FLAMING FLEECES - ECLIPSED
The Vicarage Broughton-in-Furness, Cumberland
This visual lament seeks to address the ways in wool—once a highly significant and nationally formative resource in the UK—has become so devalued it is no longer viable to bring the fleeces to market; instead, they have to be burned or used as mulch.
"Flaming Fleeces Eclipsed" builds on an earlier series of work (Flaming Fleeces) in which raw wool was burned in a public space to highlight this apparent contradiction. In this new installation Fleeces pour out of the upstairs windows and tumble down the stairwell, apparently "about to overwhelm".
These artworks have been developed to draw attention to our collective responsibility, especially in a time of climate crisis, to reduce waste and to maximise the use of organic, sustainable and biodegradable materials.
Since 2019 Irene has been creating performative work Flaming Fleeces, in response to the current plight of Cumbrian farmers – who are burning and burying fleeces – unable to sell them in the UK, where the market value is just forty pounds for six-hundred fleeces.
The work explores a contentious issue within the agricultural community and the strong opposition to sheep farming, through long-term problems with the agricultural industry in the UK.
Burning a small number of fleeces for each event was a significant act – part of a series of interventions – giving exposure to the amount of waste and loss – loss in practical, financial, and emotional terms of the rearing of sheep, and through that of the burning of an organic, sustainable, biodegradable material.
A series of installations ‘Flaming Fleeces ‘ were located in landscapes in which it is possible to trace human settlement back over thousands of years and in which ways of living are subject to an ongoing process of adapting. Specifically,' Flaming Fleeces', offer a lament to the nation's heritage as a wool producer, fleeces now being bought in bulk and transported overseas for marginally more money and used on industrial levels. Flaming Fleeces reflects upon the ways in which this once-valued fibre has now become little more than a waste product in the UK.
In this fourth event Flaming Fleeces Beyond Place, at the Bridewell Studios and Gallery, Liverpool, the audience was invited to take a fleece from one of the thirty raw fleeces, which formed the installation. The evening event led to only three fleeces remaining to burn, continuing a symbolic gesture to alert all to the waste. Irene invited Cumbrian performers and musicians Jo and Neil Wade and David Baker to create a work for this event, which was followed by singing from The Royal Liverpool Hospital Choir.