Edwardian Cloakrooms, Bristol, November 2014
Quies was a site-specific exhibition of work by three multidisciplinary artists who were invited to respond to the physical space and tacit history of Bristol’s Edwardian Cloakrooms. Of particular interest was the fact that the cloakrooms have ‘lain still’ for decades and been left virtually unchanged, as if in a state of limbo or stasis from which they could conceivably return at any given moment.
Dublin-based artist Nicola Lane played on this possibility with the creation of a mise-en-scene that reimagined the past life of a functioning Edwardian ladies washroom using subtly inscribed soap works and sensory triggers such as sounds of running water, the smell of soap and flower waters, and the look and feel of crisp linens. While Lane’s work alluded to feminine rituals of days gone by, it also considered the introduction of facilities such as the Cloakroom in the context of Edwardian philanthropy and raised questions about the social contract that are still relevant today.
In the Gents Cloakroom, a sculptural installation of wax and plaster castings by Wiltshire-based artist Beth Biddiss manifested ghostly traces of passers-by who had long since departed, whilst Irish artist Karl Somers’ enigmatic sound piece drew on a timeless aspect of visiting any public place—the age-old guilty pleasure of eavesdropping.