Milton Keynes on a Saturday afternoon can be incredibly disorientating and disconcerting. So it was with some luck that I happened to stumble into the MK Gallery – or more precisely, the neighbouring Project Space – and the new Station X exhibition.
I’m interested in the history of Bletchley Park – also known as Station X – and the blurb on the door piqued my interest.
Inside I found a collaboration between four artists, each from a different background, which aims to document the ‘visual and aural histories’ of some of the Park’s derelict buildings.
I went from the usual Saturday afternoon hubbub – of people coming and going from the theatre and shopping centre, and of the blustery April weather – into a small but self-contained area which instantly began stimulating my senses.
On the walls of the gallery are photographs taken inside the derelict huts by Rachael Marshall – oh, but what’s this? That one isn’t a photograph, it seems to be a physical bit of wall itself. Maya Ramsay‘s work includes actual pieces of the walls and associated debris, carefully lifted off in one piece and pasted to the wall of the gallery.
All around me I could hear the work of sound artist Caroline Devine – cacophonous sounds of… birds, were they? And then they morphed into reverberating rhythms which I couldn’t quite place. At times they rose to a climax that I found almost disconcerting, before subsiding again to an ambient throb and thrum.
I watched a video piece at this point too, nicely displayed on an old CRT television, and where the video itself has been left to decay a little, as though watching on an old VHS tape or a badly-tuned station. But the picture was occasionally clear enough to see that we were being shown around more of the derelict buildings – a guided tour of urban exploration.
Together with Luke Williams, the four artists have combined to make a small but neatly formed whole which does very well to remove you from the busy urban bustle of Milton Keynes on a Saturday afternoon, placing you firmly inside the dimly lit and derelict buildings of Station X before they are due to be renovated.
The combination of the, at once familiar, yet other worldly, sounds and atmospheric photographs of dust, cobwebs and the odd decaying bird, along with the physical ‘casts’ of the walls themselves all give a very peculiar overall feeling.
I visited Bletchley Park recently, and was awed as much by the beauty of the main buildings as by the technological ingenuity contained within when it was needed most.
But while a visit to the Park itself reveals objects and buildings being restored and brought out on display – as they should be – the Station X exhibition at MK Gallery does a good job of capturing the areas not seen by the public, and the associated sounds and sights which have been left to decay and evolve alone.
With my interests in history and in archiving and preserving lost objects and environments – and particularly in field recordings and photography – I was very grateful to have stumbled on the exhibition.
Station X is on at MK Gallery Project Space (to the right of the theatre entrance courtyard) until 27 May. Entry is free. The Gallery is open every day except Monday.