The Station X project offered a multi-sensory insight into the disused buildings of Bletchley Park, (otherwise known as Station X), the home of the World War II Code-breakers, and arguably one of Britain’s most important historical sites.
The Station X exhibition, as featured on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, was first presented at MK Gallery Project Space in 2012 and then in Alan Turing’s hut at Bletchley Park from 2012- 2013.
Eleven thousand people worked in secret at Bletchley Park during World War 2 and were sworn to secrecy about their activities for the following thirty years. Bletchley Park is where the first programmable electronic computer was invented and the exhibition coincided with the centenary celebrations of the birth of Alan Turing, the ‘father of computer science’- who worked at Bletchley Park.
The exhibition documented the visual and aural histories imbued in the very fabric of the disused buildings, before they were lost following planned renovation of the buildings. Four artists were granted special access to document these highly atmospheric buildings, which are usually inaccessible to the public owing to their dangerous state of repair.
Over the period of a year, the artists endured extremely harsh conditions whilst working in asbestos and mould filled rooms that had been unventilated and occupied by rats and pigeons for decades. A film of the artists working in the space can be seen here:
In some of the buildings it appears as if the workers have just downed tools and left; a rusty coat hanger swings on a hook with a name scrawled on it and diagrams lie in a file covered in mould. Others provide fascinating insights into what happens when nature is left to its own devices in a building for two and a half decades.
The exhibition was the result of a collaboration between artist Maya Ramsay, sound artist Caroline Devine, photographer Rachael Marshall and filmmaker Luke Williams. The works included surfaces lifted from the walls of the buildings, recordings of sounds produced by and within the decaying buildings and photographic and filmed documentation of the buildings.
Maya Ramsay's Bletchley Park works include surfaces lifted from walls that were covered in a myriad of cobwebs that had become carbonised during a fire. Her piece Blood, Sweat & Tears is currently on display in an exhibition about renovations of the buildings in Hut 12 at the Bletchley Park Museum. More on the renovations can be seen at Google Cultural Institute:
The Station X project is featured in the hugely popular book Saving Bletchley Park by Dr. Sue Black:
Images: Rachel Marshall (1 & 2), Orvil Kunga (4). Film: Luke Williams
Bletchley Park’s derelict huts captured in Station X exhibition BBC interview, May 2012
The art of Bletchley Park Decay, interviewed by Zubeida Malik, BBC Radio 4 Today programme, April 2012
Station X, interviewed by Richard Williams, BBC Radio Beds, Herts & Bucks, 2012
Saving Bletchley Park https://www.waterstones.com/book/saving-bletchley-park/sue-black/9781908717924
Drones in the sky, whistleblowers in jail: how art is responding to Big Brother's watch: A-Z of Surveillance, Christine Jun, Dazedigital.com, October 2013
Cracking the Code, Simon Tait, Arts Industry, issue 289, January 2013
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-17879181, BBC News feature, April 2012