The Mechanical Garden and Other Long Encores
—a project conceived by Naomi Pearce and inspired by a speculative diagram drawn by the late pyrotechnic sculptor Stephen Cripps.
Cripps (1952 – 1982) lived and worked in the riverside studios of Butlers Wharf, Bermondsey. His ‘Mechanical Garden’ drawing depicted an assemblage of scrap metal, broken machinery and other found objects reworked into a sculpted garden complete with mechanical flowerbeds, viewing platforms and water features.
Thirty-two years after his death, artists Ben Burgis, Stuart Middleton and Richard Sides re-imagine this unrealized drawing as an immersive site-specific installation in Dilston Grove, Southwark Park.
This collaborative work is activated by a series of performances by Bruce Gilbert, Anne Bean and Richard Wilson, Anne Imhof, Alina Astrova and Ashkelon. An audio guide – part soundtrack, part oral history – features interviews, archive footage, soundtracks and essays by writers and musicians including Alice Hattrick, Patrick Langley, Jonathan P Watts, Steven Warwick (Heatsick), William Raban, Laura Oldfield Ford, Simon Werner and Z’EV.
The Mechanical Garden and Other Long Encores engages with the garden as motif and metaphor, exploring its relationship to public space alongside cycles of growth, decay and regeneration. Contemporary artists, writers and musicians channel the spirit of Cripps’s antagonistic, spontaneous practice to create a sensory experience that contemplates the politics of ephemeral practices, the nature of creative influence and the city as artists muse.