About ‘Under the Influence 2021' | A series of 28 unique works
This major installation, made specifically for Harewood House in Leeds, forms the focal point in the exhibition curated by Vessel director Angel Monzon. It is inspired by the discovery of twenty-eight bottles of Harewood Rum from the plantations in a cellar in 2011. The Harewood bottles were sold in 2013-14, and the proceeds donated to the Geraldine Connor Foundation. Day’s bottle sculptures are designed to remind us of the importance of rum in the slave trade and its particular significance for Harewood.
On each bottle is a cap made out of rope, instead of a cork stopper, to evoke the sensation of being bound, as the Africans were when they were shipped over to the Caribbean to harvest the sugar from which the rum was made. The trails of blue glass wrapped around the bottles lend them an exquisite richness, which also suggests the Atlantic Ocean. The sculptures are very heavy; as Day makes them, he says, ‘I feel as though I’m putting all my anger, all my emotions into them, not only mentally, but physically.’
The title is a play on the idea of rum as strong alcohol with the ‘influence’ of the slave trade over contemporary society, to the extent that this barbaric practice was hardly questioned, even by the church. The work also reminds us that slavery continues today, albeit in the shadows.