Protection, 2d

For the protection brief I have wanted to explore some of the issues that arose for me when my partner had breast cancer a year ago. The main things that came up were issues around helplessness, powerlessness, having to hand her over to others, and to trust them to make the right decisions and to be skilled in their handiwork. Afterwards there was a lot of gratitude to the staff at the Western General, and to her surgeon, anaesthetist and nurses in particular for another life saved.

The plan is to make a film to capture the experience of handing over..

Here are some of the trials for this piece, thus far I have made 5 films trying to get the exposure and composition of the piece right before I meet her surgeon.


Conrad Shawcross – Pre-retroscope

There is another exhibition on at the Baltic at the moment called called A Duck for Mr Darwin, about evolutionary thinking and the struggle to exist, to which several contemporary artists have contributed. Andrew Dodds has produced a short film of two giant Galapagos turtles struggling unsuccesfully to mate, and the sounds of their frustrated grunts fills the gallery. Tania Kovats has set up a giant wormery in which we can see the worms going about their business behind a glass wall providing a cross-section of the earth.

Conrad Shawcross has built this beautiful boat with a special tracking circle built on to it to take panoramic film rotating around the boat. In the gallery the camera is replaced by a projector and screen displaying his journey.  The boat at the Baltic was a small rowing boat rather than a kayak, but otherwise was similar.


Sarah Sze – Tilting Planet

sarahsze_0261Sarah Sze has an exhibition on at the Baltic Flour Mill just now, and it is site specific in the sense that it is unmovable, the whole gallery space has been used right up to the very high ceiling.  Her installation uses all kinds of everyday objects, often brightly coloured, bits and pieces of wool, fabric, plastics, machines of various kinds such as desk top lights fans fish tank pumps, arranged in strange and delicate constructions that all interlink.  Her constructions are beautiful and very delicate, with the little movements within them that will cause their deconstruction, such as a pump bubbling away water, a fan moving a weight on a line of wool delicate nudging away at a pile of salt.  There were a series of little communities all interconnected by delicate threads.  Clearly a delicate structure designed not to last constructed out of throwaway human junk.

There is a lovely quote in the gallery guide to the exhibition:


“When looking at the stuff used to make contemporary art there is baltic-2choften a nagging suspicion that things mean things.  That there is a metaphorical significance for the materials the artist has chosen.  Understand this significance and the art is unlocked….  Sze eschews the urge to confuse the art with the artist.  There are no hidden meanings; the significance of her materials is that they are universally insignificant.”

Chico Macmurtrie

Chico is the main person behind Amorphic Robot Works, and there is lots on his website about kinetic works using metal and wood plus linkages and mechanisms, and also inflatable works, I particularly liked his 16 birds, made of the simplest bird shape out of tubes of sail cloth, and as they inflate they stretch and flap very slowly.

He has also done quite a few public site specific commissions and I particularly liked this floating island called “A Tree for Anable Basin” which was a previously toxic waterway in a industrial area of New York that was slowly being rehabilitated.


The following extracts are all from the Amorphic Robotic Works website, and they explain the whole idea so well.:

It encapsulates in a single gesture the dynamism and split personality of a landscape undergoing tumultuous redevelopment.

As a natural object crafted from industrial materials, the floating aluminum tree evokes Anable Basin’s historical interplay between industrial and ecological activity. Anable Basin—a 500-ft-long notch in the East River—was carved from tidal wetlands in 1868 to serve as loading slip for oil tankers and other cargo ships. Between the demolition of the former Pepsi bottling plant in 2004 and the ongoing construction of deluxe high-rise residences on the site, the developers attempted a massive detoxification operation to clear generations of pollutants from the waterfront.

The site’s natural regeneration began 30 years ago, however, with the Clean Water Act and the gradual return of migratory water birds. Neighborhood groups such as the LIC Community Boathouse have quietly begun to explore the potential of Anable Basin to contribute to the life of the waterfront and the city. A Tree for Anable Basin builds upon the resiliency and elusive beauty of the site. Floating upon a sculptural island planted with native estuary grasses and glowing with solar-powered lights, the Tree is designed to enhance the existing habitat for birds.

The sculpture’s presence is intended to raise questions about community access and land use by inviting public spectacle at a traditionally restricted site. Although the privately-controlled Basin has long been concealed from public view, Tree identifies this tidal waterway as a cultural and ecological resource to be understood, enjoyed and preserved. Embodying the transitional quality of the present moment, Tree foreshadows and refracts the accelerating corporate promotion of the site through landscape amenities. Yet its textured metal branches and fishing-dock-inspired base express the lingering traces of an industrial past.

Lara Greene Kinetic art

Notes from a brilliant course on kinetic sculpture with Lara Greene.

Lara’s useful sites list, from the course at ESW, so I don’t forget them: very useful in glasgow  brilliant inflatables and a lot of site specific work

Spiral Jetty

Robert Smithson built Spiral Jetty in 1970 in the Great Salt Lake in Utah. It was after a period of drought when the water level was low, but Smithson underestimated how high the waters would rise. Spiral Jetty was only visible for 2 years before becoming submerged for over 30 years. then another drought caused it to slowly reappear, with much excitement from the arterati. However its period of submersion and re-emergence has had consequences.. it was made of black basalt rock, making a particular contrast with the reddish waters caused by salt-tolerant bacteria. When it re-emerged it appeared whitened as it was entirely encrusted with salt, and as the waters have dropped still further visitors have been able to walk between the rings of the jetty. Now there is a huge debate as to whether the structure should be preserved as it originally looked but made higher with added black rock, or should time and water be allowed to mark progress. Smithson spoke about this ambiguously at the time, saying he was in favour of entropy, but also wanted his works to be preserved. As he died only three years after Spiral Jetty was built he cannot consulted now.

Spiral Jetty as it looks now.