Samantha Brown / Botany of Silence
The origin of ‘testimony’ from Latin ‘testimonium’ to old French ‘testimonial’ brings a meaning of testifying as ‘serving as evidence’. Unlike a eulogy given at a funeral to give praise to the deceased, I serve as a witness to its demise. Praise will comes from those who knew it well. Those who were familiar to the sights and sounds of a working, living factory. Who can talk of the life lived within the building of the Clark’s shoe factory. For the workforce it held, the blessing of labour, which was erased, a crucial blow to employment in the area. Working with hands, associated with that era and its devaluation by the eradication of the working factories and industrial workforce to be replaced by a cheaper workforce overseas.
I was a witness documenting evidence of the Clark’s shoe factory being reduced to the sum of its parts. The nature of this testimony – the fallen roofs, walls and windows – lie eerily quiet at the end of the day. Machinery has settled into silence leaving behind traces of activity, scrap turned into random piles, giving form to the various materials: metal, concrete, glass and wood that eventually disappear on the back of trucks.
The doorways where I’ve imagined many hundreds of workers over generations have passed through. The sights, sounds, people and machinery that engaged them throughout their working day. During multiple visits over five months the debris making its way to the exit, concrete blocks, wood, metal, the grates ripped off the windows ready to escape. Things tiptoe over each other, their weight sliding, half submerged, barely standing, giving in to the ground. The red brick from the fallen chimney lies in waste.
The representation of the passage of time. Finally all that remains is an electricity substation sitting in the carpark.
Samantha Brown uses various lens-based media, cameraless photography and moving image to document the built and non-built environment from permanent to impermanent structures. These structures express different points degradation, stability and emotional states. Brown had her first solo exhibition in Belfast in 2018. She is currently taking part in the PHmusuem mentorship programme with Max Pinckers to develop ‘Botany of Silence’ into a book project.