Wednesday, January 28, 2009

NCA Show

Work in progress, 2 person show at N.C.A. February 2009

"All the Names"
(detail, in progress)
Botanical accession labels grid.

30 x40 inches.

30 units of 180 units (in progress)
Mild-steel, zinc plate, units 14 x14 x28 inches.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


The persistence of an official record and that of radioactive waste is probably about the same.

CP-1 was buried in nearby woodland, this was not a fortuitous beginning to the issue of dealing with nuclear waste.

I'm thinking of Half-life as the link between the forest of files, undying, unending and uncountable, and the beginning of the nuclear age. I'm taking Fermi's first pile CP-1 as the beginning of this as it was here that Plutonium was first produced, albeit in tiny quantities. The cube of steel boxes (if they get made in time) are as much a play with the proportions of the room and scale of the body as they are references to nuclear power.

I had originally intended the installation to be about order and chaos but the imperfection of the cubes has led it elsewhere. I like the lack of perfection in theses boxes, distorted by the heat of their making. The imperfection of these (not so) minimal cubes echoes the story of the black stone of the Kaaba.

"According to Islamic tradition, the Stone fell from Heaven to show Adam and Eve where to build an altar and offer a sacrifice to God. The Altar became the first temple on Earth. Muslims believe that the stone was originally pure and dazzling white, but has since turned black because of the sins it has absorbed over the years. Islamic tradition holds that Adam's altar and the stone were lost in the process of Noah's Flood and forgotten. It was Abraham who found the Black Stone at the original site of Adam's altar when the Archangel Gabriel revealed it to him. Abraham ordered his son--and the ancestor of Prophet Muhammad--Ishmael to build a new temple in which to embed the Stone. This new temple is the Kaaba in Mecca.” (Wikipedia)

"Base of the World, Magic Base No. 3 by Piero Manzoni 1961 Homage to Galileo."

The world as sculpture.

Mona Hatoum, "Socle du Monde" 1992-1993
Wooden structure, steel plates, magnets and iron fillings
64 5/8 x 78 3/4 x 78 3/4 in. (164 x 200 x 200 cm)
Photo: Edward Woodman

Besides a tribute to Manzoni's sculpture by the same name of 1961, Hatoum says like the black stone of the Kaaba, thirty years of wars and deceits have turned Manzoni's pure work black with the sins of man.


I see "12.2.42" as part tribute (to scientific endeavor) and part warning (of the imperfect nature of mankind's knowledge). The smallness of mankind's achievements set against the vastness of creation. The ultimate failure of all technologies and even civilization itself. It is a Vanitas sculpture. It critiques the arrogance of scientific knowledge. I half suspect this world will be sucked through the eye of an atom sized black-hole, produced in the new Cern accelerator. What a suitable end it would be for this planet, wrecked as it is, by mankind's insatiable greed.

"A Taxonomy of Eden"

“Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

Genesis 2:8 9

In the Bible, God tells the man to name the animals (Genesis 2:19). In the Qur'an, Allah teaches Adam the names "of all things" and Adam repeats them (Ta-ha 20:120).

It is through the learning of "all the names" that Adam's place above the angels is consolidated, for the angels do not know the names of things.

I propose that Hazrat Adam made botanical labels for Eden, having learnt of all the names of the plants from God. Unfortunately many of these names are embedded with tales of Empire, the names of Victorian naturalists, indigenous names latinized and other slight problems in the overall scheme of things. I was thinking I might add zoological names plates for the reptilian and mammalian inhabitants of Eden, at least a few key characters. This is still under consideration.

Finding convincing and possible names for the plants of Eden is a longer task. I've started researching Quaranic and biblical references, but they then need re-translating into botanical Latin, it's going to take some time. I will then commission engraved labels, which I will in turn photograph. I am hoping to do one garden work for the NCA show, by 14th. February 2009. This will be a grid of botanical labels, in place of a garden. "All the Names" (re. Samarago's book) or "The Naming of Names" (re. Anna Parvord's book) may be title options. This will work alongside the file (Record Room) images. I will combine photographs of botanical labels from multiple locations, the regional languages also impinge in this supposedly international language of science. The labels are grey and the assemblage feels like a mausoleum. This also serves as a pointer to environmental issues, as so many plant names may survive the species (in the wild) in many cases.

Monday, January 19, 2009

NCA Show references.



The idea that CP-1 was built in a university squash court has always appealed to me.

(Chicago Pile-1) This appears to be a stack of graphite blocks from the core prior to assembly.

Artists impression of the view across the squash courts.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Context for the current work, Jan. 2009.

"Tower" 1974
An early sculpture from my foundation year at Epsom. 1974. I had spent the previous summer working on a motorway, the A3. We used to construct road markers out of waste materials to warn of hazards, to the trucks and other users of the as yet unopened road. I think something of my attitude to positioning work in the public space, and then the gallery space originated here.

"Two Bombs Kiss", Neem wood carving, 1990.
A prayer to avert nuclear war in the sub-c0ntitnet. It's based on a story I'd read of Brancusi, his ambition to place a version of "The Kiss" between the trenches of the Germans and the allies in the first world war.

"Heart Mahal" 1996,
Collaborative work. Iftikhar and Elizabeth Dadi, Durriya Kazi and David Alesworth.

"Fukuoka 2000"
A residency undertaken with Durriya Kazi and Pakistani truck decorators. Intended to interface with Japanese truck decorators. (Image right.)

Collaborative works with Durriya Kazi, 1997-2000

"Chamak Patti disks" David Alesworth, 2001. Icons of modernity such as washing powder adverts, emblems of arab culture, early nuclear weapons and mushroom clouds. The "Chammak Patti" is glass impregnated tape (3M reflector tape) used to decorate trucks in Pakistan.

"Event Horizon" 2002.
six-foot satellite Dish, chamak patti, enamel paint, steel stand. An anti-globalization, ad-busting work. It's first incarnation was on a thela (hand-cart). David Alesworth, 2002.

"War Against Terror" 2002
Aluminum trays, nan roti's, toy American soldiers, chamak Patti tape.

"Teddy Bear Rug" 2002.

Second hand soft toys on sale at Itwaar Bazaar, Karachi. A rug made of Teddy Bear skins.

The first of the "Teddy's Bear's". Toys for the war child. 2003.

"Probes" 2003, Karachi, out in the city of Karachi.

"Probes" in Karachi, the phalwala, murgheewala and doodhwala. 2003.

"Trays" 2003.
International brands, hacked, based upon fake items found in Karachi's markets. Stensil cut aluminium.

"Record Room"
Series, 2008-2009. Monochrome photographs. These will be shown in combination with "Fermi's Pile". The photographs will also be framed in grey, passivated zinc-plated steel. I will probably use a phosphate passivation on all the metal items.

"Record Room" series monochrome.
Probably around 20 x 30 inch, full-bleed images, in grey metal frames. 2008-2009.

Part-progress to Fermi's Pile, to be shown with the monochrome, "Record Room" images.
This will be constructed from 180 units, around 30 are present here. I'm now looking at a dark grey phosphate finish, same on the photographic frames. The work will probably be titled "12.2.42" the American date for when this first went critical and so beginning the atomic era.

Chicago Pile-1, a massive "atomic pile" of graphite bricks and uranium fuel, which went critical on December 2, 1942, built in a hard racquets court under Stagg Field, the football stadium at the University of Chicago. Due to a mistranslation, Soviet reports on Enrico Fermi claimed that his work was performed in a converted "pumpkin field" instead of a "squash court".

The NCA gallery space where the works will be shown, Jan. 2009.

NCA Gallery, Jan. 2009. This is probably the space I will be using. There are three potential rooms.

"Botanical Garden" or perhaps, "Role Call" or "All the Names", "Looking for Eden"?
2008-2009 currrent work.

I may also show a few of the botanical label works, these are in progress. They began in Linz, in the summer of 2008, at the Transart residency. I'm thinking of God telling man all the names (to settle the argument with the angels). I'm thinking of Eden and a taxonomy for Eden. I'm gradually working my way towards that, reseraching Quaranic and Biblical texts and refernces.