work with a formal, categorised archive by an institution and create a body of work. I discovered the objects, images and paraphernalia whilst on my patrols of the site. Discovering and saving the materials from being disposed of was part of my nightly routine, the routine became the main focus of the work so working with an archive became linked to the working method.

What’s next for this project?

At the moment I am reflecting on the work that has been produced so far. I am still working as a Night Watchman at the site. It has been a very difficult process working nights, producing work related to the project and also freelancing. I have not had a lot of sleep the last 2 years so it is nice to finally get a little rest on days off. There are several other avenues I think the project could travel to develop or create a new piece of work within the same frame work. I have approached many curators and Arts institutes in St Helens, Liverpool and Manchester about the possibility of working together but for whatever reason they do not want to collaborate. The ideal scenario would be to tour the project and hope to develop it each time it is exhibited but for now the artwork and my working life is in a state of limbo.
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