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Sea Breeze was first and foremost a performance piece set in the Winter Gardens Theatre in Morecambe – a building abandoned and frozen in time for forty years. Artists Raisin and Willow breathed new life into this abandoned building for a one time only performance in early September, influenced by the historic significance of the building to explore themes of memory and decay, and in turn discovered the captivating truths of the buildings past and evidence of decades gone by.
The exhibition at the Peter Scott Gallery is a product of their performance and findings. Through exploring this forgotten and decrepit building set between high barren landscape and the salty sea breeze, Raisin and Willow started to collect what they call ‘dust’; not just the stories that influenced their performance, but objects and ephemera that have lasted untouched since the theatre was plunged into seemingly conclusive darkness in the 70s.
The exhibition is a curious mix of objects worthy of a place in a museum and items that can only be described as rubbish. Sweet wrappers, used chewing gum, cigarette ends and ice cream scoops are wonderfully arranged and treated like art; their age indicative by the obvious contrast with contemporary packaging, and the sole reason for this attached grandeur to once throwaway objects. These fragments represent the lost, the forgotten and the left behind; once meaningless litter is now worthy of a place in a display case and deemed special enough to be archived. This is a process of collecting in order to preserve. Behind the glass lie tiny clusters of dead moths found on the windowsills, feathers and bones belonging to birds that died long ago, and even a pile of dust gathered from the floors of the building. It’s strange how things so banal can turn to be so poignant when exhibited; in meticulous arrangements with miniature labels even something so completely uninteresting as a pile of dust can turn into a worthy subject for contemplation.
We seem to have an infatuation with the past; of past lives and what happened, the stories of the people that lived and the stories of the places they lived in. The Winter Gardens Theatre was once a thriving and iconic Victorian building, with the likes of Sir Laurence Olivier and Laurel & Hardy taking to the stage. Thousands of people passed through its doors, thousands of tickets were sold and hundreds of stories were told under its spotlight, but now all that is left of this decaying building is its ties to the past. The Winter Gardens’ future is uncertain, and after being left in the dark, unused and seemingly forgotten for so long, it’s not clear whether or not the building can ever escape from the dust of its former life and start again. Maybe one day there will be a new performers walking its stage, and new audiences with their own stories that leave behind traces and memories to be forgotten and rediscovered by a new generation of strangers decades in the future.