Storyhouse, Chester’s £37m theatre, cinema and library which opened in May, has announced its inaugural visual arts commission is with award-winning artist Bedwyr Williams and will launch in October.
Encompassing performance, sculpture, painting and video, Bedwyr Williams’ practice is characterised by his unique humour and gentle self-depreciation, both informed, in part, by his upbringing in Wales.
Drawing from his life experiences, Williams’ work, on the one hand, offers a sharp critique of our everyday world and on the other a celebration of the obscure and overlooked.
His new work for Storyhouse is Hypercaust (working title), a computer-generated video piece which will bring back to life the Roman Fortress Bathhouse that once stood a short distance from Storyhouse.
Now erased from Chester, the baths will be recreated through historically accurate 3D renderings. This mesmeric work will present a different kind of storyhouse, where Roman Legionaries would have chewed the fat, sharing yarns and secrets at the end of a long day, cloaked by steam.
The artist imagines the building empty of bathers on a moonlit night with the fires below still burning and steam rising above still baths. The narrator recalls stories but not those of Roman Chester but rather the stories of modern Chester: the recent folklore and tittle-tattle of this unusual city. Half remembered tales and shared anecdotes, the ordinary epic of petty crimes and misunderstandings strung together.
The work will be realised with the assistance of local 3D animation company Take 27. Storyhouse is depicted as a disused and abandoned art deco Odeon cinema and a brick and glass extension, Williams’ piece will be shown on a screen located where the original Odeon’s cinema screen once was, and the point where the 1936 building connects with the new extension, in Storyhouse’s public space.
The artist used Chester’s public library, now contained within Storyhouse, as a starting point to gather local yet curious stories for his film.