Staying in touch in our modern world or being connected has expanded beyond one’s immediate community in a physical sense in that, thanks to humanity’s advancement in telecommunication, we are able to stay connected with friends and loved one’s instantaneously. You only have to look at the social media, a medium generated by the society itself as it generates messages within itself about itself for itself. It has been argued elsewhere that it as if friends on the other side of the globe are next door. Compared to our ancestors we are by-passing time at lightning speed. What was achievable in months for us it’s within hours reach if not minutes. Think about how with ease we travel from one point to the next through various methods of transportation available to us. And also think about how we negotiate meaning of our social sphere as we exchange written texts and images via vast distances with electronic communication devices.
What if this fluidity of passage through time is disrupted? What is it that holds the balance in place? It is copper that enable us to ride through time fluidly. The Connect Disconnect exhibition in its artist statement acknowledges that this fluidity of passage through time is under threat from Copper cable theft. It is an exhibition that explores, investigates and present a case study of copper an element that keep the ‘fluidity of our passage through time’ intact. It is an ode to Copper’ to moniker one of the titles of the work on show, but we will get to that later.
Ingrid Bolton is SASOL New Signatures 2012 Overall Winner and her approach to art making is rooted in science. This is not surprising considering that she has a background in Medical Technology with a special emphasis in Micro Biology. Only later did she branch out study one of her loves – fines arts through the University of South Africa.
The work that claimed the first price for the 2012 edition of SASOL New Signature focused on the role Micro Organism play in keeping our planet alive as they take in Carbon Dioxide and give off Oxygen. In that work she represented magnified versions of Micro Organisms which are silica based in their natural form and impossible to see with the naked eye. She represented them in ball shape suspended structure mimicking a circle to echo the significant role the Micro Organisms play in keeping our planet habitable. Beneath this suspended representation of Micro Organism she placed a metallic flat bowl filled with motor oil.
The motor oil signified the fossil fuel that our society burns through various industries that relies on fossil fuel to manufacture products and how this form of energy emits pollution that is actually choking the earth. This part of the installation which gave the work a gloomy finish starkly contrasted with the porcelain casted Micro Organism reflection in the oil and gave off a foul smell. The artist argued that by soliciting our sense of smell as an addition to our visual perception of the work she wanted the viewer to also smell the results of pollution.
The solo exhibition has a clinical clean feel and the technical finish of the artworks reveals the artist’s commitment to perfection. If the audience had the privilege of seeing the winning work for 2012 edition of SASOL New Signatures they will be in agreement that the finished feel of craftsmanship has been carried over successfully into the exhibition albeit bearing on a new preoccupation as far as the subject of the exhibition is concerned.
Whereas in that work microorganisms were the focus here Copper occupies centre stage. The artists point out how when a copper cable is stolen our life gets disrupted in terms of telecommunication and transportation itself. There is a lag in mobility. Anyone whose life has been interrupted by a disconnection due to electricity shortage knows how it feels like to be cut off from smooth flow of routine that relies on connectivity made possible by copper.
In this short article I will limit myself to the viewing of four installations included in the exhibition as I feel that they specifically demonstrate Ingrid Bolton’s competent manipulation of copper as an artistic medium and they also represent the continuity of the artist’s artistic approach in her art making which I hazard to call the ‘concretization of scientific themes within the visual art domain’. My other excuse is that unlike the artist my knowledge of science is limited and it would be unwise to speak as if I am an authority in the studies of Physical Science – I am merely an active recipient who has set out to make sense of the artist’s most recent meditation like any other viewer out there.
The self entitled work ‘Connect Disconnect’ work, which can be regarded as a diptych presented on the floor, immediately assumes the familiarity of an installation unlike the other works which traditionally occupies the walls of the gallery. It is minimal in approach with just two lines crossing each other at the center of the planes respectively. Both of these panels consist of granulated copper which has been used to form the lines. on another plane they closely denote wiring of copper beneath the earth’s surface.
While the panel on the left side consists of four squares of granulated copper whose almost touching outlines in the mid-plane of the panel mimic lines that cross, the right hand panel’s granulated copper composed into lines cross each other into a circular shape. The panel on the right hand side represent a connection while the one on the left side represent a disconnect. The contrast here is between the smooth lines accentuated by the clever use of the white surface of the left hand side panel and rough lines of granulated copper on the right hand side. the left panel’s composition of white lines amidst four squares denotes disconnection wherein there is no ‘reach’ whereas with granulated copper lines a connection is established.
The 3 Core installation is a deconstruction of the composition of a copper cable. The artist here has taken copper apart to reveal its hexagonical (six sided) construction with a centre in the middle. This gives the viewer a sort of a magnified look into how a copper cable is constructed with regard to the cable in the centre which actually is the same as the one we use in our houses. The straight lines of the two deconstructed copper cable, running from ceiling to the floor, in needle size threads – frames the middle cable on either sides rhythmically through the hexagonical composition of the copper cable as the viewer moves around the artwork.
Cu3: Ode to Boetti and Ode to Cable
In Cu3 three cubes represent copper in different formations. In a granulated state, in a bundle state and in what the artist has termed ‘it’s mapping’ state. This installation is complemented by a couple of artworks on the adjacent wall that are two dimensional renditions of copper in its mapped state and bundled state.
image: Cu3 ]
The interplay that occurs between the three and two dimensional expressions of copper reveals the patterns that are inherent in both the two approaches of representing copper visually when one views the work Ode to Boetti in relation to its three dimensional counterpart as well as the work Ode to Cable in relation to the middle cube which relates to it.
The three blocks relates to the scientific crystal structure of copper both in form as a six sided square and three manipulated states that the artist acknowledge as its mapping (Ode to Boetti), cabling (Ode to Cable) and its granulated state. This is curious if not resonant with regard to the hexagonal composition of copper cabling that is acknowledged in the work 3 core installation discussed just now.
The work airtime plays around with the bundled copper cables tied together with a string of aluminium into what is akin to flower bouquets. Viewed from the top the bouquets, if we allow ourselves the latitude to address them as such, echo the middle cube of the work Cu3 in terms of the colour scheme that the cut through process of handling the copper cable has reveal when we view the work from above. The composition also is arranged in a conical shape procession from the first bundle to the throng of copper cables as the eye is led within the installation.
If the Un(sea)n work has been a meditation on the tiny organisms that keep us alive by ceaselessly purifying our air with oxygen while consuming carbon emissions from our resultant activities, this solo exhibition is a meditation on the important role that Copper play in keeping our connectivity intact. However it is a meditation on a higher scale in that the artist deals with copper in numerous artistic expressions of manipulation as she concretizes her present scientific preoccupation within the visual arts domain.
*Connect Disconnect is on show at the Pretoria Art Museum until 13 October 2013
© Mmutle Arthur Kgokong 2013