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Murder at the Red House

The major piece of work undertaken by sculptors Colin Wilbourn and Karl Fisher during Chaz'z year of residency on the project is The Red House. It is described in Public Sculpture of North-East England as:

Let me tell you a story...

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Technical note

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a large sculpture which represents the ground floor of a house, left open to the elements. Large blocks of red sandstone are carved into features such [as] a fireplace, a coat hanging behind a door and a table. A rug on the floor has 'WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND' carved around its edges. There are also books, tools and a secretaire. Scattered beyond the walls are other fragments of sandstone, one with a letter inscribed into it. The colour of the sandstone reflects that of the new brick houses behind, and the whole is sited within a planted area beside a riverside pathway.
That description is static; but Colin Wilbourn makes narrative sculpture, he feels that there's always a story buried within it, even if he doesn't necessarily know what that story is. In this case, perhaps the story is Chaz Brenchley's Murder at the Red House, written for radio and broadcast in five midnight instalments by Wear FM in Sunderland, read by the author; the recording was issued as a tape by the Artists' Agency (now Helix Arts). The text was published in Blood Waters.

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...a house that won't stay hidden

Down by the river at St. Peter's, just past the church, there's a house that won't stay hidden. Red stone is thrusting up from the ground, breaking free, stained and heavy with history.

Look, let me show you what we've got.

The door stands wide, an open invitation. The roof is long gone, and the walls are broken; there are no secrets here. Mystery, perhaps; questions, certainly. Perhaps the house itself has questions. Perhaps it is a question.

But we have questions of our own. Questions, at least, are easy, even if answers hurt.

The door stands wide, an open invitation...

...and everything, everything is red

Prime among our questions is the obvious, the inevitable: if this is a murder story - and it is, believe me, it is - then where's the corpse? The blood's easy to find, the blood's everywhere, the air reeks with it and everything, everything is red. But if there's a body, it's not here...

...The carpet - where that implied, that inherent body is lying, perhaps, sprawled and broken as the house is broken around it, red and heavy - the carpet looks like a compass rose, rose-pink and pointing north. There's a message in the weave. More than one, perhaps, but one is easier to read, it's spelled out plain and simple. What goes around, comes around. That's what it says, in a circle at the centre there; and it's true of compass needles, and it's true of other things...

What goes around, comes around

...on the mantelpiece...

...It's a sailor's house, there's a sextant on the table there, see it? And the sailor had a wife, you can see that, there's a portrait on the mantelpiece; and a pair of glasses next to it, and perhaps the wife ruined her eyes writing to him in bad light, perhaps that burning letter came from him.

Perhaps not...

Read the rest of the story in Blood Waters.

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All photos © Roger Cornwell.