Laura Wilson – Milling About

7th October - 3rd December 2017

Hull and East Riding Museum, Hull

Milling About’ by Laura Wilson is a film exploring the region’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 effect on the human body. This commission for ‘Surroundings’, a Humber Museums Partnership programme, was presented within the archaeological galleries at the museum, in a building that between 1856 and 1925, was part of the Corn Exchange and is situated opposite the now demolished Clarence Flour Mills.

Wilson’s research also 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, coordinator 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.

“Historically, a daily ritual was to produce enough flour to make bread using quern  stones. The upper stone rotated and rubbed on the lower one, grinding to produce dust. It is a rhythmic movement, there is a pace to it but these movements are laborious, demanding and necessary.”

– Laura Wilson

The film is set to a soundtrack by Mira Calix and 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’.

‘Rolling’ (2017) a performance that explored dough as a live material was presented at the ‘Surroundings’ showcase event in the Hull Museums Quarter on the 7th October 2017 at the Hull and East Riding Museum. The piece was originally commissioned by Delfina Foundation and the Royal College of Art. 

Wilson was also involved in a bread-making workshop alongside a creative writing workshop led by poet John Wedgwood Clarke as part of the ‘Hull Rises’ event on 29th July 2017 at Hull’s Western Library. Wilson’s workshops invited participants to explore what bread can tell us about who we are as individuals and as a society. Visitors came prepared to get floury, talk, write and share crust, crumb and word.

‘Surroundings’ is a three-year programme produced by the Humber Museums Partnership in partnership with Invisible Dust. Launching in 2017 – the year of Hull City of Culture – the programme includes international public art commissions with an environmental theme, a young curator’s project, residencies and exhibitions. Each year has a different but interrelating theme – Food, Migration and Landscape respectively. It is funded by Arts Council England through Ambitions for Excellence and Wellcome Trust Sustaining Excellence.

Image: © Laura Wilson, Rolling, 2017. Commissioned by Delfina Foundation and the Royal College of Art. Performed at Hull & East Riding Museum, Hull, UK by Jo Ashbridge, Iris Chan, Louise Harman, Meghan Hope and Jane Savage. Photo taken by Nick Harrison.


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