TEN KEY POINTS

 

CONTEXTUALISATION:

This academic year began with a trip to New York – made possible by the Helen Gregory Memorial Trust. I wanted to see the sculptural work of Doris Salcedo, whose pieces are in equal measure poetic and political. They’re so meaningful and laboriously crafted. I felt that experiencing her work would help me to discover how I can make my work more connected with current issues in the world.

https://emilypanizzifineart.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/new-york-guggenheim-doris-salcedo/

These coffin-sized tables, surface to surface against each other, with aprox 6 inches of soil between them, had tiny holes drilled into the top surface, and grass allowed to grow through the tiny gaps. The man tending the gallery said to me that the sculpture had to be outside for months for the grass to be able to grow, but that he had watched the grass grow stronger throughout the time it had been inside the gallery space.
These coffin-sized tables, surface to surface against each other, with aprox 6 inches of soil between them, had tiny holes drilled into the top surface, and grass allowed to grow through the tiny gaps. The man tending the gallery said to me that the sculpture had to be outside for months for the grass to be able to grow, but that he had watched the grass grow stronger throughout the time it had been inside the gallery space.

I first discovered the shocking statistics about poverty in the UK through The Trussell Trust- an organisation which sets up food banks across the UK. The stories they had shared really moved me and hit home. The mistreatment of the disadvantaged in society and the negative portrayal of the working class that I was looking into personally angered me. 

https://emilypanizzifineart.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/below-the-poverty-line/

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This is really the point at which I began seriously questioning my purpose as an artist. Exploring how I could make a difference, however small, through my creativity but also just as a human being. I looked at artists who represent communities of people, or work with them such as Ai Wei Wei and his 200 tonnes of recovered steel rebars, and Suzanne Lacy’s ‘Culture in Action’, which enabled artists to work directly with the local community.

https://emilypanizzifineart.wordpress.com/2015/11/18/what-is-my-role-as-an-artist/

100 limestone boulders with the names of women from the city. (Chicago - downtown circle) - the boulders appeared overnight.
100 limestone boulders with the names of women from the city. (Chicago – downtown circle) – the boulders appeared overnight.

Trickle Down economics is a capitalist trick, where the wealthy say that the poor benefit from the millions they earn, when in reality the opposite is true. The more money the wealthy have, the more they actually seem to save, and the less goes back into society. Whereas the money the poorest in society earn, goes straight back into the economic system through rent, bills, food etc. My marble run is a metaphor for the reality that Trickle down economics is essentially a big capitalist lie and disadvantages the already disadvantaged.

https://emilypanizzifineart.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/the-facts/

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The Japanese Forest Xylophone advert for the mobile phone ‘Touch Wood’ is very serene and simplistic and having already been very inspired by Japanese architecture and minimalism (which I wrote about in my dissertation), this video really spoke to me. This is also why the little sounds in my marble run are important to me. I like all these kinds of gentle, fragile qualities in materials/sculpture.

https://emilypanizzifineart.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/japanese-forest-xylophone/

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DOCUMENTATION:

The entirety of my first term was spent relentlessly trying to cast marbles in plaster. Overall I made four different molds. I made many mistakes and learned from them all, each time trying to fix what went wrong and progress. In December, I took part in the artist residency at The Abacus. For this, I used my fourth and most accurate mold to cast 500 plaster marbles.

https://emilypanizzifineart.wordpress.com/2015/12/06/testing-the-fourth-mold/

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Plaster dust can be dangerous so I decided to make all of my marbles with raku clay, and abandon the plaster molds I had worked so long towards.

https://emilypanizzifineart.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/raku-marbles/

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I wanted my plaster marble run pieces to be made out of plaster and have an architectural aesthetic / quality. I didn’t want to lose the geometric, (minimalist & architectural), matt, white qualities which I have developed over the past year or so. The designs I made were a similar shape to metal girders, which I see a lot around the art building. 

https://emilypanizzifineart.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/silicone-mold-3/

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I chose two staple materials in my design; plaster and wood (in a light colour). This would form the clean, geometric design of the run. I think he paleness of the bare, natural wood really compliments the nakedness of the plaster pieces. On top of this, I wanted splashes of metal with the mechanisms and a DIY feel to anything added on top of this. I wanted any cables, glue, ties and even tape left visible to give a layering effect of the DIY on top of the pristine.

https://emilypanizzifineart.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/the-frame-support-3/

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The mechanisms were essential to making my Tickle Down Effect metaphor a physical, functional reality. This was a huge learning curve – by being quite ambitious, I threw myself in at the deep end. However, I was determined to make it work.

https://emilypanizzifineart.wordpress.com/2016/04/19/the-conveyor-cha…nism-the-hooks-2/

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ARTIST STATEMENT

As a sculptor I find great importance in giving strength to fragile materials – it is this vein of fragility and vulnerability which runs deep through all aspects of my current practice. My work is heavily influenced by minimalist architecture and repetitions of geometric forms, as well as the Japanese concept of ‘ma’, which explores ideas around a space delivering an experience.

This kinetic piece is fuelled by my anger at the mistreatment of and lack of support for the most vulnerable communities in our society. One in five UK residents now live below the poverty line and the income inequality we are experiencing is desperate. The wealthiest 1% in the UK have approximately 12.9% of the country’s total income, whereas the poorest 50% of us have just 8.7% (OECD).

Marbles run through this artwork like currency and over time will end up at the nightmarish outcome of our capitalist society; that one day perhaps, the wealthiest in our society will have 100% of the UK’s total income, our lives will be totally dependent on and controlled by them.

In effect, I am arguing against the fictional prosperity of ‘Trickle Down Economics’, by subtly placing the economic reality in an interactive, playful, marble run metaphor. Where marbles represent money and in a society where all individuals have a labour value, we play God with the lives presented to us in a rigged game with one inevitable outcome.

SETUP OVERVIEW

I wasn’t able to start installing my marble run properly until Tuesday 3rd when the positioning of my piece was decided for certain. This left me with only a small amount of time to correct / fix any parts that weren’t working. Everything had been tested individually, but I had never been able to test every part together – this needed to be done in the exhibition space. This was very nerve-racking, as I desperately wanted to make the run as fool-proof as I could before assessment. Between Tuesday and Friday, I had to work quickly to correct parts on the spot, using DIY materials. Luckily, I had already planned for this, and came prepared with a tool box packed full of all the tools I could think I might need, and all the DIY materials (string, cable ties, glue etc), which I wanted on the top layer of my run.

On Thursday, my marble run was fully functional – everything was in place and connected, but I still needed to make lots of adjustments. The balls were still getting stuck / falling off in places, and the hooks were sometimes still getting stuck. Thursday I had a very late night in the studio, which ended with the overheating of my power supply.

On Friday, I continued to make more adjustments up until the last second. By the deadline, my marble run was working the best it had been, and the marbles were running the full course without any problems.

I am very pleased with the final outcome. This project has been an ongoing challenge the whole year, and taken me through the wringer, but through trial and error, pushing myself and being determined to make it work, I have learned a whole bunch of new skills and knowledge. These are all skills I would not have learned had I not challenged myself and sought to explore and discover many new things this year.

 

FINAL TOUCHES

Today was our last day of setting up for our exhibition.

By this point, I had put everything in its place and made sure it all worked. I had a bit of a scare the night before when the power supply overheated, but it didn’t do any damage. My plan for the last day was to run the mechanisms, and keep tweaking everything to try and make the run as fool proof as I could. Every now and again, a marble would stop somewhere on the run (in the end piece before the tube, or after the tube before the stairs, or before the chain), fall off the run (by overshooting the corners, falling off the stairs, or getting stuck in the hooks and missing the start of the run). The hooks would also move and sometimes get caught on the plaster piece below it, stopping the chain.

I tried to solve all of these problems.

When the marbles:

  • Stopped in the end piece before the tube, I modelled the inside of the piece with more plasticine to make it more sloped.
  • Stopped after the tube before the stairs, I reduced the weight of the ‘curtain’ until it no longer stopped them.
  • Stopped before the chain, I sanded the corners so they would not get stuck.
  • Overshot the corners, I put up little guards to deflect the marbles.
  • Fell off the stairs, I put a ‘Severn bridge’ style threading of string down the sides.
  • Got stuck in the hooks and missed the start of the run, I took away the big marbles!
  • To stop the hooks from moving I added more glue, hopefully this will hold.

However, not once has a day ever gone to plan. When I came in, I saw that the plaster feet had all but one cracked -badly. I think this is just down to the nature of the materials. When the plaster is wet, the wood absorbs the water. When the plaster dries, it shrinks.


During the day I also filled in the cracks with more plaster and sanded it back down. If they continue to crack, I can do more work to them before the show.

I also finished sorting out my power supply, plastic cable mats and I tidied the wires.

Now I just hope it all goes okay on the day.

VINYL & FILLER

I had got a small vinyl sticker printed to give some direction as to how visitors could interact with the marble run. I did not want to write a long extended list of instructions like a game, instead I wanted to keep it subtle and ambiguous like the rest of the piece.

I felt that frosted vinyl would look nice and smart over the clear Perspex, and I have used a downloaded ‘Tate’ font.

By choosing this particular bit of text, I’m hoping there will be no incidents where the machine gets totally overloaded with marbles. I think it could probably handle two or three at a time but best not to risk it. There’s a risk that the weight of multiple marbles could damage the chain hooks when they try to pick them up, and this could lead to the hooks getting stuck on the plaster, and stopping the chain from moving.

Also, I think it’s worth mentioning that I have used clear poly filler around the recess in the wood tops to hold the perspex in place during the show. It was pretty snug already, but the poly filler should hopefully stop any potential wobbling. I don’t think you would notice it too unless you were looking for it – very successful!

PLASTER FEET

One of the last jobs, was to add on the plaster feet.

I was undecided as to whether I should make the feet in similar proportion to the other plaster blocks (which would be 10cm cubed), or whether to make them slightly bigger (12cm cubed).

I went with 12 cm cubed, because I felt 10 would look too small from standing height. Larger would appear to have more weight / give the run more stability, and would make the balance of the whole piece feel better.

STAIRS OR NOT?

Today I had the dilemma about whether or not to use the wooden stairs I made (the ones which follow on from the plastic tubing.

The marbles picked up too much speed going down the plastic tubing, and often fell off the stairs at various angles. I bought some thin wood to attach to the sides of the stairs and act as walls, but I felt these hid the stairs too much and took away from the simplistic aesthetic.

It was suggested to me that I might be able to find a way to slow the speed of the marbles when they exit the tubing, perhaps by hanging something inside the end of the tube which the marbles hit slightly and which takes away some of the momentum.

I am going to try a bit of thin fabric and see if this could work (I feel like it will). If it doesn’t however, I will just swap the stairs for a straight bit of cornering which I know for definite works. – no biggie.