Survey by Qualaroo

Temporary Salvage

#ArnolfiniStory image number 4 - Duncan Cameron's contribution to our 2001 exhibition, The Silk Purse Procedure.

As previous blog posts have shown, when Arnolfini first moved to Bristol’s docks in the early 1970s, the area was in a state of dereliction. Our setting up home here initiated a process of reuse and regeneration that continues today.


Along with the art works displayed inside our building that attracted new communities of people to visit the area over the years, some of the most memorable re-imaginings of our harbourside location have taken place outside.  


‘Temporary Salvage’, by Somerset artist Duncan Cameron was included in the 2001 exhibition, The Silk Purse Procedure. The show was co-curated with our colleagues at Spike Island on the other side of the harbour (who will celebrate their 40th anniversary next year). It consisted of a series of display cases, filled with objects Cameron found submerged in the harbour.


He writes ‘I fished along the dockside throughout the exhibition with a giant magnet on a rope and engaged with people throughout as I retrieved items' for display within the dockside cabinets I made and sited at the water's edge between Spike Island and the Arnolfini. There were also naval charts in both gallery spaces tracking the location of the retrievals with brass pins. I continued with these themes with 'Station to Station' working with Spacex and Louise Short in Exeter docks later that year, where I was allowed to dive so could retrieve even larger objects’.


The exhibition catalogue includes the statement 'I wanted the audience to encounter cabinets on the dockside and to engage with them in a more investigative way than they might in a gallery. The sun shining through jars of items still immersed but now retrieved with magnets from the city docks, unusually visible in their state of hidden flux. Lost treasures briefly on display before their return to the depths.'


More about Duncan Cameron’s work is available on his website:



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Saturday 05 October 2019, 14:00 to 18:00

£8/6 + BF Book

Looking back at this influential exhibition in which contemporary artists explored Britain’s colonial past.