Interstice combines spatialised sound, dynamic lighting and traditional sculptural techniques to produce a subtly interactive experience which sonifies the human genome, creating a melody that would take centuries to play to its conclusion. At the core of the work is a four foot long inverted boat-like form cast in water clear resin. Illuminated from within, each time a note is played the light within the work grows and then fades, plunging participants momentarily into darkness.
The melody moves around the space in a helical pattern and participants cause the sound to intensify as they approach the work. However, this interaction is intended to subtly enhance the experience on a subconscious level and is not overstated.
Interstice is primarily a work concerned with loss. It explores scale, the finite and the infinite – the length of the melody far exceeds the lifespan of a human being and thus encourages us to consider how we choose to define and attribute value within the limited perspective and duration of our own lives. It is also a piece which embodies inheritance – the boat seen in the work is itself an imperfect replica of a much smaller earlier piece by the artist.
The process of replication which gave birth to Interstice was undertaken entirely by hand – first a wood and glass fibre support was created before being covered with hundreds of plaster tiles, each individually hand-cast. The entire form was then covered with silicone rubber, followed by layers of glass fibre to create a rigid backing. All gaps between the tiles had to be painstakingly filled, since if rubber had flowed beneath the tiles the mould would have been impossible to remove without destroying it – a second mould was created for the interior surface using the same techniques. Finally water clear polyester resin was poured into the void between the two surfaces to complete the replication. To prevent the piece overheating and cracking the resin was poured in several layers under precise conditions.
Pragma was commissioned by BDF as a new work to accompany the exhibition of Interstice. A single length of ribbon supports the work from above and thus the tail provides a counterbalance which dictates the forward lean of the figure. Whereas Interstice is concerned with almost unimaginable differences in scale and distance, Pragma collapses these themes into a human context. Tiny fibre optic lights illuminate the detailing on the chest and waist of the figure and also exist at each point on each segment of the tail. Like a breath or heartbeat, a pulse of light originating in the chest then travels sequentially down each of the segments at the rear, in unison with the rythmn of the earlier work. In some sense the tail references a trajectory that is the past – if the length were to increase indefinitely then the forward lean of the figure too would become more pronounced, until at some point she would be hurtling forward almost parallel to the ground.
Origin is a series of images, each composed of one million points. Each form is essentially a cloud of dust, first described in three dimensions, with each point occupying its own location in space. However, despite the empty space that permeates each cloud and separates each point from every other, there is an odd sense of weight and solidity to these forms. The images themseleves then are instants, memories or moments in the lifetimes of these intangible objects.
In some way these works may be thought of as virtual sculptures – a language exists to describe them in three dimensions and in the virtual world it is possible to represent them and create pictures of them. However, they cannot exist in the real world because no method exists to manifest them. The images are like ghosts or echoes from another world.
In cell biology there is an axiom Omnis cellula e cellula meaning that every cell itself comes from another cell. Around 37,000,000,000,000 cells make up a human being and through mitosis, a cell replicates its DNA before dividing into two daughter cells. This allows us to grow, heal ourselves and replace worn out cells but when this process malfunctions it can also result in cancer, which can often result in death.
This work was a Christmas gift to a very close friend of mine following her cancer diagnosis in 2014. The two halves of the fruit stone were intended to be a symbol of hope, friendship and new beginnings whilst also acknowledging her situation – at this time her prognosis was good. In May 2015 I received them back shortly after her death. She had asked me to make a piece of jewellery based upon them but I did not have a chance to do this before she died.
Alex is an artist whose practice encompasses sculpture, sound, light and moving image to produce powerful installation art. His work has been shown at The Royal College of Art, Goldsmiths, University of London, Artist Residence, Phoenix, Brighton Festival and many other galleries, events and institutions. In 2014 Pragma was commissioned by BDF and shown together with its predecessor Interstice. He has a particular interest in the combination of traditional fine art techniques with contemporary time-based media.
In addition to his solo artistic practice, Alex is technical lead with internationally renowned artists’ group Blast Theory, one of the most adventurous groups in digital and cross-dimensional work. Recent Blast Theory projects have included the award-winning Karen, an AI life coach who psychologically profiles you and adjusts her behavior to your personality and My One Demand, a ninety-minute film shot in one take and performed on three consecutive nights on the streets of Toronto, broadcast live to cinemas across the city.
In 2004 his ground-breaking research into video cubism was presented at the European Conference on Visual Perception and published in the journal Perception. Alex has been a regular contributor to Espressivamente, a dual-language arts journal published in both Italian and English.
He has also taught both Visual Culture and Algorithms and Data Representation at tertiary level within the University of Brighton and sat on the moderation board at UBIC.
Much love and thanks go to Jo Knell, for all her support and encouragement in the time that we knew each other.
Thanks also go to Oleg Pulemjotov for providing some of the visual documentation used here.