Since early 2013 James Thompson has been devising a variety of means to record and re-map the features of a small confinement cell in High Royds, a former psychiatric hospital, set in a 300 acre site in Menston, West Yorkshire. This historically significant hospital was founded in 1888 as the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum, but finally closed ten years ago. However, rather than opting for conventional imitative means of documenting the site, such as photography, he has taken inspiration from the Cubists’ descriptions of space, which identified the duality of space and time and showed that it was possible to express multi-dimensional experiences of reality.
In his endeavour to record and interpret the site Thompson has employed a wide range of methods, including traditional techniques such as casting, as well as new media tools such as the video camera and scanner. One of the resulting works comprises latex casts of adjacent physical elements of the room - a window, a radiator, a door, etc. – and presents them stretched within a 3-dimensional frame, offering both a compressed and a negative view of their relative positions within the original space. In another work various architectural features are presented on a rotating latex belt and each of the corners of the cell are marked by a high frequency audible signal, emitted at intervals as the belt rotates.
The dimensions of the room are thereby defined in relation to both space and time. In preparation for a video work the objects within the cell were coated in reflective material and the piece records the changing levels of natural light as it bounces off their shapes. A large-scale wall-mounted print provides yet another description of the cell, its features and furniture. This was made by means of a hand-held scanning device that was passed across their surfaces at varying speeds. A set of seats and a series of other 3D objects are the result of impressions captured in silicone and foam, or created by casting features of the room in Jesmonite® before piecing them together in different compositions.
In the course of this recording project Thompson has arrived at six different conceptualisations of one small - and soon to vanish - part of the material world. His work of interpretation and displacement allows it to be experienced in a number of unexpected and thought-provoking ways.
James Thompson studied for a BA in 3-Dimensional Design (Furniture) at Leeds College of Art (2007 – 2010) and for an MA in Design Products at the Royal College of Art, London (2010 – 2012). Some recent presentations of his work have included Social Interaction, el Matadero, Madrid; RCA Paradise, Milan; and Collective RCA MMXII at Dutch Design Week, Eindhoven (all 2012). From 2012 - 2013 he held the position of Associate lecturer at Leeds College of Art.