With my granny
in the white bubble-like Honda civic
driving to Taupo
from Havelock North
Perhaps I’m ten years old
“what is an artist?”
gran said an artist
their work shows this
I looked out the window as the forest sped by
intense joyful colours shapes details
moving past and felt deeply
in my heart
this is what I am
I love you gran
Humans have become adept in the creation of robots and machines which fulfil a useful purpose;
Vacuuming the floor
Mowing the lawn
A car is a machine which, as an extension of the human body allows us to travel in a different way,
as does a bicycle.
These machines are extensions of the human and articulated with physical interface designed entirely around the human body.
The machines which we have surrounded ourselves with allow us to extend the reach of our will.
The physical and material world is communicated to through the physical action.
Speaking is a physical action.
I want to go somewhere.
I have a feeling of wanting to be in another place.
I want to go to the beach to relax and to slow down mentally.
To do this I use my physical body in communication with another invented/created physical body; a car, a bicycle, a train, an airplane.
This is a particular point of interest for me; that our communication with the physical is our way of articulating beyond the physical.
The communication of the spiritual / religious through physical mechanism saturates the history of automaton and "living" mechanisms.*
That the physical is a means by which we are able to interact with all things so as to incorporate and convert these things through the actions they serve and the feelings which we have in response to the physical presence of these things.
The subject of feeling is a place which my creative practise is specifically engaged with.
This is why I specify that the mechanical exists as a language.
We are adept in the subtle understanding of the physical.
We are this physical, as well as whatever else we are!
Our culture/society prioritises the useful or the clearly useful.
This is seemingly common sense, but this favouring of the obviously useful is a limiting factor in our innovation and development.
So much is not useful which still can be explored.
Feelings are communicated through the physical gesture.
A poetic use of the language of mechanism so as to suggest a relationship between us, who occupy a physical body and an invented physical, sculptural, mechanical body.
The relationship between a person and this physical thing (a composition of stuff) is where the
connection to the practice of puppetry exists.
Puppetry is effective by way of a profound connectedness of the will and body of a person (puppeteer/audience/viewer) to the thing (puppet).
Through this invented-body-thing feeling is expressed.
This happens by the deep awareness and physical expression of techniques of puppetry performance.
The specific communication of physical happens also as a result of the living tradition of puppet making which in part aims to give the human a feeling of sensing a particular and living body.
Through geometry, physics, material quality and form.
most often the puppet is a physical representation
my interest is that this language has value beyond representation and that each suggestion can be isolated and combined with another
words and phrasing
may be used
in description and instruction
words and phrasing
may be used
as and for themselves
only a shape
only a sound
words and phrasing are separated from their obvious usefulness
in so doing they are set free
they may again be useful
but no longer must they always be so
so it is with the exploitation of previously useful objects within a poetic phrasing
a previous purpose contributes
even in the poetic
all objects and material have a previous incarnation
like the roots of words
an invented poetic archeology of objects and materials
*recommended reading -The Restless Clock by Jessica Riskin
the hand the thing
the mechanical support system
the thing that brings life
that which allows to move
the mysterious female
the valley spirit
being that which is seemingly independent
the character which we engage and believe
the body of a thing
the solid object morphology
the area between points
spirit of change
the hairs on the back of my neck
I can’t see the thing which is making that move
I am alive
I am inside
through air connection complete
in my body
all through my whole body this air
this food I eat moves me
and through me
completely I am this
I am it
so we are convinced
lives and breaths
is what it
that it moves
could crush it
responding through what is
a distraction from the whole
bird shows air in flight
invisible mapped by solids moving
we are this
of what we are deeply of
to be this experience as allow-er to a livingness
so proficient at hiding somewhere
breath is key in these moving moments when the life which I am is directed
I am collective
I am shape shifter
absolutely physically empathising
spectrum of densities and porosities
varying degrees of absorption
I travel through
passing through place
puppeteer is human representative of firmament
listening loudly to the seemingly weaker
what I can so easily prevail over
is this not the giving of love?
allowing life to be through another body
puppetry is by its nature the most intimate of expressive acts
I am this body which you believe to be living
knowing that it is me
I am so totally this body
still it is living
letting my living breath through this other physical body
I am un-living without this surrounding
which lets me live
as is the puppet
we are of the same
piece of earth
the life through this physical body
object physical vessel for life
I am a puppeteer
in total giving through object
I need not hide
completely to another body
renders me that which I have gifted with life
neither of us owns this livingness
This morning I was witness to the robin
whom I know so well
(through summers and winters for countless passings)
hold in beak
the final moult before the wing
(this creature I have been
as much a human may feel to be)
and for both
I felt a care towards
of adolescence insect form
living is here another’s dying
(my conclusion in this common mystery)
How one may
and in so doing
undo a path
which never was
even in seeming atrocity
seemingly is this nature’s mystery
With so much effort going towards the promotion of an artist as brand competing through projections of (market) success and continuous creativity, I am happy to have an honest portrait of me and my creative practise.
This includes an element of struggle, insecurity and the inevitability of an unknown future.
Edward Baiduc has managed to capture the human that I am; in my North London studio, at the Royal Academy and within the nature I love and crave at the Walthamstow Wetlands Centre.
The winding path of the artist is not necessarily the easiest to traverse.
(I speak here for myself)
There are dizzying heights and unfathomable descents, such shifts in altitude often take place within an insanely short space in time.
I do love being in this creative way as an artist.
I am learning all the time about what is possible and also what may not be.
One thing I ask is that if you are in a position to financially support an artist please do so.
This may be in purchasing an artwork or buying them a coffee someday!
I wish to give thanks to all of you who have encouraged and supported me through good times and hard times... and the crazy mixture of both in the same moment!
As a unifying concept; that which gives the impression of being alive.
A puppet gives this when performed proficiently with technicality and skill.
An object can give this when referred to in a certain way.
A mechanism can have this when there are sufficient indications given through design, movement engineering, rhythm and form, so as to inspire an empathetic physical feeling/response in the viewer.
The notion of livingness draws together many strands of my creative research.
In my drawing this is suggested towards by a feeling of recognition within the composition, once this has happened now it is time to stop.
Livingnesses are hard to place, to define and/or to frame.
Floating bodies maintain this due to the physical inspiration/stimulus from and through the fluid they are within.
We are such a floating body.
this year I am thankful most of all to community and people who I have shared with
the friends who have listened
to me when things have felt too much
those who have given to me
friends who have let their guard down and trusted me
friends who have been by my side
those I have known for many years
new friends who share smiles and experiences
I thank the creative environment which has acknowledged and facilitated my creative practise
I thank each individual within any place I have visited
for whatever reason
perhaps to buy a coffee
or a bottle of wine
we are all connected in some way
let’s live love and grow deeper togethernesses in 2023!
Thank you 2022, you have been a wild year and impossible to pin down.
The principle relationship in the drawing of an idea into the physical/mechanical/tactile is the relationship with my total body
Thoughts and ideas are absorbed and then acted upon
The principle ingredient in any manifestation is the human action
This is infused with idea and thoughts which grow and alter are born and die
the studio is an incubation place
like a mother
gestation of a received spark
out of my body’s energies
When I lived in Auckland, Aotearoa/New Zealand I received traditional Maori Healing (romiromi) and wisdom from Papa Jo Delamere and Manu Korewha.
Up until this time I had taken and used whatever I wanted from the physical world to make bodies to form puppets and sculptures.
These bodies began to feel strange and frightening and not ‘right’.
One conversation with Manu has stayed with me and is of the greatest significance to the process of manifestation I am involved within.
On talking about my being an artist and puppet maker, Manu responded that I was a genetic engineer; the different parts of what I make would forever be in argument with each other unless they were each acknowledged and thanks was given.
This act by the artist/maker of acknowledgement can be viewed as a form of prayer (karakia).
The physical is acknowledged in the most profound sense so that the thing made is new and its constituent parts are content in their energies and so happily act in concert.
The conversation of materials is my preferred sculptural analogy as it is inclusive towards the maximum information of any combination of physical/mechanical elements.
The place where a thing is from is honoured in the deepest sense and so alleviating the strangeness of the newly made and allowing it to sing, joyfully and significantly in its new manifestation.
A living potential expressed through the combination of inanimate elements.
Within autonomous sculptures this happens devoid of human contact.
This quality is expressed in contact with a human through the ancient principles and techniques of puppetry.
The inanimate gains living movement through connection and direct physical contact with the human puppeteer.
The multifaceted rhythmic of a living person, never still even when still is transferred to a thing.
The observer’s perception is altered.
We are experts at detecting “livingness” from “non-livingness”.
My thoughts on this;
This has come about due to our development and survival as a species over millennia.
We need/ed to know if a thing in the corner of our perception is/was alive (therefore a potential threat) or not alive.
This has been instrumental in our survival within countless scenarios.
I do not believe we can mentally “chose out” of this.
It is hard-wired into our total being.
In experiencing puppet theatre we ride this ancient perceptive attribute;
We experience joy and elation in the mental knowledge that the puppet is not alive all the while unable to switch off the deep innate feeling that it could be.
The puppet is both a potential threat and not a threat in the same moment.
In my development of sculptures which communicate a sense of their being alive I exploit the tension, holding and release of materials to express “livingness”.
I prefer to not rigidly join one thing to another and instead chose dynamic and fluid jointing techniques found within the tradition of puppet design.
Although the initial drive may originate from an electric motor, the character of the moving is a composition of certain selected materials and objects, each contributing their unique way of holding and releasing.
These dynamic assemblages are an orchestra of these things expressing the desired feeling/s through tension, release, movement and sound.
Below is a detail from the sculpture Bow Down and Very Low - 123 developed for Ingrid Pollard.
A living breathing stillness is observed here in the subtle pulsation of spring steel saw blades.
Perhaps these materials are experiencing physical waves of remembering as to how they arrived here and then onward to continue their dance.