Yellow Brick Road to Thamesis

Yellow Brick Road to Thamesis workshop film by Keepsake Videos

“The word Mandala means ‘circle, totality, completion’ and Manda means essence or energy. So by creating this mandala, we are creating a vessel or container to invite the essence of the river into a geometric design. Although mostly associated with religion and spirituality in parts of Asia and Far East, Mandalas are also found in Aboriginal sand paintings, within Hindu Cosmology, amongst the ruins of ancient Mayan architecture, as part of Celtic, Roman, Grecian, Egyptian as well as Iranian, Persian and Russian artifacts. Jung refers to the Mandala as an expression of the self. It connects our self, to the essence of the world.”

Studio Weave’s quay-like design of the pavilion and Linda Florence’s colourful geometric patterns refer to the Industrial Revolution era in Nine Elms (Florence’s patterns refer to how the Industrial era bridges were often painted), and the Father Thames relief nearby reflects on the English mythological heritage of the Thames. Responding to these existing creative reflections on history and on the river, MFA students from the RCA devised Yellow Brick Road to Thamesis, a project involving temporary site interventions, an onsite workshop with local school children, and a post-workshop publication.

Nine Elms Pavilion

Using turmeric as pigment, the artists selectively painted the bricks on the Thames Path to create a playful, exploratory space, inviting people to make their own paths by following the yellow bricks. The use of turmeric highlights British colonial history, and its use next to the Thames acknowledges the significance of this river to multiple cultures (for example, the Thames is one of the sacred rivers in Hinduism). In addition to the yellow bricks, the students created an accompanying soundscape, which can be accessed on a phone while exploring the area. The soundscape was produced from the sound recorded from the river using a hydrophone.

In planning the installation, the artists said: “We hope that this intervention will give an opportunity to experience the Thames in a simple but unusual way. The two interventions together recognize the multiplicity and fluidity of our cultures, movements, and relationships with others. These broader ideas in turn echo hydrofeminist thought represented by the sentences “What makes all of us? We are all bodies of water,” which we will display on the walls along the path.”

The final element of the project will take the form of a poster that folds into a zine, to be installed inside one of the Nine Elms notice boards and distributed at another suitable location, such as the covered space of the pavilion or at the flower market. It will also be made available online (with a QR code posted at the pavilion).

Yellow Brick Road to Thamesis is one of a number of temporary projects borne out of a partnership between Wandsworth Council and the Royal College of Arts MFA Arts and Humanities programme, which in 2024 saw students collaborate and create projects in response to the site of the Thames Path, it’s context and communities.