Soul to Sole
Art direction, photography, exhibition design
Croome Park bears a rich history, which has seen the property become the home of lords, religious icons, a boy's boarding school, and even a secret Second World War air base. As part of the wider Croome Redefined project, Soul to Sole is seeing a space in the basement of the court that houses a long shoe rack, transformed into an interactive installation. It has become an engaging hub for visitors to learn the stories of the people associated with Croome, over the entirety of its 250-year existence. The aim is to spark conversation between the visitors and the volunteers who are situated in the basement, and to make learning about the property more fun for children.
Hear National Trust's creative producer, Claire Harris, and others, talk about Soul to Sole.
The figure from Croome's history I selected was Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, landscaper and architect; the designer of Croome Park. What fascinated me about Brown, was that he presented the beauty of the park by creating paths shrouded by trees and large plants. Doing this concealed any views of the landscape until the person on the path reached the most prominent point to see it from. At this point the path would open up into a clearing, providing plenty of room to marvel at the picturesque views.
I love this control he had on the way the landscape should be seen, and so this became the primary idea I wanted to convey in my shoe box installation. I thought — ‘How can I control the visitor when they interact with the space I'm creating?’ This led me towards the process of placing the user into a certain position before viewing. After much deliberation, I finalised my plan to have the visitors look through an eye piece representative of that to an architect's distance measurement tool, and to view a series of photographs though this. The eyepiece would be fitted to a frame that stops the user from making any sneak peeks until they are in the correct position.
I opted to take the photographs using an old large-format camera, to provide an aged feel to the images. Each of the images has been taken from the great views around the park that Brown conceived. The photographs I captured appear in a slideshow on a tablet held within the shoe box. The frame also accommodates a small gap for the users hand to fit inside and use the touch screen features of the tablet, such as scrolling through the slide show, and activating an acted statement of Capability Brown.
Written by Croome's creative director, Tom Bennett, the acted script documents the thoughts of Brown, which are so beautifully read in Brown's northern accent by our voice actor, Mark Robinson, to the ambient noise of the grounds at Croome Park, as his workforce sculpt the landscape.
A pair of lovely hand-crafted 18th-century style shoes, similar to those worn by Capability Brown, fit in the space below the tablet, which allows children to take them out, try them on, and get a picture taken.
The large format camera, used to take the images.
Voice actor, Mark Robinson, reading the Capability Brown script of at the recording studio.
View the experience in this video.