We’re excited to announce Essex-based sculptor Katie Surridge as the winner of the fourth DARE Art Prize, part of the pioneering DARE partnership between the University of Leeds and Opera North, and in association with the National Science and Media Museum and The Tetley, Leeds.
The £15,000 award challenges artists and scientists to collaborate on new approaches to the creative process.
Katie’s DARE Art Prize proposal addresses the problem of e-waste: the valuable resources including gold, silver, copper, platinum, aluminium and cobalt present in discarded electronic devices. 57.4 million metric tonnes of e-waste was generated in 2021, and annual wastage is growing by an average of 2 mt a year.
“I have an aversion to modern technology and my work is often inspired by folklore, stories and skills from the past”, says Katie. “My last major body of work involved making my own iron from ore. But my DARE project will transport me from the Iron Age back to the present, where I will be looking at extracting metal from e-waste using microbes. I want to start with public workshops, collecting the stories of people who donate the e-waste, then go on to build machines to crush the appliances, eventually ending up with a metal-rich liquid which will be used to electroplate sculptures.”
Katie will collaborate with scientists from the School of Chemical and Process Engineering at the University of Leeds, world-leaders in developing more sustainable processes for chemical production, and the Henry Royce Institute for advanced materials, a Northern Powerhouse initiative of which the University is a partner.
Katie’s practice often combines her metalworking skills – acquired over three years at the National School of Blacksmithing, studies with masters of the art in Japan, and archaeologists and metallurgists in Ireland – with public engagement. “A genuine interest in connecting with people through absurd artistic interventions and inventions is key”, she says.
'Relics' cast in bronze from the packaging of items in the Bucks County Museum collections © Katie Surridge
Inspired by her trip to Japan, she built a “Heath Robinson” furnace that uses the residual heat from the ironmaking process to cook pizzas and smoke fish. Other recent commissions have included commemorating the stories of members of the community in Portland, Dorset in bronze plaques, cast in front of audiences in various locations and installed around the island; and using an Arts Council grant to transform her garden into a miniature working farm and community space during lockdown, which won her the Telegraph’s lockdown gardening competition. She is currently studying for an MFA at Goldsmiths.
“I’m over the moon to have been selected for the DARE Art Prize”, she says. “I’m sure that having the support, facilities and connections that the Prize offers will allow me to develop some of my most exciting work to date.”
Professor Frank Finlay, Dean of Cultural Engagement and Director of the Cultural Institute at the University of Leeds, comments:
“The novelist and scientist C. P. Snow coined the notion of ‘The Two Cultures’ over sixty years ago, and we’re still struggling to bridge that gulf between the ‘soft’ humanities and the ‘hard’ sciences today. The DARE Art Prize is unique in its brief of bringing creative artists into contact with scientists, and the three previous winners have done important and exciting work both to create new works of art and to stimulate new interdisciplinary research. I’m really excited to see what Katie will come up with during her tenure”.
Bryony Bond, Director of The Tetley, Leeds, comments:
“The Tetley’s involvement in the Prize came about because we were interested in how to make artists’ research public, and to allow members of the public to see their work as it was emerging. We invite the artist to spend a month with us in our studio, to open the door as much or as little as they wish, and to involve the public in that work as it develops over time. What the DARE Art Prize does is to bring to life often quite complicated scientific concepts, and find new routes into thinking about some of the most difficult ideas of our time. We’re delighted to be a partner on the initiative once again”.
Becky Smith, Head of Higher Education Partnerships, Opera North, comments:
“We had an incredibly high calibre field of entries this year, with artists working in media ranging from glass to the digital space and interested in scientific disciplines such as fluid dynamics, toxicology and AI. While it offers extraordinary access and routes into collaborating with scientists, curators and staff at Opera North, the monetary value of the Prize also brings freedom and time to conceptualise and create. For our previous winners, it’s been career-defining, and we can’t wait to see how Katie’s skilled, multi-faceted and generous approach to art-making develops during her year here”.
The three past Prize winners have each interacted with the work of the University and the Leeds-based opera company in unexpected, illuminating and very different ways. Composer and winner of the inaugural Prize Samuel Hertz worked with low-frequency infrasound, delving into climatology, the environment and the paranormal, with outcomes including a musical transcription of a glacier melting. Artist and researcher Anna Ridler (2018-19) spent her tenure investigating the points at which artificial and human intelligence coincide, and poet and visual artist Redell Olsen overcame pandemic restrictions in 2020-21 with a web of multimedia works produced in close dialogue with each of the institutions, working remotely with scientists at the University’s BioDAR insect radar unit, singers and music staff at Opera North, and objects in the collection of the National Science and Media Museum.
Katie will begin forging collaborative relationships with staff at the partner institutions over the coming weeks, with an outcome – in whatever form it takes – expected a year from now.