Lokomotywownia train depot


Lokomotywownia is a site-specific installation located in a disused train repair depot in Krakow, Poland. The history of the region, its old technologies and its witnessing of the passing of time, and the transient, are bought into conversation through the rediscovery and intervention of the site. The train’s previous life and its trajectory of motion are mimicked in the reciprocal motion of the iPads – they are alive, the train is now stationary. In Lokomotywownia the audience involved were train workers who had no prior experience or understanding of site-specific art. A number of the train workers that became involved in the project didn’t even know that the old carriages existed prior to the project and they had been working half a mile away for 10 years.


Motorised tracks are built inside one of the abandoned carriages, allowing the materiality of the site to define the structure of the recording device. The captured footage is then played back on eight iPads that move around the space mapping the carriage interior and re-tracing the exact path of the camera, spatially and temporally. As the iPads drift slowly across the surfaces of the abandoned railway carriage, the exact representation in scale is seen on the screens, highlighting the architectural site below. 

Established in 1927, the depot is somewhat in the shadow of modern train travel. Here, the iPads take on the form of mechanical beings, and their sensory domain is given up to us as they serve as a vehicle by which we are transported into the culture of old Eastern Europe. The site performance brings light into the domain of the foreboding, symbolic, dark space, literally through the lit display of iPad screens whilst simultaneously inviting the audience to illuminate the space with ideas and possible meanings.

Lokomotywownia attempts to present moving image in dialogue with sculptural form as tracks are built in the shell of the carriage – the viewer experiences the materiality of the train carriage from the inside out, as the reading of detail builds the comprehension of architectural space.


In Lokomotywownia the viewer is reliant upon the moving iPad screens to reveal elements of the architecture, in which to construct their awareness of the site and locate them in physical space. This is particularly effective as the iPads move across the carriage floor; the missing wooden planks reveal the ground below. Suddenly the floor no longer feels stable; the audience’s habitual reading of the carriage surface is questioned and their safety in the site doubted.

This de-materialization of the filming apparatus is particularly effective in the moment where the iPad glides over a hole in the train carriage wall – as the film is pre-recorded the image on the iPad reveals an empty space and the motorised track appears to vanish.

In Screens: Viewing Media Installation Art, Kate Mondloch (2010) proposes that in screen spectatorship the viewer is both “here” (embodied subjects in the material exhibition space) and “there” (observers looking onto screen spaces). This double spatial dynamic, a bodily encounter in real time, radically reinterprets the conventional way that screen interfaces are critically described and, more importantly, experienced. In darkness the iPad reveals aspects of the physical site via the moving iPad screen, the audience locates themselves via the screen image.


site performance

“It’s a strange place to do this, I can’t imagine many artists walking all the way here to see this. It is like a fish-eye lens, magnifying the site. The sound of the motor is really interesting. I like the movement, it feels alive.” (Audience feedback)

“Is the recorded image a ‘window’ into the recorded site or a heightened reality of the site? - The virtual seems more real than the real. At first I was trying to work out if it was filming or had already been recorded. I placed a pen in the carriage, it didn’t appear on the screen. Then I knew it had been pre-recorded." (Audience feedback)


“I must have walked past these carriages everyday, but never really paid attention, you have made them look beautiful, alive again” (Audience feedback).

"This is my second visit, I came back now it is dark…I much prefer the work in the dark, the iPad appears from nowhere, it draws me into the cave. I now feel part of the work, before there were too many distractions, I couldn’t focus upon the machine, plus now I have to look through the screen to see the ground underneath, this makes me think more carefully about the ground I am stood on, if it is safe. (Audience feedback)


“It’s like an explorer and observer in one. The cave looks like a moonscape, I see it differently through the screen” (Audience feedback)

"I feel in-between technology and nature, a scientific investigation or experiment. Could there be more than one, maybe two or three could be running at the same time, scanning different sections of the cave?" (Audience feedback)

I feel like I am holding a torch and lighting my path. I wonder what would happen if the track went around the walls of the cave rather than just the ground, would it have the same physical impact?” (Audience feedback)

site performance

The site was open for audience feedback at strategically positioned moments in the project. In most cases the feedback dramatically informed the practical and technical development of the work. An example being that during one of the site-performances the feedback gained from all participants suggested that the speed of the iPad motorised installation was too fast, as one participant wrote, “It is hard to really see the image on the screen, it is moving so fast that I tend to look at the iPad as an object rather than a screen”(Audience Feedback). This feedback was fundamental to the development of the piece as the experiential effect only worked when the speed was fast enough to be seen as a surface texture, but slow enough for the viewer to be immersed in the screen image.


The nature of the iPad slightly magnifies the actual site underneath; this in turn creates a physical effect for the viewer, as the iPad screen appears to ‘open up’ the ground below. Similar to Victor Burgin’s Photopath (1967–9), where photographs of the floor (on which the work is installed) are enlarged to exactly match the scale of the floor itself. The iPad also records the ambient sounds of the quarry, battling with the mechanical sound of the motorised track. 

These experiments explore notions of haptic visuality, to capture the surface / texture of the quarry. The viewer is presented with an image of the terrain that maps perfectly the physical site below. 

In the early stages of this research I had been drawn to Winspit, mainly due to the quarry floors moonlike terrain. I had wanted to capture the materiality of the site, in contrast to how the site had previously been filmed as a background location for TV productions. In order to draw attention to the moonscape interior, an iPad was mounted on a motorised buggy that travelled across the quarry floor recording the detail of the terrain. The results were interesting but it was difficult to control the speed and direction of the buggy so it was developed using a fixed track. 


Winspit explores the physical terrain of an old quarry in Dorset, a site regularly used as a background for feature films. An iPad mounted on a motorised track spans the length of the quarry floor recording the detail of the terrain, scanning the site, like a forensic instrument. The iPad slightly magnifies the actual site underneath; this in turn creates a physical effect for the viewer, as the screen appears to ‘open up’ the ground below. The noise of the motorised rig and the illuminated screen guides the viewer deep into the site. The audience experiences an activation of site, a curious interaction/dialogue between technology and nature, a scientific investigation. Winspit fundamentally questions the relationship between image and so-called real space while attempting to present moving image in dialogue with natural form.


In Atlas of Emotion: Journeys in art, Architecture and Film, Bruno (2002, p. 54) discusses "this shift away from the long-standing focus of film theory on sight, towards the construction of a moving theory of site". This movement from optic to haptic reflects film's position within the spatial arts, sitting more comfortably next to architecture and theatre than many of the visual arts. Traditional theories of the ‘filmic gaze’ fail to address the effect of spatiality, the act of crossing or inhabiting space are not explored or explained.

Winspit quarry