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Joanne Tatham and Tom O’Sullivan – A Proposal To Ask Where Does A Threshold Begin & End

19 July 2018 - 31 March 2019

Artist-duo Joanne Tatham and Tom O’Sullivan, known for their cartoon-faced, large ‘beast-like’ sculptures, were commissioned by Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA) for an artwork, A Proposal to Ask Where Does A Threshold Begin & End, unveiled in parts in the city centre across the summer.

Newcastle and London-based Tatham and O’Sullivan make work that explores conventions by exposing them or breaking them.  Working together since 1995, they are known for producing sculptures, performance, drawings, photographs, written works, exhibitions and events. Their work often occupies busy public spaces to create a contrast with its surroundings that asks people to think about the role and function of art.

This multi-part public artwork looks at representations of the area, histories of art, and relationships with landscape. The large structure connects the public space inside MIMA with Middlesbrough’s municipal plaza. Its shape echoes the iconic Tees Transporter Bridge reflecting innovation in engineering, industrial growth and subsequent decline, provoking complex emotions in the area.

Ten hand-printed photographs in hand-made frames are shown in privately owned and civic spaces around Centre Square (MIMA, Holiday Inn Express, Cleveland Business Centre and Middlesbroughs Town Hall).  A publication of short fictional texts, A Cleveland Oddity, can be collected (free) from MIMA. Both photographs and texts show some of the area’s nuanced histories and myths.

The complete body of work will enter the Middlesbrough Collection, the town’s modern and contemporary holdings of art and craft, housed at MIMA.

This work should be seen in the context of the Tees Valley’s innovative history of commissioning public art and as part of ongoing work to offer new representations of the region looking forward. It reflects on local context and identities, and perceptions of the area. This body of work comes at a time of change in Middlesbrough’s Centre Square with the development of new offices, landscaping and the relocation of Claes Oldenburg’s Bottle of Notes sculpture nearby.

The work –  commissioned as part of MIMA’s ten year anniversary celebrations in 2017 and with support from Arts Council England and Middlesbrough Council – will also play a key role in Middlesbrough’s bid for Tees Valley City of Culture 2025.


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