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In 1865, engineer David Kirkaldy set up his business in Southwark and began to test materials for strength and behaviour. The results would allow designers and builders to know if iron, steel or any another material was strong enough to build large structures. Kirkaldy’s Testing and Experimenting Works moved to its present location in Southwark in 1874, where the business ran until 1965. In 1971 the building was listed Grade 2, and in 1983 it opened as a museum.
At the centre of the museum is the huge Victorian Kirkaldy Machine, an elegant green water hydraulic powered structure, which is capable of crushing, stretching and bending metal. The museum is normally only open on the first Sunday of every month, so this is a special chance to visit.
James Capper is known for his work creating mechanical sculptures with industrial engineering aesthetic. He worked with the museum’s experts to develop the designs for the metal which will be manipulated in the machine during his residence at the museum. Each experiment will be treated as a performance and the work will be on display.
This might all sound geeky, but I visited the museum to see the first piece being created and it was fascinating to see the machine effortlessly pulling the metal apart. Both artists and scientists will find plenty to enjoy. Music fans should check out this video of a previous residence where the machines were used to create a piece of improvised music, Music at Breaking Point.
James Capper and the Kirkaldy Testing Museum: Open until 20 October 2013. Open Wednesday – Sunday 12:00 – 19:00
Performance: Saturday 19 October at 14:00