Offsite Projects Archive

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  • Mark Titchner 'ENDS THOU'
  • 5 May to 8 July 2012

Mark Titchner’s new solo project ‘ENDS THOU’ is the second in Focal Point Gallery’s series of temporary public artworks commissioned for the railway bridge that spans Southend-on-Sea’s pedestrianised high street. Titchner’s new offsite work comprises two separate but connected text pieces; installed on either side of the suspended metal bridge’s structure, each is visible for a half mile along the town’s main thoroughfare.

If Titchner decided to play with prophetic language within a regional shopping precinct – ‘ENDS THOU’ is an anagram of Southend – then the artist’s title holds a casual and fortuitous association to archaic biblical rhetoric. In many respects, this fabricated text encourages us to think of Southend High Street as an area connected to the apocalypse of the self; it’s a destructive condition of personal erasure within a commercial context that paradoxically might lead to emancipation or liberation from material culture.

Located in the epicentre of the town, the statements ‘WHEN ALL YOU HAVE DONE IS FORGOTTEN’ and ‘WHEN

EVERYTHING YOU POSSESS IS GONE’ appear against a stylistically layered and digitally manipulated New Age pattern. While the artist’s uncomplicated texts contain a temporal ambiguity, his cryptic announcements hypothesize a catastrophic, existential scenario. With ‘ENDS THOU’, the artist questions our surroundings, dwells on individual identity, ownership, and how we formulate our aspirations and actions in relation to others. The railway bridge on Southend high street becomes an island or gap that encourages us to consider our bond to an indomitable capitalist system.

One starting point for Titchner’s project was Hadleigh Colony, a historical settlement established five miles from Southend-on-Sea in 1891 by William Booth, the founder of the Christian organisation The Salvation Army. Aimed at installing a work ethic in an uneducated poor by providing a place for unemployed men to live and tend farmland, this ‘philanthropic’ project was described as the ‘restoration of the submerged’. If Booth's book In Darkest England and the Way Out (1890) was used

as a blueprint for the welfare state by the government in 1948, Titchner’s new work cross-references this religious connection to ideological state apparatus with the current politics surrounding public art, to provide a contemporary critique of a worthy, patronising form of state-funding, where culture is expected to be ‘good for you’. Titchner aims to question the assumption that the ‘submerged’ is an uneducated populace of a regional municipality in need of reform and education, and that ‘hell’ is every UK city in urgent need of social, cultural and economic regeneration.

If ‘ENDS THOU’ is accompanied by the subheading ‘The restoration of the submerged’, this temporary public work points towards a literary interpretation – Samuel Beckett provides a reference to successful failure, JG Ballard’s writing connects to dystopia and airports (Southend’s new airport has just opened) and Herman Melville’s writing connects to ambition, desire, catastrophe and the sea – to ruminate on the identity of Southend-on-Sea and British seaside towns in general.

As the artist has explained, ‘I feel that I have a nice niche to work within: apocalypse of the self, the submerged being hell, base impulses, the working classes, shipwrecks, airports, etc.’

Mark Titchner was born in Luton in 1973 and has shown internationally. He was nominated for The Turner Prize in 2006 and has had solo exhibitions at Arnolfini, Bristol (2006), Baltic, Gateshead (2008), and New Art Gallery, Walsall (2011).

For further information please contact Laura Bowen at Focal Point Gallery on 01702 534 108 laurabowen@southend.gov.uk

Mark Titchner ‘ENDS THOU’ is supported by Arts Council England and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council.