Update

It’s good to be here! The original idea, an installation inspired by tree barriers, will not work because there is not a good site. However, I have started on two other projects:

One: a collaboration with local students to create a digital archive of weeds.

Two: a sculpture to be installed on a tiny island in the lake.

More details to come as the projects progress. In the meantime: I asked for a jigsaw, a screwgun, and some screws so I could start building the sculpture. After some investigation, it seems it is way more cost effective to hire a carpenter to build the thing for me, and also a translator so the carpenter can understand my instructions!

Labor is cheap here. Goods, equipment, and materials are relatively expensive. This is why concrete is mixed by hand. This is why recycling is more prevalent here than in the US, because there is more value in the materials than in the human-hours spent sorting and processing it.

Journée des Barricades

By Heather & Ivan Morison

Journée des Barricades
2008
Various industrial and domestic items
800 x 2100 x 1000cm
Commissioned by Litmus Research Initiative, Massey University for One Day Sculpture
Photos: Stephen Rowe

The first decade of this new millennium is haunted by the spectre of catastrophe, found in spectacular events that invade and haunt the collective imaginary: floods, tsunamis, earthquakes and invasions, as well as the collapse of monuments, regimes and economies. Operating on an epic scale these extended moments in nature and civilisation unsettle our sense of security, shift our consciousness and blur boundaries between the local and the global. British artists Heather and Ivan Morison tend to refer to this “worrying world” through what curator Claire Doherty calls an “ongoing investigation into future catastrophic scenarios and their social implications.” Their most recent project, with its direct allusion to the Parisian revolutionary barricades, also references the blockades of more recent protest and warfare as well as forming a post-apocalyptic image that suggests some “climatic disaster.” Such artwork, which takes on the role of playing between past, present and future histories not only elicits an aesthetic charge within the civic realm, but could also feasibly harness public and private performances…

The monumental installation “made up from the detritus of Wellington” inhabited and bifurcated Stout Street, which provided an ideal urban frame for viewing the sight from Lambton Quay. A colossal mass of inorganic rubbish borrowed from local recyclers and the dump, it was formed from abandoned vehicles, tyres, compacted plastic, household appliances, bicycles, supermarket trolleys and – on closer inspection – garden and domestic objects, including a host of children’s toys. It seemed as if Wellington had violently disgorged its suburban contents only to be washed up onto the city’s original shoreline, now 250 metres from the existing waterfront. Passers-by were drawn towards this massive spill, which somehow made sense of Ruamoko (1998), the Hotere/McFarlane sculpture standing in the foreground. Like Ruamoko – composed of pillars and letters from the State Insurance Building that once occupied the corner site – this behemoth was formed from salvaged materials. However, unlike the smaller public artwork, the wall of rubbish was designed to inhabit the street for a single day; from its construction, which began at midnight on Saturday, to its total disassembly and dispersal 24 hours later: hence Journée des Barricades – The Day of Barricades…

The paradox of the Morisons’ project is that, despite its associations with political resistance (involving radical, hostile or unexpected manoeuvres), the erection of the barricade engaged in neither spontaneous nor furtive action. Theirs was a carefully planned installation that required exhaustive negotiations with the authorities in order to close off a city street, erect a blockade and comply with health and safety issues – all with minimal disruption to the city’s traffic and negligible damage to its urban fabric. This pacified both the object (and its objective), rendering it monumental, sculptural and totalising rather than durational, subversive or communal. The giant barricade – perspectivally framed by some of the most European buildings in Wellington – also resembled a scenic backdrop. Cleared of parked cars, Stout Street became a picturesque space that drew the public in from Lambton Quay towards the artwork. But once you approached the spectacular assemblage, you realised that physical engagement with it was restricted, other than to look and marvel at its epic scale or enjoy the carefully arranged objects within objects – the most delightful being a collection of toys staring out at you from the dashboard of a van. Discretely placed stewards appeared (like museum docents) to prevent people from rummaging through its contents, scrambling up its precipitous structure or even climbing the rusty ladder left invitingly against the back of a battered vehicle. Nevertheless moments occurred where the barricade was breached to the delight of onlookers who tended to stand back and capture it on camera…

The potency of Journée des Barricades lay in its scenic splendour as a sculpture that fleetingly linked the theatrical and the quotidian with the catastrophic. Confronting the public with an image that suggests some sort of epic failure (social, political or ecological) recalls Walter Benjamin’s conflation of the “moment of enchantment” with the “figure of shock.” Coming across a barricade constructed of refuse indexes the ground on which its stands – reclaimed land constructed over a century ago from barricades of refuse – reminding us that we occupy despoiled shores. It also affirms Victor Burgin’s statement that art itself could be considered a “form of ecological pollution.” Although the barricade was more object than action, returning the sculpture’s contents to the dump and recyclers from which it was borrowed still positions the artwork as a fleeting event: a transitory performance that leaves its traces only in the minds of those who witnessed it as well as in the archival documentation and articles such as this one.

Dorita Hannah, Constructing the Barricade – an urban performance building between the archive and the repertoire (excepts from), critical response to Journée des Barricades, 2009

Kowloon Walled City

I recently heard an amazing podcast by 99% Invisible about the former walled city of Kownloon. (Episode 66.)

https://i0.wp.com/i921.photobucket.com/albums/ad56/romanmars/1b8bf54db186ab92406acd7ae69f30b3.jpg

Image above by Ian Lambot.

The city was a sort of symbolic “free zone” for the Chinese while Hong Kong belonged to the British. It operated sort of like a completely different country; different laws, different standards of living, etc. An island within an island. New York City now has 26,403 per square mile. Kowloon had 3.2 million. Apparently it was a sort of free-for-all in terms of municipal services: Waste Management = throw your trash out your window. Temples installed screens over their roofs to keep off the trash. (This created some great ambient lighting!) Utilities were stolen via makeshift wiring over and over. When the line was cut, they ran another one. Wires and pipes accumulated, clogging the alleys and cluttering rooftops.

Images below by Greg Girard.

https://i1.wp.com/www.greggirard.com/content/gallery/11117-GG0989.jpg

https://i2.wp.com/i921.photobucket.com/albums/ad56/romanmars/41d27200164bed2c5946e4e25e62ceb0.jpg

Museo Aero Solar

“Museo aero solar is a flying museum, a solar balloon completely made up of reused plastic bags, with new sections being added each time it travels the world, thus changing techniques, drawings and shapes, and growing in size every time it sets sail in the air. Museo aero solar stands for a different conception of space and energy, both anomalous and forceful at the same time. The core of the museo resides in the inventiveness of local inhabitants, not in its image: among collective action and art, do-it-together technology and experiment, it is a voyage back/forward in time.”
http://museoaerosolar.wordpress.com

Weaving

I shot this video clip in Bangalore. These ladies are weaving floor mats on the side of the road. I love the rhythm of it.

I also apparently loved the combination of bits of rubble and string; Seeing this surely lead to Walking Sutra.

It’s also the technique I used to weave cardboard strips into blinds for the sculpture Make Shift. I reused the blinds in The Life Instinct.