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Liberty Way, Sunderland, SR6 0GL

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FREE Admission
Liberty Way, Sunderland, SR6 0GL

Open Daily 10:00 - 17:00 Call: 0191 515 5555

Separator National Glass Centre is part of the University of Sunderland

Photographic works explore demise of shipbuilding

Released: Thursday 23rd January 2014 at 15:06

Photographer Tim Mitchell explores the demise of the shipbuilding industry in his large scale photographic works at National Glass Centre.

Tim mitchell

A Fish Out of Water

11 January – 23 February


All that is solid melts into air



A Fish Out of Water is the debut solo exhibition of a 2 year photographic project documenting the end-of-life recycling of a 5000 ton Royal Navy Tanker, commissioned by Arts Council England and the National Glass Centre.


Ships are the workhorses of globalisation, slowly but surely transporting materials, influence and power across the globe. Built to last and to survive the rigors of a life at sea, they require huge amounts of energy and force to be dismantled at the end of their working lives.


Their structures contain vast quantities of hazardous materials that during the ship’s working life are safely contained within its walls; there to propel the ship and to protect its inhabitants. At the end of the ship's life, these materials become reanimated, problematic and dangerous. Once disturbed, the very materials that protected the lives of those at sea now become a threat to life.


Working in Collaboration with social scientist, Professor Nicky Gregson, Tim Mitchell spent 2 years observing and documenting the rigorous and problematic physical process of ‘breaking’ a ship in a country where health & safety and environmental protection are paramount. Currently, through loopholes in the law, most EU ships are broken up on the beaches of Asia at huge cost to life and surrounding environment. Why are more of our own ships not broken here in the EU? Is this even feasible?


Today, 90% of all imports are shipped, but shipping itself, like industry, has become invisible. There is a palpable and political relationship between ‘Fish Out of Water’ and the North East of England – in the UK’s 21st century economic order, where once there was manual labour, are the remaining options now recycling or redundancy, rather than new material production?


These and other questions will be raised and explored against the resonant backdrop of the River Wear, with it’s impressive cultural history still capable of influencing the present.


The exhibition here will bring together a mixture of large-scale contemporary and traditional photographic prints, physical evidence from the ship itself, a two year time-lapse film and an accompanying publication, together creating a broad document made up of contrasting forms and perspectives, with the intention of sparking debate and reflection upon Sunderland and the North East’s past, present and future relationship with a globalised shipping industry.

Call Out:

Tim Mitchell is looking for people who worked in the shipbuilding industry in the late 1960s who may have worked on the construction of the RAF Gray Rover.  Please include in any story about the exhibition this call out for stories and Tim Mitchell’s email address

Time Lapse Video:

Artist time lapse film of the Gray Rover being deconstructed:

For free use on social media and on websites, copyright Tim Mitchell

Notes to Editors:

Tim Mitchell’s work is often created in collaboration with academic and industrial partners, as part of a decade long investigation studying how the global cycle of production, distribution and consumption is followed by re-production, recycling or disposal. All of which is ordinarily invisible. This approach provides a graphic, potent and alarming insight into our relationship to the rest of the material world, and the interconnections between markets and producers that make up the complex, contested process ordinarily just called ‘globalisation’.


Principally photographic and in essence about both what is visible and able to be imagined, Tim Mitchell’s work ultimately asks what kinds of interdependencies exist between different economic zones, and between humans and their finite natural resources.

National Glass Centre

National Glass Centre at the University of Sunderland reopened its doors on 29 June 2013 following an ambitious £2.3m redevelopment programme.

The Centre is one of the UK’s leading institutions for contemporary glass, celebrating Sunderland’s unique glass-making heritage, presenting a rich temporary exhibition programme and facilitating international level research in new approaches to glass and ceramics.

To achieve this vision, National Glass Centre successfully attracted £750,000 from Arts Council England’s Large Capital Programme, £250,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £100,000 from the Sir James Knott Trust and £50,000 from the Foyle Foundation. This, coupled with a significant investment from the University of Sunderland, illustrates a significant commitment to the development of the arts in the City of Sunderland.

This investment has led to the doubling in size and extensive modernisation of the Centre’s exhibition and learning studios, better meeting the needs of the visitor, schools and groups. The Centre’s new main gallery now meets nationally recognised standards for environmental conditioning and security.

The redevelopment sees a complete overhaul of the Centre’s exhibition spaces which will enable it to present work by the highest calibre artists and to work in partnership with international museums and galleries. The Centre will host three major exhibitions annually and up to 15 smaller scale exhibitions in the new gallery spaces. It will also have a ‘rotating museum’ which will present a selection of high profile glass and ceramics collections on a yearly basis.

National Glass Centre is Open Daily: 10.00 – 17.00
Free Admission
Free Visitor Parking



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