This is a blog of ongoing projects starting with: 1) Antarctica -Dec. 2006 - February 2007 2) Work made from the experience 2008 3) Nevada Feb. - Oct. 2008

Sunday, May 15, 2011



Drawings of the installation

One section through

The wave is an image I keep coming back to. Energy moves in the form of a wave, be it in weather systems, rivers, ocean currents, sound, and in our bodies. This wave energy is present in all matter, visible in the grain of wood, a nuclear explosion and the creation of the universe itself - within both microcosm and macrocosm.

Exploring these connections in 2009 I made a film, Breath, with Andy Mackinnon in North Uist, Scotland, which can be seen on the following link:

One idea had been to project the film onto Battersea Power Station or Tate Modern (itself a former power plant) during the Copenhagen climate summit .

With the proposed work Wave-Particle I would like to take this idea further. In quantum mechanics the theory of wave-particle duality states that all matter exhibits both wave and particle properties, but not at the same time. If you look at a particle you can’t determine its velocity and if you look at its velocity (i.e. the wave) you can’t see the particle, but they are in fact one and the same thing. This duality is central to the nature of matter; It is part of the nature of our lives.

The connection between the wave and nuclear power has been further illuminated by the events of this year – the tsunami in Japan and the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima power plant. Waves are also of course at the heart of the physics of subatomic reactions and are currently being explored in the Large Hadron Collider experiment at CERN in Geneva.

The wave is therefore a very apposite image both of the ‘nature’ of matter itself and of what is happening in the world now. It is at once symbolic of man’s attempts to make sense of the complexities of the universe, of man’s exploitation of nature, and the potentially destructive power of nature itself. As well as the tsunami, the idea of the wave also alludes to global concerns about coastal erosion; it also contains prompts of nuclear tests in the Pacific, which have resulted in contamination of land and sea and the loss of livelihoods.

The wave then is both life and death.

Since 2008 I have been using particles (small units of substance) to create larger forms, most notably mushroom clouds, which have been linked into cycles of life, death and regeneration. The mushroom is the great symbol of this cycle as it breaks down dead matter into soil on which plants grow. Two recent works, Mushroom Cloud and Destroying Angel, are made respectively from dried mushroom slices and small bundles of sagebrush from the Nevada desert, strung floor-to-ceiling on nylon thread. There are obvious links in these pieces to nuclear testing, weapons, and the natural cycles of life and death. These works are constructed using a
schematic formula, illustrated below:

Destroying Angel - Nevada, 2008

Mushroom Cloud - Arte Sella, Italy 2010

Drawings and plans for Mushroom Cloud

With all this in mind I would like to make a work that embodies both the life-death duality and wave-particle duality – a three-dimensional installation of a huge wave made from suspended fragments of detritus, both man-made and natural, washed up on beaches throughout the world. The work’s form would move from the relatively ordered vortex to chaos, giving the appearance of movement while remaining static, enabling the viewer to experience the duality the wave embodies.

The sculpture would be strung floor-to-ceiling on nylon thread, attached to hooks screwed into the ceiling or metal plates and would ideally be made to a height of at least 8 metres, though the dimensions would vary depending on the size of the space.

The material would be gathered principally from shores around the UK, so that it can be collected without resorting to air travel. I would do this myself but I would also like to involve people who live in coastal regions worldwide by asking communities, schools and other individuals to send me detritus by post. I would advertise the project by posting messages on my blog, on Twitter and Facebook, and contacting relevant organisations (such as the Coastal Communities Alliance in the UK and international conservation/environmental groups)
and newspapers such as The Guardian. My experience is that one of the most valuable things about making a new work is the process itself; simply making a work can change you and the people you work with. It creates a sense of community and generates discussion of ideas that often have a reach far wider than you’d originally imagined. That sense of engagement with the world is more important in some ways than the object itself.

An 8 metre-high work would probably take about three weeks to construct, and would require a small team of volunteer helpers.

This idea for a work has been entered for the Coal Prize 2012