Artist Liz Wilson Partners with Liverpool’s CNC Robotics to Explore the Symbiosis Between Humans and Machines

Manufacturing and the creative arts meet at June’s National Festival of Making in Blackburn, as visual artist Liz Wilson exhibits her new work, inspired by Liverpool’s cutting-edge robotic machining sector.

The large scale installation will be presented as part of the National Festival of Making’s Art in Manufacturing programme, sees Liz Wilson working alongside engineers from Liverpool firm CNC Robotics to create an immersive voyage of re-animated industrial artefacts, transitional objects, and mechanised voices.

The exhibition takes inspiration from the proximity of the company to the historic Leeds – Liverpool Canal, a key artery of the Industrial Revolution, exploring the manufacturing symbiosis of human and machine as conductor and orchestra, and connected concepts of time, technology and motion.

It will be exhibited in Blackburn from 11th and 12th June 2022.

Art in Manufacturing is the headline commissioning programme for the National Festival of Making. The programme provides artists with the opportunity to undertake residencies with factories, giving them access to specialist machinery, heritage craft techniques and personal histories to develop a body of work.

Liz Wilson previously worked as an Art in Manufacturing artist in 2019 with Clitheroe firm Spiroflow. From there she went on to receive Arts Council funding to develop a new body of work in partnership with the Festival of Making.

Having expressed an interest in robotics and automation, Elena Jackson and Lauren Zawadzki (Directors and Co-founders of the National Festival of Making) connected Liz with Philippa Glover, the managing director of CNC Robotics.

The collaboration involves working closely with the staff within CNC Robotics to problem solve, experiment and explore possibilities for the development of new works. Using site visits as a catalyst to research, write, and produce works, Liz worked alongside automation engineer Michele Pollastri.

Through this partnership she was able to realise her digital drawings into physical objects, which will form sculptures for the installation.

Liz Wilson says: ‘I am fascinated by how the performative roles that humans and machines fulfil manifest themselves during the process of manufacturing.

‘Working with machining as a way of producing sculptural objects has enabled me to think about the journey between virtual and actual, actualising objects within the physical realm from something that once existed as in drawing on screen.

‘As I am not permanently situated within CNC Robotics, I have been developing and engaging with new ideas digitally from within my studio, which has enabled me to experiment with the production of new sculptures prior to my visits.

‘This way of working opens up possibilities for embracing mistakes, pushing the limitations of the work, and allows for an intensive, technical dialogue with the automation engineer when I return periodically for my residency.

‘Industrial sites and monuments have always held a place of significance to me. I am fascinated by the rhythm and gravitas that machines generate, with the human as the mediator or facilitator of production.

‘Within this particular body of work I am re-calibrating the industrial artefacts of the Leeds – Liverpool Canal and taking the audience on a voyage of momentum towards technology and automation.’

Philippa Glover, Managing Director of CNC Robotics, says: ‘The manufacturing sector is fundamental to how we live our lives. Art in manufacturing is a true celebration of this. To have such a talented artist tell our story and work alongside our engineers has inspired us to think differently about how and why we do what we do.

‘We’re looking at our machines differently and exploring the user’s role. Whilst technology has been at the forefront of the manufacturing evolution. People will always remain at the heart of manufacturing.’