Decommissioned by moths


Time to let something go. This time it is ‘Tonsure’, an artwork I made some years ago from the hair off my head. This piece consisted of my blowing a hollow ball of hair once around the cloisters at Gloucester Cathedral. After this, the documentation of the performance, along with the hair ball itself, was displayed in the cathedral treasury next to the polished silver and other artefacts. Looking back on it now, I still like this piece, so it is difficult to let it go. But, as I recently discovered, moths love hair, and Tonsure has a great hole in it, not to mention a mass of moth eggs as well! So time to let nature take its course. Good bye Tonsure…

Between ‘in silico’ and a hard place

annmargrethbohlOne of the many reasons for working with universities is that they tend to expand your vocabulary, whether you like it or not! I have been scurrying for my dictionary on quite a few occasions recently. The other day it was the word ‘concatenate’, but the phrase that I want to mention here is in silico. I am familiar with in vivo and in vitro from my zoology days, but in silico – that was a new one on me. It turns out that this refers to things performed on computer (or is it ‘in’ computer?) So 3D modelling in the computer is in silico. The falconry hood that has just been scanned at Southampton University has gone from being made out of leather to being in silico. This started me thinking about what really differentiates these different domains and brought to mind a recent comment form a fellow artist, Ann-Magreth Bohl, who described the digital works I made for ‘A Space for the Bittern’ as “bringing a softness into the digital data that I so far have only experienced with handmade objects”. This somehow captured the sense that I have when working with digital data, treating it as just another sculptural material not divorced from the physical world, but intimately connected, as if every object has both within it simultaneously. Ann-Magreth is definitely working with the world’s ‘hard matter’ (see the pic above) whilst I am currently in silico, although I see that even this distinction is breaking down with Echo. Hope you don’t mind me using one of your pics Ann-Magreth, and thanks Rich for casually dropping in silico into the conversation!

Token gesture

Unravelled VOTE results A3Well, this is a first for me! Just as with some supermarkets, as you leave you are given a token to put into one of a selection of boxes which will indicate to which charity you would like the supermarket to donate some money, so with a recent exhibition I have been in. Visitors were allowed to vote for their favourite artwork by placing three tokens – gold, silver and bronze – in collecting jars, one for each artwork in the exhibition. The tokens were then counted and here, in good pie chart style, are the results. I am not sure what I think of this at the moment (I have only just got the information) but it is a strange feeling to examine a show in this way. Oh, the light blue around 3 o’clock. Thank you for asking!

Down the mud canyon

Tuned Landscapes hover sm v2I often use video as a way of researching into a new location. For a project at the National Wetlands Centre Wales with Anthony Rowe of squidsoup, this involved putting a miniature camera onto a small hovercraft to see the view from the bottom of one of the mud canyons in the Llanelli estuary. For the exhibition at Meantime, we had the hovercraft suspended from the ceiling (above) with a miniature projector showing what it had seen on its journey (below).


The sound that you can hear is that of the engine whirring away in a vain attempt to control the direction of movement! Those mud flats were quite something; an alien environment that in many ways went against intuition: the further out you went the firmer the ground became, which was just the opposite of what I expected. As for the canyons, what amazed me was that aerial photographs of the estuary showed that they had stayed in the same place over many decades, even thought they were being eroded and inundated every day. The final piece, called ‘Tuned Landscapes: Wetland’ focussed on all the processes contributing to the wetlands – erosion, wind, light and animal movement – and built them up into a sound piece that captured the sense of flux when out on the mudbanks. I’ll post the video of Tuned Landscapes another day.

Forgetful Worlds online

Forgetful WorldsNow that I can embed video into my posts, there is no stopping me! Here is one from the archive: a work called ‘Forgetful Worlds’, filmed in an abandoned milking parlour. This location fascinated me as it seemed to encapsulate so much about our relationship to our food following the Second World War. The incessant push for more mechanisation, more technology. This milking parlour was fitted out with 1970s state-of-the-art equipment, abandoned once the economies of scale forced the flow of milk from mid-sized producers to dry up.

I guess you could say that I have agricultural technology in my genes, since I used to help out my father who was an egg farmer on an industrial scale, intensively rearing chickens for their eggs from the 60s through to the 80s. I remember a ‘robot egg’, a egg-shaped transparent casing that contained masses of circuits and flashing lights. It was sensitive to being handled too roughly, and would flash different colours depending upon how it felt as it was moved by conveyor belt from laying cage to packing shed.

Anyway, back to the video: I still like this one, it has a nostalgic beauty all of its own. Wonder where that egg is now!

One that got away…

RailwayTFour metres tall, reflective stainless steel outlining the shape in the middle and a wooden circle framing that; the shape, scale and mirroring form a direct response to the site, this is a design for a public sculpture that has just not been selected. Even without knowing the exact location, hopefully you are able to sense something of the place for which it was intended, something of its history and references. One good thing that has come out of putting this design together is that it was in collaboration with Dug Mackie of Outside Studios. Here’s hoping that we can work together again soon Dug!


Arvon smThanks to a bursary from Visual Arts Southwest, I spent last week focussing on the writing that I do as part of my work (this blog included), secluded away at the Arvon Foundation’s Totleigh Barton house. Cherry Smyth and Christopher William Hill were the tutors: an interesting combination, like chalk and cheese. First time since college that I have been on a course, focussing purely on the working method rather than on the work itself, and it was surprisingly unsettling, but also productive. Didn’t miss the opportunity to get in some early morning walks (more often than not in the rain!) and came across this intriguing piece of farm architecture, one more for my Liminal Animal collection. Thanks Cherry, Chris, Ollie, Eliza and all those who took part for making it such a thought-provoking week.