Categoriearchief: Biology

The study of living organisms.

Noumenon Conundrum

Charles Avery
The Islanders: An Introduction, 2004 – ….

For the past four years, Scottish artist Avery has created texts, drawings, installations and sculptures which describe the topology and cosmology of an imaginary island, whose every feature embodies a philosophical proposition, problem or solution.

Untitled (World View), 2008

Charles Avery

Avery’s mapping of the Island, to be completed over a projected ten-year period, can be interpreted as a meditation on making art and the impossibility of finding “truth”. The artist is characterised as a bounty-hunter, retrieving artifacts and documenting scenes from the subjective realm. Some of the works on show will focus in absurd detail, on particulars such as the sale of pickled eggs in the marketplace. Others present mysterious landscapes, such as the “Eternal Forest”, a place no one can ever reach but where a prized beast called the Noumenon is rumoured to live. A specimen of the Island’s wildlife will also be on show, having been realised in the form of a large taxidermy sculpture. These vivid and intricate works invite the viewer to recreate the Island in their own minds, and to use it as an arena for exploring philosophical conundrums and paradoxes.

Untitled (Stone-Mouse Display), 2008

Charles Avery

Untitled (Noumenon)

Charles Avery

Untitled (Aleph-Nul)

Charles Avery

Coral Crocheting II

Eleanor Kent
Electroluminiscent Coral, 2007

Electroluminicent Coral

This work by Eleanor Kent was part of a larger display at Track16 Gallery in Los Angeles (02/2009) of the ever growing Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef made by The Institute For Figuring and crocheting fans all over the world. (See also previous post)

One of the acknowledged wonders of the natural world, the Great Barrier Reef stretches along the coast of Queensland Australia, in a riotous profusion of color and form unparalleled on our planet. But global warming and pollutants so threaten this fragile marvel that it may well be gone by the end of the century. In homage to the Great One, Christine and Margaret Wertheim of The Institute For Figuring have instigated a project to crochet a handmade reef, a woolly testimony that now engages thousands of women the world over.

As a response to the ecological crisis facing marine environments, the Crochet Reef project has been called by Ren Weschler “the Aids Quilt of Global Warming.” What began as a tiny seed in the Wertheim’s home in Highland Park has morphed organically into a worldwide movement – Sister Reefs have now been made in Chicago, New York and London, with other efforts currently under way in Sydney, Arizona and Latvia. For the first time, in this exhibition, Crochet Reefs are brought together from around the globe, massing into an archipelago of stunning craft finesse.





Maarten Vanden Eynde
Platic Reef – sample, 2009

Maarten Vanden Eynde Coral Reef

Maarten Vanden Eynde Coral Reef

(title of exhibition curated by Julie Deamer – Glendale, USA, 02/2009)

A “floating landfill”, twice the size of Texas and made up of plastic particles was swirling about 1,000 miles west of California and 1,000 miles north of the Hawaiian Islands. The trash collected in one area, known as the North Pacific Gyre, due to a clockwise trade wind that circulated along the Pacific Rim. While the plastic trash floated along, instead of biodegrading, it was “photodegrading,” — the sun’s UV rays turned the plastic brittle, much like they would crack the vinyl on a car roof. They broke down the plastic into small pieces and, in some cases, into particles as fine as dust.
Charles Moore, marine researcher at the Algalita Marina Research Foundation in Long Beach who discovered the plastic in 1997 and has been studying and publicizing the patch for the past 20 years, said the debris — which he estimates weighed 3 million tons and covered an area twice the size of Texas —was made up mostly of fine plastic chips and impossible to skim out of the ocean. Also, it was undetectable by overhead satellite photos because 80 percent was plastic and therefore translucent. The plastic moved just beneath the surface, from one inch to depths of 300 feet, according to samples Moore collected .
Ironically, the debris was re-entering the oceans whence it came; the ancient plankton that once floated on Earth’s primordial sea gave rise to the petroleum, being transformed into plastic polymers. That exhumed life, our “civilized plankton,” was, in effect, competing with its natural counterparts, as well as with those life-forms that directly or indirectly fed on them. Inside the North Pacific Gyre the natural plankton was outnumbered 6 to 1 in favor of the plastic plankton. The scale of the phenomenon was astounding. Plastic debris became the most common surface feature of the world’s oceans. What could be done with this new class of products made specifically to defeat natural recycling? How could the dictum “In ecosystems, everything is used” be made to work with plastic ? So far no organism was able to digest plastik plankton or transform it again into something organic, closing back the broken chain of life.

Maarten Vanden Eynde Food Chain

In February 2010 the Belgian artist Maarten Vanden Eynde (1977), based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, went to the North Atlantic Gyre with a boat to collect 5 tons of plastic debris. He melted it into a huge plastic coral reef and shipped it to Oman. There, in the middle of a dried out sea, located in a dessert called ‘Mother of All Poisons’ (due to the hazardous environmental conditions), he placed the new coral reef as a landart sculpture, a remnant of a forgotten present discovered in a possible future.

The Dogs From Pompei

Allan McCollum
The Dog From Pompei, 1991
Cast glass-fiber- reinforced Hydrocal

Allan McCollum pompei dog

Mount Vesuvius was blazing in several places…A black and dreadful cloud bursting out in gusts of igneous serpentine vapor now and again yawned open to reveal long, fantastic flames, resembling flashes of lightning, but much larger…Cinders fell…then pumice-stones too, with stones blackened, scorched, and cracked by fire …

The scene described by Pliny the Younger occurred on an August afternoon in 79 A.D. Of the more than 20,000 inhabitants in the city of Pompei, several hundred died that day in their homes and in the streets. The rest fled toward the sea.

The cavity of The Dog From Pompei was discovered November 20, 1874, in the house of Marcus Vesonius Primus, in the “Fauce,” the corridor at the entrance of the house. The house was located in Region VI, Insula 14, Nr. 20.
During the eruption, the unfortunate dog, wearing his bronze-studded collar, was left chained up at his assigned place to watch the house, and he suffocated beneath the ash and cinders.
Allan McCollum’s casts were taken directly from a mold made especially for the artist from the original second-generation cast presently on display at the Museo Vesuviano, in present-day Pompei.

Allan McCollum pompei dog

Lost Objects, 1991

Allan McCollum lost objects

The Natural Copies from the Coal Mines of Central Utah, 1993.

Allan McCollum natural copies

Allan McCollum’s series The Natural Copies from the Coal Mines of Central Utah is a companion to the two series’ he’d done before—the Lost Objects (casts of dinosaur bones) and The Dog From Pompei— all created from gypsum casts of fossils and done in cooperation with natural history museums around the world. The Natural Copies are recastings of “natural casts” of dinosaur tracks found in the roofs of coal mines in central Utah, which are produced through a process of natural fossilization as follows:
(a) by dinosaurs walking over spongy beds of decaying vegetation (peat); (b) by the footprints being filled with sand, (c) by the accumulation of thousands of feet of additional sediment, which compressed the peat to help form coal and solidified the sand to sandstone; (d) by removal of the coal in mining operations so as to leave the tracks protruding downward into the mine; and finally, (e) by the geologist brushing away the residue of coal to expose the sandstone filling the original track.

McCollum offers his Natural Copies as an allegorical presentation of the narrative attached to other kinds of collectibles and fine art objects: in their various modes of production, exhibition, distribution, and collection; their use and exchange value; their function as markers of natural history or embodiments of cultural memory; their ambiguous status as found objects, cultural artifacts, scientific specimens or fine art objects; and their relation to local lore and folk stories of the region.

By reproducing the natural casts as artworks, McCollum intersects another narrative into the story. Originally discovered in the roofs of underground mines, the footprints’ inverted position offers the eerie experience of a dinosaur walking on the ground above one’s head, already suggesting the realm of the fantastic: monsters and exotic creatures from a primeval and forgotten past, treasures produced over the millennia and unearthed from the subterranean depths through the competative and determined search for “the rock that burns.” McCollum’s evocation of this narrative in the fine art context immediately transforms it into a metaphor for romantic views of the archaic and unconscious sources of human creativity, and at the same time suggests a symbolic shadow narrative that might underlie all social relations in communal labor.

Integral to his exhibitions is the accompanying display of multicolored photocopies of didactic literature the artist calls the Reprints. This other display of “copies” reiterates the metaphorical references to community organization, production, and dissemination in the real time of the exhibition space itself; it not only suggests an alternative to the convention of the expensive fine art catalogue, it simultaneously presents an exuberant, allegorical drama of repetition and production which imagines an uncanny continuity between the geological (natural) copying of tracks and traces from a prehistoric past and the mechanical and electronic endless copying of today.


Edward Burtynsky
Kennecott Copper Mine No. 22, Bingham Valley, Utah,

Edward Burtynsky

‘Nature transformed through industry is a predominant theme in my work. I set course to intersect with a contemporary view of the great ages of man; from stone, to minerals, oil, transportation, silicon, and so on. To make these ideas visible I search for subjects that are rich in detail and scale yet open in their meaning. Recycling yards, mine tailings, quarries and refineries are all places that are outside of our normal experience, yet we partake of their output on a daily basis’. – Edward Burtynsky

Tanggu Port, Tianjin, 2005

Edward Burtynsky

‘These images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence; they search for a dialogue between attraction and repulsion, seduction and fear. We are drawn by desire – a chance at good living, yet we are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success. Our dependence on nature to provide the materials for our consumption and our concern for the health of our planet sets us into an uneasy contradiction. For me, these images function as reflecting pools of our times’.
Edward Burtynsky

Oxford Tire Pile No. 5, Westley, CA, 1999

Edward Burtynsky

Oil Fields No. 13, Taft, California, 2002

Edward Burtynsky

Urban Renewal #5, City Overview From Top of Military Hospital, Shanghai, 2004

Edward Burtynsky

Making and Knowing

Curdin Tones
final exam | overview sculptures, 2003


Making and Knowing. On the Work of Curdin Tones.
by Janneke Wesseling, Leffond, May 2007

Man is afflicted with a mania to order and structure the world. The garden must be weeded, the land cultivated. Everything around us is manufactured, made. Not only in the city, but also outside of it, in nature or what’s left of it. The need to intervene, cultivate, re-arrange, emerges over and over. Like the creation of the ‘foraging landscape’ and ‘recreation zones’ in the Lange Bretten, the green belt between Amsterdam West and Halfweg through which Curdin Tones cycles on his way to his studio. The greenery must be organised and contained; asphalt is laid, trees felled, water features laid out. Our environment is in a constant state of flux, constantly altering the benchmarks for our actions. A cycling path is suddenly re-routed,  the intersection has become a roundabout. And we change with them.
Tones (Tschlin, Zwitserland, 1976) understands only too well the passion to order, the fervour to impose human will on material. When will and material converge, enormous satisfaction is produced. Which applies equally to a well-shaped knife and a successful sculpture.
As a child, Tones watched a carpenter shape a straight shelf to fit a bowed wall. The carpenter drew the curvature of the wall onto the shelf with a pencil held flush to the wall. At this moment, the difference between straight and crooked was unmasked. The carpenter shaved away the excess wood. The linear had become the curvilinear.
Tones produced his first sculptures (2003) from pinewood packing case wood. He screwed three straight boards, appropriately warped, to one bent one. This resulted in a single volume, a compressed beam. One sees that the ‘beam’ is hollow from the side. Tones made three such sculptures, as is his wont: he produces variations on an idea, resulting in a series. Two of which are on show at the exhibition in Enschede.
Material dictates form. In the book Eigen Grond, that Tones produced on the occasion of his graduation presentation at the Rietveldacademie, he writes: “Wood is a material that has grown. The growth of the tree depends on where the tree stands. The growth locus determines the height of the tree, hardness of the wood and number of knots. The wood of one tree may be harder on one side than the other. Wood from the root and crown sections also differ in strength. Sapwood and hardwood serve different functions within the tree, thus having different degrees of hardness. While the wood dries out, these anomalies cause tensions. If a beam is finally allocated one place and one function, knowledge of where the tree grew may be vital. A craftsman who cut and sawed the tree himself knows the wood and its qualities so he can use it to better effect. When fresh wood is used inappropriately it can split, break and resist its assigned function. The awareness that no two lengths of timber are the same is crucial during construction so as to make best use of the planks.”
In the sculptures that resulted, fashioned from wood grown on mountainsides, Tones again explored the tension between wood as natural material and worked it according to traditional methods. He sawed various trunks lengthwise into four, planning the sawed edge of the sections smooth. Then he affixed the edging. The long timber sections look vulnerable and organic laid on the ground.
Tones wants to make things, objects that are physically present. He wants to make three dimensional objects, even though most of his pieces are presented lying on the ground. He loves the stubbornness of the material. He searches for ways of heightening the experience of the material.
Sculpture demands a slow concentration, a different way of looking. It is a kind of leisureliness when compared to how we live and navigate the city, accustomed as we are to digital media and lightning-speed, fleeting impressions. Tones is fascinated by the rural landscape of his youth. Life in the country has weight, torpidity; time works differently. Admittedly, things age here, but at another pace.

Curdin Tones
without title, 2004
arolla pine (208 x 13 x 12 cm)


foto: P.Cox

without title, 2004
arolla pine (23 x 409 x 1.8 cm)


foto: P.Cox

Long ago, there was no difference between the artist and the craftsman. The word techne, from which our word ‘technology’ derives, not only referred to the practice of craftsmanship, but also to art. The cabinet maker and the potter, and the master builder, sculptor or painter were all called technites. This changed with Plato and Aristotle. Philosopher Gerard Visser writes: “Aristotle distinguished between man and animal: animals live by experience (empeira), but man lives by technique and reasoning (technekai logismois). Techne is the extraordinary means of poiesis that produces, from what it brings forth, in order to cause (aition). Techne is not production as such, the proficiency grown of experience, but knowing the reason why (dioti). Nowadays we understand this knowledge only in terms of rationality and causality, the seed of which was planted by Aristotle”.
In other words, technology was once more than knowing in terms of rationality and causality, it was knowing why. The same Aristotle elsewhere spoke of techne as episteme, a way of knowing or recognising that is not only rational knowing, but a knowledge that produces truth.
This means, however miraculous it might sound to us, that truth can result from making (poiein) something, and that a product can be true, can possess a truth. Technology once was not something rational as in our day. Visser : “Anything that transposes something from not-being to being is poiesis. Poiesis underlies the products of all technai. All craftsmen who bring something into being are poietai. Technology, we could say, is thus also poetic. And art is, reversed, a form of technology; not because the artist would also be a craftsman […], but because the work of both is real.”
Since Plato, who asserted that a work of art is the embodiment of imitation and illusion and that it has nothing to do with truth or knowledge, and, since Aristotle, art and technology have gradually grown apart. Until they became two completely separate areas. Visser: “Art and technology are identified with the mutually exclusive spheres of the illusory and the true, the ideal and real, the emotional and the intellectual, the irrational and the rational.” Art became uprooted because its ability to think, to get to know the world and discover truth, was denied.
Since Modernism and the avant-gardes of the last century, artists have been reclaiming the ability to think, whether this is intuitive or rational thought or both simultaneously. In the tradition of the avant-garde, the artist accepts nothing as a given. It is his task to question all suppositions about art and art practice, and his position in society, again and again. Since then, artists have appropriated a critical-theoretical approach that is generally considered as an integral element of their practice. Art itself is increasingly considered a form of research, as an activity directed at knowledge acquisition. There is mounting attention, both among artists and theoreticians, for the cognitive function of the artwork: art as a way of getting to know reality.

This does not mean that art and technology or art and science have since drawn closer together again (although there are some signs pointing in that direction). But perhaps greater scope has been shaped for the idea that the artwork can offer insight into, or knowledge of, reality. A knowledge that is not directed at a clearly delineated objective, at applicability, but art as a means of knowing why.

This lies at the heart of Tones’ work. His ambition is to learn about the materials with which he works and our attitudes to them, to attain insight into our way of being in the world. Just as the craftsmen of his native village have an intimate knowledge of pinewood and put this knowledge into practice every day, Tones, by giving these materials a new form endeavours to bring their essence to light.
It is an attempt to render the spirit of wood, plaster, concrete or stone visible or tangible through human action. Making, poiein, is knowing.

Modernistic Tree

Square Tree Trunk, 2008

square tree

Square Tree Trunk series are a part of NATURE V2.01 project. ‘Round’ is perfect in nature, but ‘square’ is perfect for industrial standard. To illustrate, square tree would enable wood industry to lose less material, to cut easier with machines and to store more efficiently.

square tree2

Maarten Vanden Eynde
Bonfire: Rite for Almere, 2008

Maarten Vanden Eynde

Maarten Vanden Eynde

All over the world rites and celebrations form the backbone of a society and function as cornerstones of history. The rite is an event to remember or look forward to. An occasion to create a moment of reflection, an enlarged presence of the present, the ideal opportunity to commemorate once past and plan the future. It is an event of which if you are part of that particular society, you just have to be there. Sometimes the initial history of the rite is lost but still continued because it is part of everybodies life. Since Almere lacks a history (beyond 30 years) I thought of giving it one by initiating a rite. An oak tree from the first generation of planted trees in Almere (about 35 years old) was cut square, like a big beam splitting up in smaller beams, covered with dry pinewood and lit on the 21st of August 2008 at 21.00. The tree will stay for a few years as semi-permanent sculpture and will be relit every year untill it only exists in stories.

Maarten Vanden Eynde

Maarten Vanden Eynde

Maarten Vanden Eynde

Maarten Vanden Eynde

Famous Forever

Zatorski + Zatorski
Away from the Flock,

zatorski+zatorski Away from the flock

In Away from the Flock (2008) we peer into a Victorian bell jar and a still-born goat skull smiles back with a wry cheeky grin, its mouth bejeweled with a 22ct gold capped tooth.

Piero Golia
Maybe not even a Nation of Millions can hold us Back, 2003


piero golia

Complete skeleton with implanted diamond on the exact location where the (still living) artist has one as well.

Damien Hirst
For the love of God, 2007

damien hirst for the love of god

A 19th century human skull cast in platinum and encrusted with 8601 diamonds (weighing in at over 1100 carats). Price: $100 million

The human skull used as the base for the work, bought in a shop in Islington, is thought to be that of a European living between 1720 and 1810. The work’s title was supposedly inspired by Hirst’s mother, who once asked, “For the love of God, what are you going to do next?”

Chinese Cryptozoology

Shen Shaomin
Unknown Creature – Three Headed Monster, 2002

shen shaomin three headed monster

Shen Shaomin adopts the role of being anthropologist, scientist, and author of his own fabricated mythologies. Constructed from real animal bones, his sculptures collectively create a bestiary of fictional creatures that are wondrous, frightening, and strange. Reminiscent of Borges’s Book of Imaginary Beings, Shen’s absurd assemblages exude an ancient wisdom, authenticating the magic of fable and folklore, while alluding to contemporary issues of genetic modification, consequence of environmental threat, and concepts of the alien and exotic.

In pieces such as Three Headed Monster and Mosquito, the skeletal remains of ‘extinct’ creatures are presented with the validity of museum display. Their colossal scale reinforces their imagined prehistoric origin as Jurassic curiosities and spiritual totems. Assembled from genuine ossified animal parts, his creatures are simultaneously familiar and perplexing, indicating a warped and uncomfortable process of evolution. Often carving into his surfaces, Shen adorns his creations with scrimshaw, further entwining humanistic reference into his disturbing zoological evidence.

Unknown Creature – Mosquito, 2002

shen shaomin mosquito


Jin Jiangbo
Tyrannosaurus Rex of China
, 2005-07
Interactive Media Installation
500cm x 230cm x100cm


When entering the room the Tyrannosaurus Rex starts moving and making sounds. Unlike the realistic Jurassic Park variety, Jin’s dino appears to have been assembled in the junkyard, using scrap metal and industrial bits and bobs. As a result, this T-Rex is less fearsome and more sympathetic than one might expect. Which, of course, is a reflection of the artist himself. Jin came of age as China was opening up to the world and that newfound curiosity, that need to communicate with the world, is the essence of his work.


Asphalt Aftermath

Robert Smitson
Asphalt Rundown, 1969

robert smitson

Smithson’s interest in the second law of thermodynamics completely dominated his life and work. Much of his art is associated with the concept of entropy: the law that states that molecular disorder can only increase, and as such the universe will eventually run down (a law that has since been discredited). In this piece, liquid asphalt slides from the dump truck and runs down an eroded hill in a quarry near Rome, Italy forming an abstract expressionist canvas. However, the work cannot only be considered aesthetically –we’re forced to consider the ecology (What is the damage being done? Who will clean this up? How will the earth recover?). By performing an act with the weapon of urban sprawl–asphalt–we are forced to look at the effects of industrialization on the landscape under a hard light. – D. Scott Hessels –

Robert Smitson died in a plane crash while photographing a work in Texas, called Amarillo Ramp (1973), consisting of a 140 foot diameter partial circle of rock, which rises out of the level ground to a height of around 15 feet. The artificial lake in which the piece once emerged is now dry, and the sculpture is slowly eroding.

robert smitson amarillo


Pascal Rostain and Bruno Mouron
Hollywood’s trash and treasure, 2004

ronald reagan

Ronald Reagan

Written by John Preston – Telegraph Magazine –

In 1988, French photographer Pascal Rostain had an idea. Or, to be strictly accurate, he nicked someone else’s. He read an article by a French sociologist who had set his students a project to examine the contents of 10 people’s rubbish bags. In garbage, the sociologist declared, could be found people’s true personality. Rostain wondered if it might take a little showbusiness twist. The next time he went on a job – to photograph the French singer Serge Gainsbourg – he took Gainsbourg’s bin-bags home with him. What he found astonished him. “It was like the key to Gainsbourg,” he says.

“Everything was completely distinctive: the bottles of Ricard, the packets of Gitanes. I felt as if I had a part of him in front of me.”

Soon Rostain and his partner, Bruno Mouron, were sifting through other famous people’s bin-bags. Brigitte Bardot came next, then French National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen. It may have been messy and smelly, but the results, the pair reckoned, were well worth the effort.

The magazine Paris Match suggested they try their luck in Los Angeles. In 1990, Rostain and Mouron flew to California with a map of the stars’ homes and a garbage collection schedule for Beverly Hills. “The first thing we would do was locate a suitable home,” says Rostain. “For example, Jack Nicholson’s or Bruce Willis’. Next, we would find out when the garbage was being collected and grab it before the truck came round.”

Taking someone’s rubbish is not illegal in America, but then came the awkward part. Rostain and Mouron wanted to do the photography in their Paris studio where they felt able to do their best work. They travelled back to France with three trunks of rubbish. When French customs officers demanded the trunks be opened, they recoiled in disgust, then went into a perplexed huddle and finally waved them through as harmless lunatics. Once home, they washed the contents of their trunks before spreading them out in neat lines to be photographed. They decided not to shoot anything that was either directly personal or medical – despite finding American Secret Service papers in Ronald Reagan’s rubbish listing his bodyguards and details of the weapons they carried. This puts them in quite a different league to more scurrilous scroungers such as Britain’s Benjamin Pell (aka “Benji the Binman”) who has made a speciality of raiding the rubbish bins of the famous, then selling the contents on to the tabloids, or even the original “garbologist” A. J. Weberman, who obsessively pillaged Bob Dylan’s bin for three years in the late 1960s. But there were still embarrassing slip-ups. In the rubbish of TV host Larry King, Rostain and Mouron found what they assumed were babies’ nappies. However, they turned out to be adult incontinence pads, which King indignantly denied were his. “We never wanted to create a scandal with what we were doing,” Rostain insists.

“They knew we won’t take pictures of empty Viagra packets, for example.”


Sharon Stone

Yet what they have photographed proves to be both revealing and mysterious. While the objects themselves may be mundane, they throw up perplexing questions.
What, exactly did Sharon Stone do with 13 tins of pear halves? Was she simply creating a giant flan to delight her many friends? Or were darker, more fetishistic forces at work? Madonna, as one might expect, has glugged her way through a lavish array of bottled waters. However, there’s a faint poignancy about the empty pizza-for-one packet that nestles nearby.



In Jack Nicholson’s rubbish we find a hearteningly large collection of empty booze bottles, but also a discarded hairbrush and comb. Does this mean that Nicholson’s creeping baldness has now reached the point where coiffure has become a thing of the past?
There’s nothing overtly strange about Elizabeth Taylor’s rubbish, but look more closely and a terrible bleakness starts to show through: the single-meal wrappers, the two bottles of non-alcoholic beer, the copies of the National Enquirer with articles about her in them. Is this how she spends her days, reading about herself in the scandal sheets while eating chicken enchiladas? It’s no wonder she chummed up with Michael Jackson; his life would appear to be equally empty, hedged about with ketchup wrappers and Cup O’Noodles.

It comes as no surprise to learn that several of Rostain and Mouron’s subjects – they won’t say who – recently bought the prints of their own rubbish at an exhibition in New York for $US6000 ($A8300) a piece, thus completing what even by Hollywood standards is a very peculiar cycle of self-regard.

“My brother is an archaeologist,” says Rostain, “and he’s always telling me that if he could find the garbage of a Mayan family, then he would win a Nobel prize.

Oddly enough, I think what we are doing is significant. In 200 years’ time our pictures will provide a very useful guide to how certain people lived in the 21st century. So, you see, what we’re doing is fun – but it’s not only fun.”

Reanimated Tree

Bruce Cannon
Tree Time, 1998


TreeTime is a computer-controlled robotic sculpture fabricated from parts of a downed tree.
Bruce Cannon: ‘This past winter, Paul Stout, who helped me with this project, and I scoured the regional parks searching for the perfect tree to scavenge for this project. I think we found it. It was a slim, twisted, beautiful Laurel which had been struck by lightning. So like a mad scientist, I have reanimated it, excising undesirable elements and augmenting the natural materials with the best technology has to offer.
This ‘improved’ tree has six large articulated joints fabricated from copper and brass, moved by cables pulled by gearmotors at the tree’s base. In addition, there are sixteen small motorized branchlets. Stainless steel cable housings and wiring bundles cover nearly every inch of the tree’s surface. On each branch is a light sensor which gives the computer information about the proximity of viewers. The computer sends microsecond pulses to the motors, in patterns derived from the sensor information. Near each motor is a tiny red light, which illuminates breifly each time the corresponding motor is pulsed. In this way the piece moves in response to viewer presence. However, the pulses to the motors are so short that the piece’s movement occurs over minutes, hours and days. To all but the most intrepid viewer, it appears to be a static object.
This machine is I think equal parts meditation on slowness and bastardization of nature. The obvious reference to Mary Sheeley’s Frankenstein in the lightning-struck tree, the garish reassembly, the electrification, the technological “improvement” upon the original organism, is intentional. Paul calls it eco-porn, which I think is nice; pornography is a rich word. And to it I’d add the word ecstasy, because it too carries multiple, sometimes contradictory and sometimes sympathetic, meanings. These words’ multiple interpretations evoke the dissonance I tried to create in the work.
I associate both words with TreeTime, because of the pleasure and the pain, the beauty and the obscenity of the endeavor. In that sense, Treetime is a morality story about limits. It’s also called TreeTime because it’s a robotic sculpture whose movement is sessile; that is, plant-like. It’s meant to be frustratingly slow. For all these reasons and more, I wanted this piece to be the anti-speed (the antidote) in an exhibition full of quick ruminations on accelerated culture.’


The Beginning or The End

Hubert Duprat
Aquatic caddis fly larva with case, gold, pearls, precious stones
2/3 cm, 1980–1996

duprat-insect larve


In his works Duprats often borrows shapes and materials from the plant and animal kingdoms, and combines them with a pseudo-scientific frame.

In earlier works, as a kind of nature’s own ready-mades, he has for example let water-living larvae of dragonflies (genus Trichoptera) produce sculptures for him. The artist has disassembled the tubular shell of the larva and placed the ”nude” creature in an aquarium where there are grains of gold, pearls and chips of precious stones. From this material the larva has then built itself a new shell. The process shows in what way the insect is capable of adjusting to new circumstances and materials, and the strength of its instinctive behaviour, but also poses questions about man’s view of art, about what is manufactured and what is ”naturally” created.

The work ”A la fois, la racine et le fruit” (At the same time, the root and the fruit) from 1997–98 is a sculpture with a peculiar shape, a branch from a tree adorned with small polished tablets of bone in subdued mosaic.