Aspex Gallery, The Vulcan, PO1 3BF
Monday 01 October 2018 – Thursday 31 October 2019
Regional Interference has been an extremely valuable experience for me. In terms of my work, it has provided a structure within which I could find a new form - and new publics - for a long-term project, The Vessel, a piece that had previously been realised as a narrative performance has now become a film, plus a curated display of artifacts. These were shown together in a solo presentation at WORKS|PROJECTS in Bristol.
The programme also introduced me to several other artists, a lively cluster of curators and collectors, plus an interesting writer, Chris Fite-Wassilak, who kindly agreed to take some time off from a residency on an island in the middle of a French reservoir to visit my exhibition and spin some words around my work.
Gallerist Simon Morrissey’s support ranged from general encouragement and advice on the finer details of the project and installation (extending and cutting holes in his lovely gallery walls, for example) to conscripting two brilliant, technically-savvy young artists to help me with the production of the film.
It was somehow apposite that The Vessel found a temporary home on Spike Island, an area of land between the tidal river and floating harbour - just behind Brunel’s S.S. Great Britain. My project explores a large metal barge that once served as the UK’s only prison ship of recent times, H.M.P. The Weare. Based in Portland Harbour for a decade, it’s now been re-modelled as floating accomodation for international oil workers and is in a port in the Niger Delta. Earlier in its life, it had several job descriptions - it housed British troops in the Falklands in the mid-1980s, for example, then migrant workers based at a Volkswagen factory on the Dutch German border...
The project is about my attempts to try to access and trace this object and its strange, marginal history. It’s an incomplete story, since despite its size this is an entity that people have often tried to hide from view, and whose existence has been challenged on legal grounds more than once.
The Vessel has involved me being in contact with a wide range of individuals and groups whose lives have intersected with this thing. Even on the evening of the exhibition opening in Bristol, a bearded man in a blazer introduced himself as a former Navy submarine officer and told me that he remembered visiting the vessel when it was moored near Port Stanley, just after the end of the Falklands War. He’d attended an entertainment evening on board, and we were soon deep in conversation about Jim Davidson, Bob Carolgees and Spit the Dog...
Without Regional Interference Bob and Spit might never have resurfaced in my mind. For this alone I am - of course - very grateful.
Mike Ricketts is an artist based in Frome, Somerset. He studied at Chelsea College of Art & Design and the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, and has been exhibiting his work since the late 1990s. Recent projects in the South West include Notes from Nowhere (Foreground Projects, Frome), The Vessel (Her Majesty’s Prison The Verne and b-side international multi-media arts festival, Portland), and A Fire in the Master’s House is Set (Chapter, Cardiff), all 2012. As well as presenting work in exhibitions (e.g. at Laura Bartlett Gallery, Cass Sculpture, Rokeby) Mike has made several independent projects. He writes regularly, and teaches at Christie’s Education in London.
Working towards a South West where talented artists thrive, and a resilient and connected visual arts ecology that inspires more engaged and diverse audiences to value and advocate for its work.
Part of the Contemporary Visual Arts Network