Report on Berlin Iron Conference, September 2022
An Tilleadh Dhachaigh (The Homecoming) Performance took place on the 16th September 2022 at Industriemuseum Brandenburg, which is based in the former Siemens-Martin Furnace and Foundry Building about one hour from Berlin. The Furnace was decommissioned in 1993 due to rising fuel (oil) costs and the Museum allows visitors explore in and around the massive industrial furnace and get a sense of the scale and process of production utilised to bring everyday objects into the world.
This was the perfect setting for the presentation of The Homecoming, the work will be produced using traditional technical processes from the Halstat period in the Iron Age (approx. 250BC). The final piece commemorated the natural resources that allowed Scotland to flourish as one of the biggest manufacturers of Iron and Steel in the World.
Iron rich peat was dug up from an archaeological site in the Northeast of Scotland and then Iron Ore was smelted from the peat using a recreated Pictish smelter. The Ore was brought to Germany for the performance as part of the 9th International Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art (ICCCIA). Other pieces of ironmongery used in iron casting were made in Scotland and brought to be used in the performance as well.
The performance required the help of Iron casters from across the world. Two crews running two furnaces from Germany and Switzerland with crews made up from American, Polish, German, Switzerland, England and Latvia worked together to produce 300kg of Molten Iron which was then carried and poured by three crews from Scotland, England and America into a giant open face X mould produced by the artist George Beasley to commemorate the history of everyone involved in Iron casting over the centuries and to mark the end of the Iron Age and return the Technology from whence it come from in Central Europe. This was accompanied by the 2 pipers from the Berlin Police Pipe Band playing traditional Scottish Laments.
The cast now resides permanently at the Industriemuseum Brandenburg.
The project took place within the weeklong ICCCIA in and around Berlin and with demonstrations, presentations and gallery shows it was an excellent opportunity to get to know Iron casters, artists and foundry enthusiasts from around the world.
The 9th ICCCIA was chaired this time by Sussanae Rowe from Saxony, Germany and Kurt Dyrhaug from Texas, America and the programme allowed for a lot of learning, discussion and opportunity to make connections that I am sure will bear fruit over the coming years. I was pleased to make connections with casters in the UK and Ireland (Royal Academy -London, Crawford College – Cork and Carmarthen School of Art – Carmarthen) they seemed enthused by the prospect of working together at ESW in the future and developing a ‘local’ network beyond SSW and ESW. From Europe it was great to connect with Sussane Rowe, Andreas Glasser (Switzerland) and Michal Szczak (Poland) and I am staying touch with them all and hope to bring them to Edinburgh in the future and go to visit them in their foundries/workshops in the future.
There was a large American presence including the influential Wayne Potratz, George Beasley and Coral Lambart. Along with representation from Sloss Furnaces, Franconia Sculpture Park and a number of American University sculpture programs including Georgia State, University of Colorado and University of Minnesota.
This was a great opportunity to take part in and attend the 9th ICCCIA, it was great to be able to represent ESW and hear about how other artists, technicians and founders around the world operate and develop ways of collaborative making and learning. This is a network I intend to maintain and develop and am sure over the next few years we will have people coming to ESW to work as well.
The Scottish participants were supported by: Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, Scottish Sculpture Workshop, Creative Scotland and Visual Arts and Craft Makers Awards.