Laura Wilson: Milling About
Hull & East Riding Museum 36 High St, Hull HU1 1NQ
7 October - 6 December 2017
Milling About by Laura Wilson explores Hull’s and the East
Riding of Yorkshire’s history of growing grain and producing flour for
baking bread. Inspired by the archaeological collections in the museum,
Wilson worked with archaeologist Dr. Melanie Giles, University of
Manchester, to explore the evolution of ancient grinding technologies
and their affect on the human body.
This new commission by Invisible Dust for Surroundings, a Humber Museums
Partnership programme, was presented within the archaeological
galleries, in a building that between 1856 and 1925, was part of the
Corn Exchange and is situated opposite the now demolished Clarence Flour
Mills. Set to a soundtrack by Mira Calix, the video follows the
protagonist enacting the repetitive motions of grinding flour by hand
using quern stones, a common practice in Britain until the Romans
brought their engineering skills here and as Dr Giles says, ‘eased the
burden on the body’.
‘Historically quern stones would have been very personal
objects, and often destroyed when the owner died. This was a daily
ritual producing just enough flour to make bread, the upper stone is
rotated or rubbed to and from on the lower one: the stones grind each
other and produce dust. It is rhythmic movement, there is a pace to it but these movements are laborious, demanding and necessary: the body
Laura Wilson’s research included visits to Skidby Windmill, the local
family-run organic millers J. Stringers & Sons and the deserted
village of Wharram Percy. She also met John Cruse, co-ordinator of the Yorkshire Archaeology
Society’s Yorkshire Quern Survey; Dr. Ruth Pelling, Historic England
Senior Environmental Archaeologist; and Dr. Richard Osgood, Senior
archaeologist of the Ministry of Defence, to discuss her ideas.
Curated by Lara Goodband.
Photo: Laura Wilson, Milling About, 2017 (still from video). Commissioned and produced for
Surroundings by Invisible Dust in partnership with Humber Museum
Partnership. Photo credit: Laura Wilson