Cragside switched on for new exhibition

An interactive sound installation by Rob Blazey at Cragside. Picture by Colin Davison/National Trust Images
An interactive sound installation by Rob Blazey at Cragside. Picture by Colin Davison/National Trust Images

Cragside and Newcastle University have teamed up to create a new exhibition, Switched on!

The exhibition is part of the National Trust’s Women and Power programme for 2018, celebrating the centenary of the passing of the Representation of the People’s Act, granting some women the right to vote.

Inspired by Cragside’s past as a hotbed of innovation and technological advancements, Switched on! explores different ways of presenting the home of industrialist Lord William Armstrong and his wife Lady Margaret through a series of mixed-media art, sculpture and sound installations.

Visitor experience manager, Laura Knowles, said: “Switched on! encapsulates the trial-and-error nature of Cragside, with experimentation at the forefront of each installation.”

Rachel Armstrong, professor of experimental architecture at Newcastle University and project director for Switched on!, added: “Working in collaboration with the National Trust team has enabled our emerging innovators to take their creative spirit to the public in new ways.

The installations address issues including quality, diversity, mass production, technical drawings, the human body, language and storytelling.

The installations include a 3d printed model of Lady Armstrong’s lace scarf created in response to society’s need for mass production, a suspended sound installation that tells some of Cragside’s key stories by going beyond a simple text panel, sculptures representing MRI scans of the female body, and a maze of 4000 sunflowers to represent the anonymous workers of Cragside whose names failed to be recorded in history books.

Lord and Lady Armstrong’s ingenuity in the early 20th century established Cragside as an extraordinary vision of a future world, although its innovations, such as electric lightbulbs, dishwashers and lifts, are now commonplace.

Working with eight innovators from a variety of disciplines such as fine art, science, music, history and architecture, the National Trust and Newcastle University have explored the potential of Cragside as a setting for celebrating past and future innovation.

With such a small percentage of women working in STEM, the exhibition has created a platform from which to showcase some of the North East’s most talented thinkers, paving the way for a new generation of female innovation.

Between now and 4 November, Switched On! will be on display at Cragside. Visitors can collect a Switched On! guide and follow the trail around the house an gardens

Discover more about Switched on! at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cragside

Learn more about Women and Power at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/womenandpower