Sunday, September 03, 2017

Art at SSW #3 - 'Legacy'

... a proposal for a public arts project
continuing my consideration of object as cultural history.

 Archaeology is the study of 'what is left behind - which still remains'. Trash is often the source material (and often the most illuminating).

While at Lumsden, I undertook a number of walks around the local area. Several of these were in part along the main access road that runs through the centre of Lumsden, from Rhynie (to 'north') or Alford (to 'south').
There is surprisingly less trash along the sides of the roads generally in rural Scotland, in comparison to along the back dirt roads around my own home in Wareham for example. I'd put part of this down to the fact almost all cars in Scotland are standard transmission - and the roads are both narrow and twisty, requiring frequent shifting of gears. So drivers rarely can have a coffee or drink to hand, I was told that actually this was not legally allowed (?).
I did notice, walking along route A97, was that what trash there was, most commonly was aluminum beer cans. (This may also be because, unlike in Ontario, there is no deposit / return system in place.) Perhaps not surprisingly, the most commonly recovered cans were from the cheapest brands - Tennent's primarily. (Draw your own conclusions there!)

Aluminum is extremely durable in the environment, with a 'decomposition life' measured in centuries (1).
Here in Canada, plastic beverage containers often outnumber aluminum cans found along the roadside. 

So what is it we will leave behind?

'Legacy' project proposal - at SSW : August 2017

'Legacy' is a proposal which would combine a number of elements.

- The structure is a simple pyramid shaped framework, measuring 4 x 4 feet at the base and standing about 6 feet tall. (2) This framework would be made up of structural angle on the outside edges, with a series of cross bars welded in place horizontally at about 6 inch spacing.
- Along the cross bars, set to about 4 inch spacing, would be welded a series of simple nails. The ideal would 1 1/2 long roofing nails, both in terms of ease of welding attachment (large heads) and short shafts for safety.
- Pushed on to the nails would be aluminum beverage cans and plastic drink bottles, collected as road side trash. On initial installation, only some of the attachment points would be covered with cans.
- A separate sign board would explain the concept and participation aspects of the project.

• The pyramid form references the Great Pyramids of Egypt. At roughly 4500 years old, these are some of the best known ancient human structures. (3)

• First level of public participation is continuing to 'build' the structure. Individuals will be encouraged, via the sign board to add additional trash cans and bottles to the remaining nail pegs. This would be accomplished by simply pushing objects on to the short points.

• A secondary benefit would be the continuing trash clean up of the area around the installation site - hopefully even beyond.

• It is hoped that the overall impact of the sculpture would be to raise awareness of both the problem of trash generation, and it's long term accumulation within the enviroment.

(1) Metallic aluminum, exposed to air in the natural environment, 'quickly' forms a dull, light coloured oxide film on its surface. This oxide is itself quite resilient to further corrosion, and harder than the metal underneath it. One estimate for the time it takes a standard aluminum beverage can to decompose is 200 - 500 years.

Plastic drink bottles have an estimated decomposition rate of roughly 450 years. (see same source).

(2) Because of the inherent stability of the shape, there would be no special mountings required. (The simplest support would be via four standard concrete 'deck blocks', set on the ground and roughly leveled.)

(3) Sourcing Wikipedia, Barnenez in France (a passage grave) is listed as the oldest human 'structure' (at 6850 years)

Artist Note : There may be a possibility to work this proposal into a format which would allow it to be submitted for the 2018 Elora Sculpture Project
I have had work chosen 2013 / 2014 / 2015 / 2016 / 2017

Monday, August 28, 2017

Stone Circle...

... outside Aberfeldy, Scotland.

The Croft Moraig stone circle lays west of Aberfeldy, about 6 km along the road that takes you to Loch Tae and the Scottish Crannog Centre.

'Sacred Oak' : The 'old' oaks around the circle were in fact planted by the Victorians!

'Stone Circle' : view from the southern edge of the circle, looking roughly south west.

'Within the Circle' : Kelly visits the stones (giving a measure of scale).

Another description of Croft Moraig can be found on the Megalithic Portal web site.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

History, Memory - and Statues

I've been away from the News for a good while.
There was the frantic scramble to get repairs to my trailer completed, all the packing and loading for the Newfoundland trip to L'Anse aux Meadows. Departing for that the end of the first week in July. Home from that a mere two days and off to Scotland for the project work here. (It's the morning of my last day at SSW.)
So basically well over 7 weeks since I've had any time, often actually even no ability, to check the News. So all realize my perspective is extremely limited to isolated flashes.

I had caught pieces of the insanity taking place in the United States of America right now, triggered around a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville VA.

Now, I follow Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station.
His latest piece, posted up yesterday (Saturday August 2017) bears reading :
'No Man's Land'

 I submitted the following as a comment to Jim's (insightful as always) piece:

I am taking part in an artist's workshop, mix of Scots / Canadians / Americans, the topic of sculpture as memorials came up.
I am personally deeply involved with history (admittedly pre-Medieval primarily), so often consider the role of object within culture. From this standpoint, do consider any object does remain a reflection of the time and setting which it was created in. * Meaning * may shift considerably through time. (The Great Pyramid was constructed with considerable slave labour as well. Should it be torn down because of this?)

One of the Americans at the table suggested that instead of taking down historic monuments, these should be *non destructively* modified to reflect a modern perception of those historic events.
In this way, history is retained, but *meaning* may be modified.

Given Jim's clarion call to action, this suggestion may easily be seen as feeble appeasement. Obviously, the type of narrow focus, distortion of proven fact and willful ignorance being demonstrated can not be easily combated by a 'gentle' approach.
So clearly, as so many commenters have stated, this has little to actually do with removing a statue.

I do caution all to consider the material aspect of the Future. We North Americans are far too quick to destroy and cart off to rubble the marks of our past. Without some marks of our actions, both the good - and the very bad, how are coming generations to have any perspective framework to allow themselves to make their own decisions?

As much as delving into political commentary is something I do actually attempt to keep limited on this series, readers may see how the above actually dove tails nicely on to recent postings here :  Art at SSW - #1 Object & Age / # 2 Object & Context

Saturday, August 19, 2017

the Galloway Hord

At the National Museum of Scotland - Edenburgh :

Lower groupping of arm 'rings'

Upper grouping of ingots and worked strips

Revealed in the two cases above :
- Several of the ingots were clearly made in the same top poured mould. There was a distinctive knob feature seen, from a deeper cut to one end of the mould.
- The arm rings were all considerably thicker in cross section than I previously thought. (Exact L x W x H x weight is rarely indicated.)
- Seeing the ingots and the arm rings side by side certainly suggested that the arm rings were made by simply hammering flat the ingots. The sizes of the bracelets was very uniform, and the volume of metal from ingot into ring was very consistent.
- You also can see that all of the 'rings' are in fact flattened strips - not formed into C shapes at all.
This might easily have been done to keep the package of silver small for burial. That many of the bracelets have been deliberately turned over and squished flat on one or both does suggest that all the silver, worked or ingot, was only intended as silver weight.

Pair of fine silver hinged strap orniments - considered very unusual for VA finds

These large glass pieces were described as 'beads'
The large flattened disks were roughly 3 - 4 cm in diameter, with hole diameters approaching 1 cm.
The largest, to the lower right, was almost double even that mass of glass.
Taken together, this huge size suggests to me that these might easily have been intended as spindle whorls.

Not everything from the Hord was on display. Especially most of the more 'unusual' objects (likely still under preservation work).
For more images - go to the Galloway Hord at the NMS

We have to raise £1.98 million to save the Hoard, and in addition we need  to raise additional funds to properly conserve, research and prepare the Galloway Hoard for display, (NMS web site)
 The Hoard was uncovered by a single individual, so it would fall under Scottish 'Treasure Trove' law. It appears that although technically all  such finds revert 'ownership' to the Scottish Crown, in practice, an independant pannel determines a 'market value', which museums normally pay to the original finder.

Images :
The National Museum of Scotland allows for full photography in all its galleries.
All the images above were taken by myself on August 9, 2017
Although captured as photographs, the copyright to the text panels really rests with the NMS.

February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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