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RAE 2008

Sir John Cass Department of Art, Media and Design
steven follen commemorative cross


Cross commemorates victims of 7/7

Steven Follen, a Senior Lecturer at Sir John Cass Department of Art, Media and Design was commissioned to design and make a processional cross to commemorate the lives of the seven people who died in the Aldgate bombing on July 7th 2005.

The work was commissioned for St Botolph’s Church, Aldgate, London. The Church is situated next to Aldgate Underground station and was used as a triage centre for victims of the bombings as well as both a base for subsequent forensic work and centre for calmness and contemplation in the aftermath of the event.

Steven Follen said, "The cross tries to capture this confusion, destruction and the shattering of lives but also the static, the silence, the still of the aftermath."

Describing his approach to the task Steven said "The brief was to produce a processional cross to provide a focus for those who had lost friends and family, which would be of relevance to the church, its relation to the events on and after July 7th, its history and its location."

"For some, St Botolph is the patron-saint of travellers. The church is situated at what was once one of the gateways to the City of London. People setting off or returning from a journey abroad, beyond the city's walls would have stopped at the church to pray or give thanks for a safe journey. On the morning of July 7th 2005, thousands of people were commuting to and from their places of work, some making their regular journeys across town, others travelling into London for a special event. The seven people who died in the bombing on the tube at Aldgate came from different cultures and different places, random individuals amongst a mass of others, who because of the bombings will be connected forever."

The final design uses a combination of traditional metal and wood techniques and contemporary digital methods. Blurred images of commuters reminiscent of the mobile phone shots that recorded the aftermath are etched into a stainless steel cross on a blackened oak shaft. The reverse of the cross is a mass of words with certain sections highlighted in gold offering a written picture of why the cross was made.

The cross was blessed by the Reverend Dr Brian Lee as part of a ceremony of remembrance held at Aldgate tube station at 11am on the 7th July 2007.

Artist Steven Follen talks about the work

"I initially undertook research to try to understand more clearly what had happened, reading papers and personal accounts, listening to interviews and briefly discussing the events with Brian and with individuals who were in London on that day. Some powerful images of the event came from these recollections and from the blurred mobile phone footage and photos of tube passengers standing and moving along inside the carriages, making their way along the tube track back to the stations and back above ground.

"I wished to produce an object which was about time, which was contemporary and used this digital technology, which was about now, but producing a cross also required an awareness of its historical precedents and what it might say in 500 years time. Looking forward as well as back. An artefact /an object imbued with meaning. I visited the V&A to try to understand the ritual nature of the cross and recorded and made visual notes of the collections of ecclesiastical silverware, not just the shapes, forms and proportions but also how the pieces were constructed, many being wooden structures clad with embossed or engraved metal.

"The final design brings together the digital images of the contemporary, with the historical references to the earlier metal cladding of processional crosses.

"I spent time travelling the tube and taking pictures of commuters on their journeys, ascending the stairways of tube stations. Some photographs exposures were purposefully long, encouraging camera shake to give a sense of movement and time, giving the figures an ethereal quality. Working with Photofabrication in St Neots, Cambridgeshire one of these images was etched into a stainless steel panel, then the surface was in-filled with colour. We see the commuters from behind, the images blurred, it is hard to pick out their features clearly, and the light at the top of the stairs draws them up, guiding them like the light in the mobile phone footage. The exposed metal of the cross reflects the surrounding light. The lower part of the image is dark, which blends into the darkness of the blackened oak shaft of the cross. The form of the shaft is designed to comfortably fit into the hand, elliptical in section, it’s form echoes that of a fish, symbol of Christ and of life renewed and sustained.

"The back of the cross is a mass of words. Seven sections, scattered amongst the mass of the text are highlighted in gold and help piece together the written picture of why the cross was made."

19 July 2007

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