‘Milling About’ by Laura Wilson
Milling About by Laura Wilson explores Hull’s and the East Riding of Yorkshire’s history of growing grain and producing flour for baking bread. Inspired by the archaeological collections in the museum, Wilson worked with archaeologist Dr. Melanie Giles, University of Manchester, to explore the evolution of ancient grinding technologies and their affect on the human body.
This new commission for Surroundings, a Humber Museums Partnership programme, was presented within the archaeological galleries, in a building that between 1856 and 1925, was part of the Corn Exchange and is situated opposite the now demolished Clarence Flour Mills. Set to a soundtrack by Mira Calix, the video follows the protagonist enacting the repetitive motions of grinding flour by hand using quern stones, a common practice in Britain until the Romans brought their engineering skills here and as Dr Giles says, ‘eased the burden on the body’.
‘Historically quern stones would have been very personal objects, and often destroyed when the owner died. This was a daily ritual producing just enough flour to make bread, the upper stone is rotated or rubbed to and from on the lower one: the stones grind each other and produce dust. It is rhythmic movement, there is a pace to it but these movements are laborious, demanding and necessary: the body grinds.’
Laura Wilson’s research included visits to Skidby Windmill, the local family-run organic millers J. Stringers & Sons and the deserted village of Wharram Percy.
She also met John Cruse, co-ordinator of the Yorkshire Archaeology Society’s Yorkshire Quern Survey; Dr. Ruth Pelling, Historic England Senior Environmental Archaeologist; and Dr. Richard Osgood, Senior archaeologist of the Ministry of Defence, to discuss her ideas.
Laura Wilson in one of four artists responding to the theme of ‘food’ in the first year of our 3-year ‘Surrounding’ project entitled ‘We Are What We Eat’
Laura Wilson is an artist based in London. She is interested in how history is carried and evolved through everyday materials, trades and craftsmanship. She works with specialists to develop sculptural and performative works that amplify the relationship between materiality, memory and tacit knowledge. Her new commission by Invisible Dust and the Humber Museums Partnership exploring the evolution of ancient techniques of milling flour and their affect on the human body is currently on display in the Hull and East Riding Museum until 6 December 2017.
Wilson’s interdisciplinary and research-based works have been exhibited widely including at SPACE, London; V&A, London; Guest Projects, London (2017); RIBA, London; Site Gallery, Sheffield; and SPACE, London (2016); Whitstable Biennial (2014); Camden Arts Centre, London and Turner Contemporary, Margate (2013); and W139, Amsterdam and De Warande, Turnhout, Belgium (2012). She is a Syllabus II artist (2016/17) and was UK Associate Artist in residence at Delfina Foundation, London in 2016; and the recipient of the Winston Churchill Memorial Travel Fellowship in 2011. She is currently working developing a new work for the The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology for 2018.