Solaris (2015), Perspex sculpture, coloured glass neons, Perspex segments, pigment, transparency prints

Dreamland, Margate is pleased to announce a contemporary public-realm artwork by British artist Rachel Wilberforce: Solaris. Wilberforce’s work is a response to the history and recent reimagining of what is thought to be Britain’s oldest amusement park. It uses original coloured-glass neon lights sourced from the old Dreamland site, which the artist has configured within a transparent Perspex sculpture, with an outer arcade game-like casing.

After having been left derelict for years with its identity and infrastructure dissolving, Dreamland has been transformed into a site of play once more. While its purpose remains the same for the most part – to entertain – its emphasis has evolved: it now also provides a home for restored fairground rides from around the world. In consciously re-presenting the history of the amusement park, Dreamland’s identity has shifted: it has become a site of revival. 

The space has transitioned before. It has been a site hosting entertainment and amusements since 1880’s, but it was not until 1920 that it became known as Dreamland, a name that suggests escape and fantasy; a place of the ‘other’. Wilberforce’s work often deals with such spaces of ‘otherness’. In creating this piece, her aim was to amalgamate a sense of Dreamland’s legacy and evolution to its current status, as well as what its new guise and purpose might propose for the future.

Solaris is situated in the Arcade Hall, a space filled with vintage arcade games and mirrored columns, where the artwork echoes its surroundings.

Perspex & aluminium plinth
216cm x 154cm x 154cm

While she was carrying out research for the piece, it was the elements of sound, lighting and arcades that kept coming up in locals’ recollections of Dreamland, reaffirming the artist’s idea of using lights in the work itself.

For Wilberforce, the warm glow and luminosity of the salvaged neon tubes represent the analogue of the lighting world, akin to her photographic film work. These fragile, historic lights are interspersed with coloured Perspex segments and transparency prints of everyday places, pointing to the manifestation and representation of Dreamland, the deconstruction and reconstruction of the site, and its enduring legacy as a place of spectacle.

The taut form of the sculpture is set against the colourful, chaotic neons that bounce and burst with reflections and re-reflections. The sculpture also interplays with the fluidity and translucency of the prints and the glow of the neons at various junctures. In so doing, it echoes both contained and disruptive elements in the work. The result is the creation of a complex configuration of space, form and light, revealing myriad real and imaginary spaces with an ethereal quality.

The artist’s intention is that the work should represent a monument to our times, one that equally draws from the past, present and the future. For Wilberforce, the work also celebrates the delights of the British funfair and of seaside towns rediscovering their former glory.