I visited The Atom this evening.
In Wycoller, Lancashire, near a row of gnarled old trees wrapping their limbs around what looked like a row of gravestones – slabs of rock forming ancient ‘vaccary walling’ (a sight worth a visit in its own right) squats The Atom. It’s one of four art installations involving the construction of series of 21st-century landmarks called Panopticons.
The whole landscape seemed to revolve around this dumpy structure. To me, it felt like a cross between a primitive dwelling, and an alien space craft, who’s atmospheric re-entry baked surface may have only just cooled to the touch. Being inside cut the insistent wind and it felt almost cosey – undeniably sheltered, albeit a most primitive form of shelter. To appreciate shelter is a feeling no doubt share with our ancestors from the dawn of time and this structure powerfully evokes this feeling. It not only felt like the centerpiece of the near surroundings, but somehow, the centerpiece for the whole landscape, as far as the eye could see.
I now hope to visit the rest of the Panopticons. They’re from the East Lancashire Environmental Arts Network as part of an arts and regeneration project. Designed by Peter Meacock, Andrew Edmunds and Katarina Novomestska and installed in 2006, The Atom used to have a mirrored ball at its center that aimed to put the visitor in the art. Idiots nicked this centerpiece last year though – but non the less its still an impressive sculpture, largley due to the stunning panoramic views afforded from its impressive location.
It’s perhaps more of a drive by visit than a destination visit – the destination could well be Brontë Country – who’s heart is just a few miles away, but well worth stopping off en route, to experience this unusual work.