Rebecca Chesney

Rebecca Chesney


Conditions at Present
co-commission between British Textile Biennial 2023, and Harewood Biennial 2024
Outdoor installation of 25 windsocks


Whether used as a temporary shelter for recreation or as a permanent home and place to live in times of crisis and displacement, a tent can provide an opportunity to sleep under the stars or be the difference between life and death in protecting you from the elements.
Until recently most tents were made from cotton canvas, but with continued development in fabric manufacture the majority are now made from other lightweight man-made materials (polyester, nylon or composite textiles) and mass production has made them relatively cheap to purchase.
However, this affordability and disconnection with the origin of items we buy has encouraged throwaway, wasteful habits. Thousands think nothing of buying a tent for temporary use at a festival, only to leave it behind before returning home. But what are the social and environmental costs of producing something so cheaply and used only once? Shouldn’t we question who the workforce are and the conditions under which they work and how much energy and resources are used in their making and transportation?

Reusing fabric from discarded and broken festival tents, I made a large scale kinetic sculpture for the British Textile Biennial 2023, located on the front lawn of Towneley Hall.

Chesney BTB 01

I gathered my materials in the aftermath of a festival, and along with a team of volunteers I worked with charity FWRD (Festival Waste Reuse and Diversion), who collect unbroken, usable tents and redistribute them to homeless and refugee support groups.
With this material I made an installation of 25 windsocks.

Chesney BTB 02

From a grid of poles with swivel arms, the windsocks fly overhead. They move and change direction together: hang still, flap, flutter, wave and strain in different strengths of wind.
Rather than predictive, the windsocks serve as an indicator of current conditions: a barometer of the climate crisis we are already facing.

Chesney BTB 03

Each windsock, made from waste festival tent fabric, is 1.5 m in length (total length of 2 m with straps), on poles 5 m tall.

Chesney BTB 04

A short film was made for BTB23 showing the making of Conditions at Present
Watch here

I was in conversation with Amber Butchart (dress and textile historian) for Episode 6 of Cloth Cultures along with Dr Mila Burcikova from the Centre for Sustainable Fashion. We talked about the work made for BTB23, plus gardening, fashion seasons, bees and weeds.
Listen here

British Textile Biennial website

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