Cellular Brick Road
Over the last twenty years the development of cellular phone technology and design has been frenzied and fickle. Entire countries that previously had little or no form of telecommunication now have vast networks. The resulting benefits have ranged from life sustaining to banal; from being used as a tool to save lives and organize political movements to checking the contents of the fridge from down the block.
The tiles were made in Philadelphia using press moulds cast from a series of discarded phones circa 2005-2007. The outdated style of the phones is a testament to the swift development and reinvention of the form designed to keep pace with fashion.
Although mostly made of metal Maw was inspired by the idea of oceanic gyres as vortexes for plastic refuse and the bottomless appetite of global consumer culture.
Maw combines the salvaged cowling of an airplane with over three thousand used guitar strings. Since 1996 the strings have been salvaged from the workshop of Nelson guitar maker Doug Thompson.
Re-inventions of Convenience
The slot machine was initially made of cast iron and over its hundred plus years has been reinvented countless times. Most often its reinvention was spurred by loopholes and language peculiarities of gambling laws that were also repeatedly changing in response to clever machine manufacturers.
The objects in these slot windows represent some of the most ingenious and often discarded inventions of the twentieth century. This piece is the ninth and final piece in the Refuse Culture: Archaeology of Consumption series of works. It represents the literal point of departure from this project toward the beginning of a new project that will focus on the optimism, naivety and hope of invention and discovery.
Swimming Upstream in the Comfort of: Homage to Yves Klein | Text
Swimming Upstream in the Comfort of: Homage to Yves Klein, can be seen as a bridge between the previous body of work, Tangible Shadows: Intersections and Refuse Culture: Archaeology of Consumption. For Tangible Shadows discarded auto parts were collected to function as a kind of library of sensuous forms over which sheets of porcelain, stoneware, and terra cotta were draped. In the process of conceiving the Refuse Culture project, the vinyl bumpers became source material for its point of departure.
International Klein Blue (IKB), a pure blue pigment, relates both to water and air, two elements within which a person can temporarily defy gravity. Blue in its purest form, IKB, distorts depth perception creating a visual vortex when applied to a large flat plane. In the case of the bumper covers the blue plane from which they emerge becomes a vertical sea, in front of or over which the viewer hovers weightlessly.
Bag Suite in 4/4 time
An homage to the plastic bag and contemporary retail culture, Bag Suite in 4/4 Time, gives form to a controversial object facing extinction. Like many of the other objects explored in the Refuse Culture project, the plastic bag, a seemingly innocuous utilitarian article, when multiplied by the massive number its users, exists at an unimaginable scale in the environment. Bag Suite consists of 432 slip cast porcelain vessels made at the Pottery Workshop Experimental Factory in China during a residency in 2007. The vessels were formed by pouring liquid plaster into a plastic bag. The lone gold vessel, the individual user, rests on a pillow of red plastic bags that were smuggled out of China in late 2007. Plastic bags were subsequently banned from use in China just in time for the Olympics. The collection is displayed on redundant four-foot retail store shelving and the entire piece is lit by a series of four-foot fluorescent tube lights.
Machine for Singing
Machine for Singing is an interactive piece installed in two rooms that are visually disconnected but within hearing distance of each other. The viewer engages the machine by walking on a carpet, activating pressure sensitive switches under foot that send an electronic pulse to one of forty solenoids that in turn impact a fake Song dynasty bowl in another room. This piece engages the idea of cause and unknown effect, like the relations between consumers and makers of consumed objects. Machine for Singing is also a reflection on the demise of the idea of local as import and export of raw materials, product and waste destabilize geographic borders.
Just This Side of Dust
Just This Side of Dust is based on the form of the compact fluorescent light bulb. The pieces were produced during a residency at the International Ceramic Research Center in Denmark. The pieces are made of a substance that is a mixture of porcelain and plaster – two ingredients that are typically incompatible in the practice of ceramics. The pieces range from a hard, heavy ceramic substance to a chalk-like material that is just this side of dust. Mixing the two ingredients together allows one to work using wet clay moulds, making it possible to alter the mould after each cast. The result is a group of unique, related multiples from a single mould. Each group from a single mould documents a transformative process, much like a Claymation film; in ceramic terms, an oxymoron. There are five series in this piece beginning at the centre of the spiral and working outward and up in the order they were created.
Wheels of Fortune
Wheels of Fortune is about automobile culture and was begun during a residency at Medalta in Medicine Hat. The initial inspiration came from the ubiquitous billboards with neon green and orange letters on black backgrounds that are everywhere in the urban landscape and announce everything from baseball games to funeral parlours. They are necessary and more prevalent in newer automobile oriented developments where vast tracts of parking lots separate people from their destinations. Intuitively, the porcelain pieces took on aspects of the coulee landscape and the form of the oil derrick donkey heads. The porcelain pieces are mounted like jewels with claws made of steel. Like the pieces in Swimming Upstream Through the Looking Glass there are ‘records of process’ or fissures in the porcelain that are enhanced using nail lacquer. These interventions are a reminder of the dry prairie climate in relation to the delicate nature of porcelain.
Swimming Upstream Across the Plains
Swimming Upstream refers to the form and movement of the Chinese broom, the epitome of an entire class dedicated to make China appear orderly. The Blue glaze was chosen for its likeness to German Meissen blue in reference to the Johnston’s German heritage. Created using the press moulding technique, whereby the porcelain is pressed by hand into a two part mould, each piece bears the mark of the finger pressings that leave traces like a subtle ripple that reflects light on water. The pieces become droplets and waves in a sea like the legions of broom wielding workers who keep order and calm in a storm of activity. The green vinyl sheets that under-pin the forms are a reference to the idea of the right angular or orthogonal geometry imposed upon the surface of the planet by human inhabitation.
Swimming Upstream Through the Looking Glass
Swimming Upstream refers to the form and movement of the Chinese broom, the epitome of an entire class dedicated to make China appear orderly. The Blue glaze was chosen for its likeness to German Meissen blue in reference to the Johnston’s German heritage. Created using the press moulding technique, whereby the porcelain is pressed by hand into a two part mould, each piece bears the mark of the finger pressings that leave traces like a subtle ripple that reflects light on water. The pieces become droplets and waves in a sea like the legions of broom wielding workers who keep order and calm in a storm of activity. The green vinyl sheets that under-pin the forms are a reference to the idea of the right angular or orthogonal geometry imposed upon the surface of the planet by human inhabitation. The corner of the room is like an axis or mirror across which the sides are a loose upside down reflection of one another.
Single channel video, 6 minute, continuous loop, 2007 – 2008
Common Uncommon looks at what might be common in one culture and strange in another. Sounds and images are explored by slowing down the playing speed until the common and understood becomes uncommon. The sound of a hammer mill powered by a stream and crushing the ingredients used in the production of porcelain, blends into the sound of fireworks when speeded up. Fireworks, very common in China, create a cacophony loud enough to set off a motorcycle alarm. The incendiary image of celebration fades into the mesmerizing spiral of a porcelain slip mixer. This rotating apparition gives way to the machinery that produces and flattens a mattress being made on the street in Jingdezhen on a dry sunny day. This is followed by another spiraling image of clay being mixed in an industrial bread dough mixer in Denmark, only to be replaced by the sound of the hammers…