Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Synthetic Life

As anyone who knows me will testify, I could never be accused of being a science geek but I do admit to a fascination with the more awe inspiring and fantastical theories and developments in contemporary science – especially in physics and biology (none of which I would ever claim to understand in any great depth – just deep enough to generate as sense of wonder). So I was delighted when Alec Bartos, on behalf of the Purdue University in Indiana USA, asked if they could use an image of my And When I’m a Man sculpture to advertise today's talk 'Synthetic Life: A New Industrial Revolution?' The talk is being given by Dr Gregory Kaebnick, editor of the Hastings Center Report and Bioethics Forum.

Although unable to make it to the lecture myself (what with it being in the US and me being here in little old London) I'm led to believe that the theme is synthetic biology and the idea that there might be a new industrial revolution: combining non-living parts to make a living thing, or a combination of living and non-living things - with Dr Kaebnick talking about whether or not this is even possible and what the implications might be for the ways we view humanity and the non-living world.
As I said, I'm a sucker for that kinda thing so I hope that it all goes well and that someone thought to film it and stick it up on the web.

Poster design by Alec Bartos.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Orifice Tower

Admittedly my latest sculpture isn't completely finished (there is just one small finishing touch to add but I'm waiting on the arrival of some resin hardener before I can do that) and this isn't the greatest quality photo in the world but I thought that I'd let you see how it's coming along – especially since I first started work on it quite some time ago. To be perfectly honest I enjoyed constructing this piece so much that I was more than happy to squander days just working on the tinniest of details - most of which no-one but myself will probably even notice. I think sculpting, and probably art in general, is as much about the process as it is the end result.

Although it might look like it's just been thrown together all the individual box sections and framework have been carefully constructed in such a way that the pieces interlock, creating a deceptively sturdy structure – not that I'm encouraging anyone to try and climb it. After the recent destruction of my City sculpture on it's way back from last year's show, The Event 2011, I don't fancy having to undertake more repair work than I already have to.

Discounting the glue, all the materials used in the construction of this piece (mostly wood but some copper piping and small metal fixings) are recycled – even down to the screws. This isn't purely for environmental reasons. It's mainly because I love the patina and 'resonance' of old materials. A lot of the wood comes from the backs of old picture frames or early to mid-20th Century packing cases from the Victoria and Albert Museum, here in London.

With this quick sketch you can see, in the drawing on the left, my initial idea for the Orifice Tower. I drew it whilst waiting for a talk to commence at the Jerwood Space in Bankside. I can't remember now what the talk was about but I remember that at the time I was working on some small sculptures that were basically wooden boxes with carved apertures or orifices in them. By this stage I'd become aware of the fact that much of my work was getting smaller and smaller so I decided to remedy this by creating elevated versions of my new Orifice Box sculptures – which also tied in with my love of tower structures.

In the (almost) finished piece you can see that the top section is basically another of my orifice boxes, with the front panel having been carved from a solid block of wood. One of the problems of exhibiting awkward sized sculptures (this piece is 2 metres tall) is getting them to and from venues so I designed this one so that it bolts together in four sections – making it easier to transport/package and making the bolts a feature of the work.