Rory Macbeth   Caitlin Shepherd    Abbie Cairns


This exhibition is the interpretation of Language in transit. Looking at Rory Macbeth's Utopia (No Place) 2006, an condemned Old Eastern Electricity Building located at Duke Street carpark, Norwich.

Reopening Macbeth's work presents how words, language and the visual can be illustrated as a mismatch of ideals, seen through his interpretation of Thomas More's book Utopia, with the whole 40,000 words in a graffiti - like style covering the Eastern Electricity Building. Macbeth intended for his Utopia (No Place) to be demolished the year following. However, as the building is still stands the artwork is left incomplete. 

In conjunction to this, Miscommunication looks to multiple interpretations on the ideology of Utopia for you to indulge in, drawing out distinct perspectives of Macbeth's meaning behind the work and Thomas More's Utopian theory. Ranging from archival/photographic material to sculpture and film. Together this small scale exhibition becomes an investigation into the experiential process of locating and placing utopian language. 


Rory Macbeth,  Utopia (No Place),  Old Eastern Electricity Building, 2006 

Rory Macbeth, Utopia (No Place), Old Eastern Electricity Building, 2006 

Rory Macbeth's Story:

Rory Macbeth was part of the EASTInternational 2006 exhibition, being one of 25 artists selected by Jeremy Deller and Belgian curator Dirk Snauwaert. EAST International was an open submission exhibition that took place within and around Norwich University Of The Arts. It was part of a biennale celebration of international contemporary visual art in venues and cites within Norwich. EAST International was produced by Norfolk and Norwich Festival. 

Rory Macbeth had previously done a piece in Sunderland that wrote out Thomas More’s book Utopia; the whole 100 pages. Macbeth’s interest in More’s theory stems from the idea he had of the perfect place being ‘no place’, as if this place dose not exist within the reality. Thomas More’s text purposes multiple viewpoints on Utopia enquiring the society we live in.

“Condemned buildings are symptomatic of change:even billboard advertisements that are used to promote new development is frequently as utopian as the language that legitimised the old building when it was constructed”. 

Utopia (No Place) was commissioned for EASTInternational that Macbeth had applied for a many a times and this was the very last time that he was going to apply. With luck he was selected and the Old Eastern Electricity building (cited in a carpark on Duke Street), was lent to him by the firm TargetFollow. Macbeth spent hours calculating how all 40,000 words would fit on the external surface of the building and estimated a precise 90 minutes to paint one line to finish in time for the EASTInternational opening on 8th of July 2006. ‘Utopia’ looks to a classic of Western literature; protest writing; and a structure scheduled for demolition.

Hence Macbeth’s interest in the Old Eastern Electricity Building, where there was a power struggle for ownership and was suppose to be knocked down the following year after Macbeth completed the work. The graffiti-like approach to the work was only supposed to be a white wash due to the residents that were around the area not supporting the idea of having this public sculpture right on their doorstep. The anti - social path to the medium communicates freedom and urgency. Certain words and clusters do stand out amongst the text where it curves and moves with the building creating a type of concrete poetry. 


“I’m not happy about my work”


Like his previous work in Sunderland it was essential that the work got demolished to really reflect his interest in the ideal, the reality and there differences. The building has become a place of beauty as Macbeth recalls during our conversation that he had seen wedding photos with the building in the background becoming a place of worship. The work was only supposed to be fleeting. The aim of the work was to bridge two idealisms; the building as it is now and the temporary power, wonder of what was to become of it. 



By JMC Anderson