Portrait R Woolston

A series of unusual signs are appearing around Edge Hill University’s campus as part of a new art installation that questions people’s behaviour and its impact on the environment.

Habitus contrasts the preceding geological periods with our current, human influenced ‘anthropocene era’ irrevocably altering the world in terms of mass extinction, biodiversity and climate change.

It has been created by award-winning artist Robyn Woolston, who was commissioned to carry out the work as part of the University’s 80th anniversary of the Ormskirk campus.

“I’m incredibly excited to be able to premier this work within an educational institution,” said Robyn. “Edge Hill University provides an opportunity to raise the profile of a pressing environmental question within the context of a University that should see thousands of viewers pass by its location within the grounds of the Arts Centre.

The installation features a number of signs that have been erected around the campus referencing geological eons, eras and epochs. In contrast, the larger, final signpost is brash and transatlantic in nature. Similar to the archetypal American ‘welcome’ billboards, it states ‘Welcome to the Fabulous Anthropocene Era’, inviting the viewer across a threshold they have perhaps already stepped over.

Robyn explained: “We are surrounded by compelling evidence that our actions are creating fundamental changes that could affect our very existence. Mass extinction, climate change and glacial melt alone manifest life-changing realities. Yet these are not theoretical notions but physical realities. My installation is a contradiction piece that questions our ability to read the signs we are surrounded by; a predicament which, in its essence, is influenced by the stories that we share and the values around which we construct meaning, in short, our chosen habitus.”

Habitus, the title of the work, refers to the expectations, values and dispositions that are acquired through the activities and experiences of everyday life. Anthropocene refers to the period within which we are currently living – a time perhaps unlike any other where physical markers within the geological record are pointing towards permanent global impacts upon the Earth’s ecosystem as a result of human activities.

“I’m inspired by arts ability to frame questions, initiate debate and comment upon the supposed status quo in any given situation,” said Robyn. “For that reason I continue to examine the environmental urgencies of our time within the framework of arts practice.”

Roy Bayfield, Chair of the University’s Arts and Culture Group, welcomed the installation: “Since the grounds were landscaped and planted with specimen trees back in the 1930s, our outdoor spaces have always been a part of the educational environment here. Habitus continues this tradition, situating an artwork that asks challenging questions about human impact on the planet on a campus where creativity, environmental science, ecology and sustainability are taught and researched.”

Robyn, winner of the Liverpool Art Prize 2012, works across installation, photography and moving image. Her work focuses attention upon the parts of life that others shy away from, from waste materials to difficult emotions.  She questions commercial meta-narratives and material ‘use’ against the back-drop of environmental urgencies.

Her previous installations have included 7,500 ice-cream containers, 45,000 carrier bags and a selection of trees from Ash to Silver Birch all classified as rubbish.

The latest art installation at Edge Hill University free to view and will be open to the public from 23rd September until 6th December. Please visit the website for more details visit www.edgehill.ac.uk/events/2013/09/23/installation-robyn-woolston/.