‘Accumulation, transformation, detritus, debris, everyday materials are all recurrent themes in Susan Stockwell’s work. Meticulously hand crafted, the benign sublime beauty in the work belies the devastating effects of our culture and our role in shaping it. Look more closely, and one is confronted by a cultural urgency of global-proportions. Political and cultural colonisation, globalize waste and consumption are reconfigured by Stockwell’s work into a new festering eco system of meaning that slowly seeps like the rising ocean level.’
From the text for the exhibition B-side Ecology
Taipei, Taiwan 2008
Susan Stockwell lives and works in London. After gaining an MA in sculpture from the Royal College of Art in 1993, she became a prolific, polyhedric and social committed artist.
The artist recycles everyday materials to comment on issues of ecology, geo-politics, and global commerce. Maps allow her to identify society’s networks of power and communication. So she use this media in some part of her work, transforming and shaping it in various, creative forms. Although she doesn’t use maps in their actual form, she uses other things related to them.
In 2010 Susan Stockwell created a series of life size dress sculptures made from maps and money. Concerned with Gender politics, the maps define and claim the female body as territory. They’re also sculptural study on colonialism and the British empire.
This dresses revoke the style of the 1890’s British Female Explorers. She was especially inspired by Catherine Routledge. Seems like this woman fell into a crevice in Panama and her crinoline saved her when it caught on a tree branch. At the same time this collection of dresses highlight the idea of female territory and power being enabled by economic independence.
Susan Stockwell’s World Maps
Pattern of the World
Susan Stockwell first big dimension World Map was created in 2000, and now conserved in the V&A Museum. This world map stained onto various dress making patterns with tea and coffee. The representation of continents is symbolical more than real: the proportion of each part of Earth is reduced or increase. It refers to the inaccuracy of the colonial projection. Consequently Africa’s much smaller than it really is and Europe and the USA much larger.
A Chinese Dream
A Chinese Dream is the second map Susan created for the Victorian And Albert Museum. She made this quilt stitched and edged in ribbon in 2010. The quilt has been created from one of the most transferable and anonymous paper objects within contemporary society: money. Following a recent visit to the country, Stockwell observed the economic phenomenon and China’s global power, particularly in the textile trade.
For Stockwell, the continuing relevance of quilts lies in their connection to a ‘make do and mend mentality’ where recycling and ecology are an inherent part of the process. Stockwell chooses these industrial and domestic ‘commodity’ materials because, in her words, they contain ‘stains of existence’ and ‘act as ready-made signifiers’. As a result she can sculpt and interweave in ways that delicately reveal their obscured politics and hidden beauty.
World, Bedfordshire University
This work is a permanent public commission made in 2011 for the University of Bedfordshire’s Central Luton campus. It’s sited in the Student building.
World is made from discarded computer components (supplied by Secure IT Recycling). The choice to use a world map is due to the site. University is a global place of learning, where students come from around the world to learn. The piece plays also with topographical references and, most of all, motherboards are maps made with arteries for information to travel through. Bedfordshire University prides itself on its computer design and software courses so this material seemed appropriate for the context of the work.
Jerusalem also re-uses obsolete computer components to map Great Britain, raising questions about online and offline communities, such as the physical cost of technological change.