Elliott Dennis: The Ark
Online Portfolio: www.elliottdennis.co.uk
My Name is Elliott Dennis, I’m originally from Yorkshire and currently studying in my final year at Plymouth University, before going on to complete my part 2 studies.
I like working with the existing fabric and society of a city, especially if that vernacular has experienced loss or violence in the form of war or natural disaster. In the case of Plymouth, approximately the same amount of matter was swept away in post-war reconstruction, then was destroyed at the hands of German air raids. This has led to somewhat of an identity crisis, in which no historical matter exists, albeit in extremely short supply, and a thread to its pre-war naval and maritime identity has been severed, leaving its populace and government in a state of limbo.
The project aims to preserve what is left of Plymouths pre-war records, historical matter, and collective memory, much of which was destroyed in the fires of the Blitz and post-war ‘reconstruction’. Through the implementation of an oral archive and traditional archive which expands to meet the influx of new records being deposited into it.
The oral archive initiative aims to store the memories of those that have directly experience both pre-war Plymouth, war time Plymouth and the subsequent reconstruction of the city under the Abercrombie Plan. These recordings are played through speakers in a room accessible through a barrel vaulted tunnel, through which the sound resonates as a blur of voices, and is somewhat reminiscent to the entrance of an air raid shelter. As a user nears the speaker’s individual voices come into focus, sharing their experience of Plymouth. Through this direct, raw form of translation, a better understanding of the city and its history is strived for, where historical matter, urban fabric, or photographs simply do not exist.
Physical records are stored into an 'archival module' which slots into a part of the adjacent pre-war building that was severely damaged during air raids on the area in 1941. Once the module is full they are then lowered into the shaft, they are then kept safe underground from future conflict or disaster for future generations to have an understanding of what Plymouth was, what its become, and what it will become in the future. This shaft, and its perpetual construction, then become a measure of the city, through its records and items created by the population.
This project precedes (and exists at the same time as) a more recent scheme, which is yet to be completed, and deals, in more depth, with historical matter and the past identity of Plymouth.