Mark Titchner�s new solo project �ENDS THOU� is the second in Focal Point Gallery�s series of temporary public artworks commissioned for the railway bridge that spans Southend-on-Sea�s pedestrianised high street. Titchner�s new offsite work comprises two separate but connected text pieces; installed on either side of the suspended metal bridge�s structure, each is visible for a half mile along the town�s main thoroughfare. If Titchner decided to play with prophetic language within a regional shopping precinct � �ENDS THOU� is an anagram of Southend � then the artist�s title holds a casual and fortuitous association to archaic biblical rhetoric. In many respects, this fabricated text encourages us to think of Southend High Street as an area connected to the apocalypse of the self; it�s a destructive condition of personal erasure within a commercial context that paradoxically might lead to emancipation or liberation from material culture.
One starting point for Titchner�s project was Hadleigh Colony, a historical settlement established five miles from Southend-on-Sea in 1891 by William Booth, the founder of the Christian organisation The Salvation Army. Aimed at installing a work ethic in an uneducated poor by providing a place for unemployed men to live and tend farmland, this �philanthropic� project was described as the �restoration of the submerged�. If Booth's book In Darkest England and the Way Out (1890) was used as a blueprint for the welfare state by the government in 1948, Titchner�s new work cross-references this religious connection to ideological state apparatus with the current politics surrounding public art, to provide a contemporary critique of a worthy, patronising form of state-funding, where culture is expected to be �good for you�. Titchner aims to question the assumption that the �submerged� is an uneducated populace of a regional municipality in need of reform and education, and that �hell� is every UK city in urgent need of social, cultural and economic regeneration.
If �ENDS THOU� is accompanied by the subheading �The restoration of the submerged�, this temporary public work points towards a literary interpretation � Samuel Beckett provides a reference to successful failure, JG Ballard�s writing connects to dystopia and airports (Southend�s new airport has just opened) and Herman Melville�s writing connects to ambition, desire, catastrophe and the sea � to ruminate on the identity of Southend-on-Sea and British seaside towns in general. As the artist has explained, �I feel that I have a nice niche to work within: apocalypse of the self, the submerged being hell, base impulses, the working classes, shipwrecks, airports, etc.�
What: Mark Titchner - ENDS THOU
Where: Southend High St, Southend on Sea, Essex
When: Sat 5 May - Sun 8 Jul 2012
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