Breaking down barriers and borders with The Electric Fence

Published: Thursday 6th July 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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The Electric Fence is a brand new art installation. We caught up with Grimsby-born Annabel McCourt, who is behind this thought-provoking piece.

Standing starkly in the middle of the historic Hull Minster, the industrial-style Electric Fence uniquely contrasts with its stained glass surroundings.

Annabel has a wide-ranging portfolio of similar pieces under her belt. She aims to reflect gritty social realism through moving image and architecture.

“The Electric Fence was initially born from the everyday experiences of people facing hate crime around the world. As well as the dark horrors that these have resulted in throughout history,” she explains.

This stunningly provocative piece is a direct and personal response to a highly-publicised American pastor’s sermon, in which he advocated a ‘solution’ to same-sex marriage.

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In 2012, Reverend Charles L. Worley of the Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, North Carolina, chose to respond to Obama’s public endorsement of same-sex marriage during his Mother’s Day sermon:

“I figured a way out, a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers, but I couldn’t get it pass the Congress — build a great big large fence, fifty or a hundred mile long. Put all the lesbians in there, fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals. And have that fence electrified so they can’t get out. And you know what, in a few years, they’ll die out. Do you know why? They can’t reproduce.”

These hateful words sparked a powerful creative response from Annabel:

“Although it was originally inspired by LGBT concerns, the Fence is an installation for all. It explores freedoms, both physical and metaphorical, and is loaded with symbolism, carrying the scars of humanity within its very fabric,” she explains.

The launch took place at Hull Minster on Tuesday 4 July, the same day that Americans were celebrating freedom and US independence:

“The world seems more fractious and volatile than ever. Maybe, in the very building where William Wilberforce himself was baptised, there might be a glimmer of hope,” Annabel points out.

The creation of The Electric Fence also involved the coming together of people and organisations:

“It took a truly unique collaboration to bring this ambitious project to fruition,” she tells us.

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Hull-based firm Strata Holdings and their Pearlgreen Engineering team were responsible for the physical manufacture of the striking posts.

“It was an exceptional opportunity to work with such professionals. They completely exceeded my expectations. Their work is about precision and I presented a very different client brief, wanting precision with perceived imperfections. I required ‘textured’ welded finishes to emulate scar tissue.”

In the meantime, embedded into each pillar is a Feonic ‘invisible speaker’. Again, a local company that has expertise in smart materials developed this aspect of the work. The speakers were originally designed by the US Navy for ultrasonic subsea use.

“This technology is harnessed to resonate surfaces, turning them into high quality, powerful and wide bandwidth speakers. In this case, they turned an Electric Fence into a massive musical instrument.”

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Ultra-sonic and capacitance touch technologies have been used to allow visitors to engage with the installation. There are 24 active contact points, along with two cameras that make a disturbing sound.

“You can hear, feel and sense the Fence,” enthuses Annabel.

You can experience The Electric Fence for yourself at Hull Minster in Trinity Square until Saturday 30 September.

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Published: Thursday 6th July 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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