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Jessica Akerman

Jessica Akerman makes objects and images that bring together social narratives, pattern and colour. She explores histories, systems and structures and how these are communicated. Themes include: the staging of power dynamics in national identity, women’s working lives and military engineering.

Working in sculpture, installation and object-making, her approach to materials is that of the amateur craft enthusiast, making salt dough fingers, weaving paper, pinning leather, colouring in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.

Traditional folk culture and customs are often a starting point for exploring contemporary social themes. She worked with singer Frankie Armstrong on a performance workshop, capturing the physical gestures of women’s jobs using Traditional work songs and play dough. In June 2020 she produced a Caraboo Loops podcast with Caraboo Projects, Bristol on Rough Music, public shaming and the crossovers with recent events during the Covid-19 lockdown and Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

Jessica Akerman


Centre of Gravity - Where We Used to Go

Installation in former soap factory and subsequent department store, Gardiner Haskins, Bristol.

Materials: Repainted Gardiner Haskins furniture showroom display walls, ceramic soap dish, ball and heads, salt dough fingers and eye, suede offcut, knitted textile sample, the O from the Ercol sign.

For this installation, I reconfigured display units from the mid-century furniture showroom into a new environment to mosey around. The work imagines the building’s different pasts, specifically its people, those who once worked here, manufacturing soap or selling and merchandising homewares. And the behavioural patterns of visitors to the department store, the pleasure of shopping and the boredom of waiting, which it often entails. The ceramics and salt dough objects are like votive offerings, in a temple of many incarnations; a temple of consumerism, homemaking and productivity.

Centre of Gravity - Upright Downright (Ruins Forming)

Installation in former soap factory and subsequent department store, Gardiner Haskins, Bristol.

Materials: Microsoft Excel spreadsheet drawing printed on knitted textile, metal rods, wire.

I use Microsoft Excel as a drawing tool as a response to my ongoing interest in gender, labour and social attitudes to work. The mundanity and clunkiness of the medium for making large wall hangings became an involved labour in itself. The forms are inspired by the shapes and colours of the department store and former factory, with suggestions of both the decorative intimacy of household Venetian blinds and the industrial shuttering of the warehouse space in which it is hung. The column and its ruin is a familiar image of power and patronage, the built environment bearing the imprint of social and political change.

Josiah Heads

Part of my Centre of Gravity installation, this ceramic choir of eyeless heads invoke a weirdly cheerful band of factory foremen, jovial industrialists and bored yet benign husbands, waiting outside changing rooms.

Excel spreadsheet drawings

This ongoing body of work uses the administrator’s essential tool, the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, to create graphical drawings. Abstract and decorative, these drawings reflect on often coercive systems of working environments, and the strategies workers use to express their agency within office / working life.

The Excel artworks form part of my ongoing interest in labour, social attitudes to work, and the objects, gestures and systems that seep into wider culture from our working lives.

Winged Banner B-2

This paper weaving was made using 2 rolls of Fabriano paper, painted on both sides and woven together over the course of 3 days. The abstract wing forms reference the components of a model maker’s stealth bomber (the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit) kit, and have featured in my work over several years. This weaving formed the central piece in my Annihilation Seal solo show at ArcadeCampfa, Cardiff, which explored the visual identities of nuclear states, alongside the visuals of extinction, such as dinosaur death poses and carbon.