Building Bridges and Making Connections

Still vs Moving | Organic vs Manmade | Time and Space

This semester has me gravitating towards ‘less waste’ and using recycled materials where possible. Sitting in a friends kitchen, listening while he complained about a recent project of his as a structural engineer / project manager. In particular he was discussing the construction waste due to designers trying to ‘re-invent the wheel’; resulting in mounds of excess materials ending up in the skip bin (not to mention building budgets being blown sky high and taxpayers money being flushed own the proverbial toilet), internal questions were raised around universities, makers and even the general public being more mindful of their own project materials and resources.

A good example of taking the initiative to be resourceful in making is Christchurch based workshop Rekindle

Can we collaborate with construction sites and project managers to source these perfectly intact byproducts of eccentric design? Thereby reducing rubbish while lessening the financial burden of sourcing new materials – sometimes for temporary installations that will add more waste to our environment. There are available resources if we as artists take the time to establish connections within our community, build relationships and perhaps offering trade of goods or services for these materials. In my case, I needed a pile of materials for this semesters project and instead of buying new 2×4 timber from the hardware store – I cooked dinner for my project manager friend.

Public Domain

‘The Bridge’ is a project that encompasses both the practicality of NOT re-inventing the wheel by using da Vinci’s self-supporting bridge, while I continue to critically think about Bridges as a concept during the making period. What makes a bridge? Does is need to be a physical construction that is climbed or conquered? What do bridges in our learned language represent? Architecture, new life, adventures, still, supporting, permanent but allowing for expansion and exploring. Inventive.

Bridge research – architectural, tensegrity and sculptural inspiration:

Bridge Construction:

Testing structural integrity of the bridge. It’s not an easy bridge to climb without additional support and perhaps thats a good thing. Quite fitting for the challenges we face in uncertain times.

What about building bridges within our communities? During lockdown 2.0 conversations around mental health were highlighted: people feeling isolated, depressed, bored. How can art establish connections and ‘bridge the social distancing gap’? Perhaps through collaborative works and reaching out to the wider community. Establishing trade as a form of payment: goods for other goods, services or koha. Dissecting trading as method in making.

Resources can be re-used or re-invented if time is taken to have these discussions, encourage communities to work together, donate, trade and actually speak to each other! A social construct that already dying from anti-social behaviours long before Coronavirus made us even socially distant). Each lockdown not only confining me physically but challenging my time, space and emotional capability to keep the creative momentum going. Adaptation becomes key to invent or re-invent.

Adding More Sculptures to the Mix

Prepping/cleaning metal for welding
Welding workshop

Kinetic Sculpture research – looking at ways of transforming salvaged wood and metal materials into new forms. The ways solid structures can be altered through rotation to create fluid and repetitive movements. The manual stimulations from human interference adding life and animation to immobile objects.

I also looked at other artists and philosophers who study sustainability and anthropocene (within contemporary art). Joyce Campbell’s photography exhibition at Te Uru gallery – On the Last Afternoon: Disrupted Ecologies, which portrays complex ecological systems through combining analogue and digital processes.

Her work reminding me of Hyperobjects, a term coined by British-born professor Timothy Morton, who refers to this ecological description as “things that are massively distributed in time and space relative to humans”. Everything from natures black holes, the biosphere or our solar system to the human production of Styrofoam and plastic, “Hyperobjects, then, are “hyper” in relation to some other entity, whether they are directly manufactured by humans or not. Hyperobjects have numerous properties in common.” He goes on to describe hyperobjects changing human art and experience in the aesthetic dimension during the Age of Asymmetry. They are “objects in their own right”. They make visible the fragility of all entities in a unique form of realism. 1

1. Timothy Morton, “An Introduction to Hyperobjects,” in Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014), p. 1-2.

Wall Spinner Construction:

U Sculpture Construction: I may have bitten off more than I could chew with this one. A temperamental design with a lot of mishaps along the way. Usually as a result of not knowing what I needed until it was too late (the downside of a constantly evolving work) I nearly ended up throwing the whole sculpture away when after numerous tests, I couldn’t get the wiring to work after the final soldering. A combination of staring at the same evolving project for months and lack of sleep this final week had me at breaking point and overlooking some simple troubleshooting. While this was my most challenging piece to date, I don’t regret making all the mistakes as I learned so many new skills along the way. The inspiration for this piece was from studying kinetic string sculptures with changing wave patterns and then working out how to adapt those designs to use a metal chain instead.

FAIL Gallery: what NOT to do

Artist Statement

Wood, metal, fabric and fauna meld together in a time-warp of organic versus manufactured materials. Each element competing for visibility. Skip-bin salvaged wood is cut to precision and layered into a self-supporting puzzle bridge.

Black fabric stretches over the bones of a rotating bar fixed to the wall. The exposed handle invites to be turned, organic matter dancing with the vibrations.

A separate U-shaped metal sculpture stands tall with a little black on/off switch at the base. The delicate chain that connects each side is slack. This object can manually be spun but what happens if you flick the switch first and then rotate it?

Spinning bearings, motors, a crank handle and unyielding bridge juxtapose the different methods of human activated movement: even digital operations still requiring physical connections to function. Drawing inspiration from physics in architecture, kinetic wave sculptures, Timothy Morton’s hyperobjects and Joyce Campbell’s ecology photography, each action results in reaction – cause and effect.

Movement is created by human interference, whether it be moving over a stationary object, manually turning a handle or the flicking of a switch. When the room is empty, the movement stops. Objects become immobile and untouched, allowing nature to gradually reclaim and regenerate components. Mossy growth partially obscuring man-made materials, rust and decay – indicative of prolonged periods of time. 

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