Ink on paper, photograms, fossils from the Industrial Revolution

The Smugglers, Night 16.10.1816, Bay of Wissant
Selection from 28 photogrammes, C Print on Archival Paper, 6cm_10cm 2011

Fossilised mechanisms
Estimated date: 1816 found, Found in the Bay of Wissant, France, Spring 2011


At dawn of the third century of mechanical lace invention, the installation The Outsiders presents the result of an investigation that redraws the clandestine introduction of the first bobbin-net machines in North of France.
These machineries were conceived in the East Midlands in England. In the beginning of the XIX century, this prosperous region experienced an over production crisis. At the same time in France, Louis XVIII banned the import of cotton, which deprived Nottingham from its biggest tulle market on the continent. Three men braved the strict regulations and tried to relocate their production workshops in France. James Clark, Richard Bonnington and Robert Webster arrived in Calais around the end of 1816.
According to the historian Michel Caron their machineries were smuggled in parts by French sailors on long sea boats specially designed to cross the Channel. If they managed to escape the Customs, their goods were unloaded at night down the cliffs.
Except from a police report, very few traces remain of the beginnings of a tulle and lace production in Calais. However, last March, after an important storm, some pieces coming from a bobbin-net machine got discovered. They were embedded in the upper layers of a cliff in the Bay of Wissant, 20 kilometres far from Calais.
During several weeks, I went there to observe and draw cogwheel, bolts, bobbins, belt pullies and combs appearing in the sandy loam. The coastline of this bay erodes at such a speed that the mechanical pieces became more and more visible to finally come off the cliff rock and fall down.
The installation The Outsiders presents this fascinating breakthrough.
Based on researches developed in the Cité Internationale de la Dentelle and Calais Council archives, this project explores a moment of the human migration history in France, which gave birth to an industry that made the fortune of Calais.