From the 4th century AD the Romans developed Aquae Sulis now known as the city of Bath. The Romans pioneered many things some of which we use today. For example the £ symbol used for British currency is descended from the capitalisation of the Latin word libra, which was a Roman unit of weight.
For the Living Numbers exhibition I examined Roman connections to Bath and how they could be translated into contemporary artworks. As you may see from some of my other work, I use found objects - paintings originally made by other artists – and hand-cut images or figures that relate to personal, witty, or critical observations. Cutting into existing works of art raises many questions, but without the work made by someone else some of my work cannot exist.
Considering the exhibition is held during the Bath Fringe Festival it seemed appropriate to me to include something light-hearted in the work and what could be better than one of the most significant comedy creations ever; Monty Python’s Life of Brian film.
For those unfamiliar with the film there is a scene where the fictional group the Peoples’ Front of Judea are discussing the kidnap of Pilot’s wife in return for the dismantling of the Roman Imperialist State. The leader of the PFJ, Reg, asks the gang “What have the Romans ever done for us?” The replies include roads, education, sanitation, and wine, and how beneficial each of these is.
To connect these replies with the Roman history of Bath and the city today required the analysis of information from the 2011 Census, the tourist board, reports of economic contributions by graduates, local business, and the regional water supply company.
There are four paintings exhibited under the collective title “What have the Romans ever done for us?” and each painting has an individual title relevant to one of the replies mentioned earlier in the scene from the Life of Brian film.
Each painting is hung back-to-front so the original work faces the wall and has Roman symbols hand-cut from the canvas. These symbols suggest potential economic contributions or savings to the 88904 usual residents in Bath’s 16 council wards.
The image below is titled Roads and has £4200 cut from it in Roman symbols. This figure comes from the total amount of revenue from tourism £373,451,000 divided by the 88904 usual residents of Bath as recorded in the 2011 Census. It may be certain that without roads there would not be as many tourists, but I wonder if the residents would prefer cash or cheque?
The remaining three works are:
Education (£9609 – Potential earnings from graduates’ contributions per city of Bath resident. Data from Census 2011, BBC website)
Sanitation (£192 – Potential savings per year and per flush if each resident of Bath city uses a free Save-A-Flush device from Wessex Water. Data from Wessex Water online)
Wine (£27000 – Potential turnover from one vineyard near Bath. Data from Quoins Organic Vineyard)
Living Numbers opens Friday 24th May and closes Sunday 9th June. It is located on the 2nd floor 35-36 Stall Street, Bath, BA1 1QG
Further information is available by clicking the link below.