Here nevertheless, in the Huddersfields of the north, our modern world was born. – Jan Morris, The Road to Huddersfield, 1963
Heavy Paragon, the final exhibition of Yan Tan Tether, brought together the artists Rehana Zaman and James Bulley to explore the changing nature of industrial space, the people that occupy it, and the type of labour that is conducted within it, in turn examining the idea of ‘progress’. The exhibition takes its name from an inter-title in Jan Morris’s The Road to Huddersfield,an essay commissioned by the World Bank surveying industrialisation across five continents. Morris used Huddersfield—a cradle of the technical revolution—as an exemplar of the ways that industrial enterprise alters a landscape geographically, economically, and socially.
Rehana Zaman’s Some Women Other Women and all the Bittermen combines ‘Bittermen’, a six-part fictional soap opera on the takeover of Tetley’s Brewery during the early 1900s, with footage documenting the meetings of Justice for Domestic Workers Leeds over the course of 2014 as they began to organise around restrictions to their employment rights within UK immigration laws. The film developed over a two-year period involving researching interviews with ex-Tetley’s Brewery workers and a tentative collaboration with migrant women workers from J4DW. Although at a temporal, political, and cultural remove from one another the stories of these two groups are framed by common concerns relating to sites of labour and working class identity as framed through gender and race.
James Bulley’s Progress Music is a generative sound and film installation, originally commissioned by the London gallery South Kiosk. The title of the work invokes a term used by the author Martin Amis to describe the commercial, amateur, and state valorisation that followed the ‘children of the Golden Age’. A march into the future, accompanied by a brassy soundtrack filled with triumphalism, befitting to the growth of post-war England in its societal and technological revolutions.
The piece draws on archival film material that was once broadcast across the screens of the nation, in an attempt to demonstrate the changes that were occurring in architecture, industry, and culture. The rhythm of the film is defined according to the behaviour of an ever-changing sound score, which composes the film in real-time from a repository of thousands of archival fragments. The nine-channel installation is presented in such a way that the viewer becomes positioned within the material, as opposed to merely a spectator of footage from a bygone era.