By Catriona Duffy from Panel
“The souvenir exists as an example of a now-distanced experience, an experience which the object can only evoke and resonate to, and can never entirely recoup”
from ‘On Longing’ by Susan Stewart
Objects serve as traces of our experience, sub-consciously narrated to animate or realise certain versions of our world. We collect them as souvenirs, using them to house ideas, to remind us, or to help us create memories we can physically hold on to.
For Sewing Machine Orchestra, at the Arches last Saturday, Martin Messier was the foreman of an assembly line of sewing machine object/workers. The cyclical rhythm of their composition and performance at once evoked the domestic act of sewing and the growth and demise of its industry – one that formerly characterised our landscapes and working lives.
The Singer Sewing Machine Factory at Clydebank (the largest of Singer’s factories) produced 36 million sewing machines from its opening in 1884 until 1943. Singer was the world brand leader at that time, selling more machines than all of their competitors combined.
The dominant employer of women in Clydebank, Singer contributed greatly to the wealth and stature of the area. The factory closed in 1980 and was demolished in the early 1990s, leaving an enormous social, economic and cultural legacy.
Playing in Glasgow, underneath Central Station, Messier’s abstracted orchestra of Singer Sewing Machine objects became souvenirs of our industrial past, they became individual postcards from Clydebank – each one distantly recalling the factory, the train station, the workforce and the bustling town.