Interview for i-D Magazine, Feburary 2015
Interviewed by Franziska Sophie Wildförster
The exhibition, Rare Earth, wants to explore the material basis of our technological applications and tools and to define the spirit of the globalized, digitalized contemporary from on a solid ground. How do you relate to this in your work?
In 2010 I began a research project called ENERGY PANGEA and in 2011 it birthed an ongoing sculpture project; RARE EARTH SCULPTURES. Sculpture is taken in the broadest possible sense to mean an interdependency of object relations and how those objects are networked together, or sculptured - by the environment, by consciousness.
The list of Rare Earth Elements is worked through one by one, beginning with Neodymium in 2011. I used rare earths for many reasons, in part because the particular use of them I am undertaking references alchemical or occult practices, homeopathy even - in general, things which are seen to be wild, crackpot, discredited, pseudoscientific or nonmodern.
Because Rare Earths only recently became important technologically and scientifically, they also signify the idea of hidden potential - I’m interested in the idea of base compounds which harbour unseen future applications and at the same time, through the making of sculpture I’m trying to warp, shift or alter their current signifiers.
What does Energy Pangea mean?
The two words together are intended to be a sort of axiom of our current condition - like troping the anthropocene and awareness of massive geological time. I thought of 1990’s terms like Global Village becoming outdated, but Pangea is ancient. There is also a Canadian oil and gas company called Pangea Energy. I was interested is working under the same banner, aesthetic or language as these kind of entities.
The industrial revolution in England was one big energy boom fueled by compressed ancient tropical rainforest - just one strata connecting a primordial forest with the Industrial revolution - one big object. Everything is energy, and ideas of a supercontinent; like realising we are all one consciousness relate also to current singularity hype, so it seems like a fitting umbrella to work under in this climate.
In the face of blossoming New Age phenomena - Yoga, Yin and Yang, healing stones - coupled with hyper-consumerism and individualism- something that you are obviously are very aware of and which is specifically present in your work Neodymium, shown at Rare Earth. Can you tell a little bit about the meaning of the Small Maitreya Solar Cross in relation to the bearded dragon?
Much of the, call it new age rhetoric that I enjoy looking into is connected with interpretations around what Aldous Huxley called The Perennial Philosophy. However much of this is less spiritual and actually looks at how world religions all foretell a cosmo-genetic narrative and alternative history of human morphogenesis and culture. The reptilian brain stem; called the Amygdala (think David Icke) connects us in evolutionary terms to reptiles, and the pineal gland at the base of the spinal column in humans shares an evolutionary bridge with the parietal eye in reptiles. both of these regulate the circadian rhythms, however in reptiles it is a real photoreceptive third eye. New age proponents and conspiracy theorists suggest that the pineal gland is worshiped by a ruling elite and bloodline throughout history represented as a giant pinecone in The Vatican and The Eye of Horus in ancient Egypt.
The Small Maitreya Solar Cross is an object I purchased in Glastonbury, England which has a design based on a Tibetan Vajra. This form was appropriated and transformed into a luxury commodity item by a new age cult/high end product line called The Church of Shambhala/Shambhala Healing Tools based in California. The Solar Cross contains Neodymium magnets, gold, copper coils and lab grown quartz, it references the sacred geometry of the metatron's cube and signifies the Sun as masculine, creator and life giver.
As a Sculptural system, Neodymium acts to weave a narrative in regards to our evolutionary link with the reptile brain - the fight or flight mechanism, reliance on the Sun and the prospect of rebelling against it at the same time. The soundtrack I produced takes into account the Jungian idea that drum-beats lower the threshold of consciousness- opening up our third eye, enabling us to use the sculpture as a very particular flavoured meditative headspace for thinking about our relationship with oil, the sun and our brains evolutionary history.
In Neodymium, the Bearded Dragon is being hypnotized by the cross. The work seems to sit within a tension of control and agency, between dystopia on one hand and the possible futures on the other hand as seemingly evident also in works like The Centre for Youth Consciousness?
The Centre for Youth Consciousness is not so much a work but rather a decoy to attract attention to the sculpture I developed for the rare earth sculpture Lanthanum, 2014.
(RES) Lanthanum was presented in Obika Mozzarella bar in Canary Wharf, London in 2014. I hired their private function space and had it rotating on a bar table, like a decorative corporate gimmick, inhabiting the same role an ice sculpture might take at some other event in this location. I was interested in the idea of multiple layers or skins - so the sculpture itself is just a donut shape with four extruded limbs, it has my daughters drawings plastered all over it and is connected by association to a website called the centreforyouthconsciousness.info.
Its also connected to Energy Pangea and Rare Earth Sculptures. Through its association with the Lanthanum element - used in the batteries of Toyota’s Prius Hybrid car , I think of the car as a material incorporated into the sculptural system and it could be used in a future presentation.
After the Canary Wharf show I worked with Siliqoon, which is an Italian based art label to present the weird rotating limbed donut thing as part of a duo show with Enrico Boccioletti, The concept of the show tagged in more additional ideas such as biotechnology / synthetic biology… What you have is an indefinite amount of associations, complexities and concept layers that can be added to this thing, concepts are treated callously and indiscriminately thrown at it. The concepts are completely expendable and purely affective by association, or representative of the images, marketing spiel, corporate slogans, belief systems, ecologies and various paranoias in the environment.
How does this work, and others, stand in relation to increasing alienation and corporate expansion into thinking and belief systems, through the internet and biotechnology, for example?
If im representing smoke screens, presenting disaccreditation, decoys, gimmicks, deceptions, neoliberal manias and false belief which are manifest materially under the guise of technological and cultural innovation, I think that these structures harbour at the very least interesting metaphysical properties to be explored, and at the most denote a kind of neo-animism of relations between the objects.
Aienation isn’t an end itself and new innovations or conditions become part of a wider pharmacon, I think my work goes to that dark place, and then I laugh. Its a tragicomedy, an alienated experience where the soul gets ripped apart and becomes a healer later on.
Do you think you could go a bit more into the notion of future / potentiality / transformation in regard to uncertainty and loss of place in the current, seemingly intangible, state?
My early work dealt with these topics and I built it up from there. For instance OXIDE13, 2008 was a process which involved me driving a sixty mile journey to a generic service station on the M5 Motorway in Southwest England. There I would sit and have a herbal tea and then drive all the way home again. The project integrated six jars each containing an octopus pickled in tequila and coloured with green food colouring, six jars each containing a receipt from the service station and one empty jar. You could think of the trip as the subject and the object is a decorative arrangement, but it could be the other way around, or just an arrangement of object’s. Im interested in that kind of relationship, feeling at once alienated, derealised and at the same time completely at one with the cosmos.
In another of my early works Those Men In Fruit / A SILENT Tremble, 2009 I hired a room in a conference centre and employed five men to wear business suits and sit in silence wearing Real3D cinema glasses whilst BBC’s planet earth played in silence on a screen they were not facing. Its alienated, it total non place but at the same time there is this sense of mindfulness, sorrow, beauty, oneness, identity. I thought about businessmen getting to the point of suicide and then realising their potentiality , reaching the ultimate crisis and then rising like a phoenix.
What i’m doing now has come out of this perspective, I’m exploring an intermingling of place and identity, In Europium, 2014 a timber forest in Devon UK is also Bayan Obo in China and implicated into the Russia Today news network from an the western perspective of an Arab world perspective. There is this multilateral embeddedness that we all experience which transcends locality. But Im trying to present say different versions or ideas of what this might entail so each project is like its own planet or fiction. I think its very difficult to make anything feel solid, to exist in a stable state, everything feels amorphous with no clear boundaries, so I’v worked with the idea that the works are in a constant making and re-making.
One last question: What is your latest source of inspiration?
I started listening to a lot of dark forest psytrance and I’m working on a sculpture that fits into a hydration pack, Its strapped in like some strange alientech drone. The psytrance enables me to enter into a new aesthetic headspace that I might have previously disregarded. The aesthetic around this particular strain of psytrance is quite interesting, if you check the mixes on youtube and facebook pages dedicated to it etc.the videos of forest raves. The fashion is really disgusting but somehow I’m into it.
All of this is for the project i'm working on for the rare earth element Terbium. I usually develop an interest in a particular subject or area then I consider how I can fuse it with the rare earth element and thats how I make a Rare Earth Sculpture. I like the idea of Terbium and dark psytrance together and then I see where I can take it. I also have a collection of hundreds of images from a French conspiracy/alternative history/ pseudoscience website called Eden Saga, a lot of the imagery they use is within the vein of quasi spiritual/ neo-new age image aggregating Facebook and google+ pages that share images of monks breakdancing and people with body paint to look like animals. I always end up with all of these different strains and the most exciting thing for me is to find a way to make them all work together somehow, to create meaning, or perceived meaning.