Gestured by Brass Art: Gestures, Ambiguity, and Material Transformation at Chetham's Library

Brass Art, Chara Lewis, Kristin Mojsiewicz, Anneke Pettican

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The chapter addresses Gestured, an artwork by the artist collective Brass Art. The work was the result of research by the artists at Chetham’s Library, the oldest surviving public library in the English-speaking world. Taking their cue from John Dee’s marginalia of hands, or manicules, in De Remediis Secretis the artists were guided through the collection following expressive, symbolic hands, including hands of divine, mechanical or mythical provenance.

Brass Art have been drawn to images of gesturing hands that issue invitations, signal directives, mimic, pinch, caress, and emphasise ideas. At once personal, idiosyncratic, universal and contested, these gestures communicate and extend thought. Through traditional casting as well as 3D scanning and printing processes, the new artwork echoed specific gestures to produce ‘arrested’ sculptural forms sited within the library presses and hidden spaces.

Alongside these sculptural forms, the artists produced a series of moving image works using re-made alchemical vessels, sourced from archival prints, sketches and marginalia, to reflect the city views from and towards Chetham’s medieval building. The water held in the glass captured a stillness intermittently disturbed by elemental forces and passing traffic, people and birds. These reflected presences hovered, held for a moment in the glass, and formed inverted doubles of the actual scenes beyond.

Alchemy can be understood as a slow process of transformation - not only of materials but also of the individual - through intense durational experiments. This focused attention upon materials and individuals created a powerful sense of things appearing to happen in a different time frame. This chapter explores the way in which Brass Art exhumed this temporal shift in the durational and sculptural works on display, drawing relationships between thought and external action.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationContemporary Art in Heritage Spaces
EditorsNick Cass, Gill Park, Anna Powell
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780429053498
ISBN (Print)9780367148058
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2020


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