Witness Project

Supported by Arts Council England (Research and Development Grant)

2004 –5

With the aid of an Arts Council grant for research, realisation and dissemination, Witness continues Sheila Gaffney’s practice of community facing as a core element in the development of her projects. It marked a shift in her practice from making installation and intervention to free standing sculptural pieces. To disseminate the outcomes of the period of R & D the project was included in ‘SituationLeeds. 6-29 May 2005. Contemporary Artists and the Public Realm’.

In Witness Gaffney proposed to use sculpture and home movies to suggest a child’s experience of ‘witnessing’ events in the world.


I saw what you did... interior film sequence constructed from donated home movies/2.30 minutes looped


She was making a series of figurative sculptures in wax of personal items, such as a cardigan she remembers wearing as a child. When the pieces were finished she used them as a base onto or within which she projected images. The images were sourced from super8 home movies offered by the public in response to two newspaper articles about the project (She was featured in the Yorkshire Post’s series ‘Artists at work’ and a short announcement was placed in the July Artscene).

Theoretically, the project extends Gaffney’s interest in identity and she draws on the concept of subjectivation. That is, she focuses on how we go through the process of ‘becoming’ who we are, rather than equating the notion of identity with being. In the work she suggests it is a feature of this ‘becoming’ that each individual is affected, stained or altered by what they see or experience. Gaffney uses film footage as the metaphore for this. Her request to the public was specifically for Super 8 (‘home movie’) as the films are likely to be records made within the limits of the domestic and local.

The aim was to complete a new body of work which extends Gaffney’s practice of community / public facing as part of its conceptual framework. “I want to make a new collection of sculptures which develop the ideas about individual, community and social I have explored in my earlier work, particularly Locale

I saw what you did....