Cut flowers, articulated lorry, wagons, buckets, and CD of Tina Turner's Private Dancer
Commissioned by Situations, Bristol. Centre Promenade, Bristol City Centre, Friday 14th July 2006
Re-staged for The Night at the Museum by Moscow Department of Culture, Gorky Park, Moscow, 2014
This new work by Heather and Ivan Morison for the British Art Show 6 was the latest in the Morisons’ ongoing investigation into the commercial flower industry, looking specifically this time at the haulage of flowers from auction to wholesalers. For one day, a jack-knifed lorry shed its load of 25,000 flowers across Bristol City Centre. At 6pm, passers-by began to take the flowers and by 7pm the installation was entirely dispersed across Bristol, as people walked home carrying armfuls of flowers. A card mailed out a few days prior to the installation giving a possible narrative link with the lorry crash – declaring “African Grey Parrot, grey with red tail feathers. I lost her near Fantasy Island.Life has not been the same.”
Situations papers, Responses to Heather and Ivan Morison’s I lost her near Fantasy Island. Life has not been the same. 2006
Appearing overnight, the Morisons’ installation had a dreamlike quality. There was not a scratch on the white paint-work. The lorry seemed to have glided to a stop. The split-seconds of a traffic accident were still present in its material consequences: the long refrigerated trunk of the articulated lorry discharging 25,000 bunched flowers across the street. The cut flowers were in transit, ephemeral, crossing continents, but the courses of their short lives were now shifted.
Their hopeful journeys – to the oasis of some amateur flower arranger, a polite vase, a jacket lapel, an improvised pint glass, behind an ear or presented to an attractive stranger on impulse were cut short. Something had gone wrong, and new, unexpected, open-ended chains of events unravelled, temporarily revealing the silent, unceasing choreographies of the containers and cargos that surround us.
The flowers wilted in the sun, and at 6pm their fleeting performance was over. Hundreds of office workers gathered to take the flowers home. They would end their new lives in vases and pint glasses across the city. The blank white lorry spilling beautiful bunches of flowers into the street showed how love can be made with the mundane materials of mass-production and global transport. Reminded of Warhol’s endless soup cans, we tried to imagine their ‘globule-laden insides’ – the complex materialities of modernism which can spill out as well as close down.
The Morisons’ artwork was uplifting and spirited. Its environmentalism was delicate: escapist and yet hopeful. Hooked on the amateur, the naïve, the enchanted. Looking for big ideas in everyday surprises. We know the feeling. The Morisons have tended an Edgbaston allotment, and have moved to west Wales. But in this work they have happened upon radical moments of hope in the urban landscapes of modernity 6 and the hidden interstices of transportation networks. The work reminds us that Ecologies of Hope can be built with many materials. Even those that have fallen off the back of a lorry.
Olivia and Dan Hicks, Urban Ecologies of Hope, 2006