Watching Manufactured Landscapes recently, I was stunned when it included the statement that there is more gold contained in one ton of scrapped mobile phones than in one ton of gold ore.
This notion of the value placed on metals and resources which I have been working on for the year seems to be becoming part of the social consciousness, and high profile artists such as Jennifer Baichwal, the documentary maker, and Edward Burtynsky whose work is the focus of the film, are contributing to the spreading of the knowledge. I am always amused when ideas which I think are genius and new, pop up elsewhere, having already been tackled by other more established artists. I like to think the ideas are floating in the ether, but more likely it’s inspiration which is borne of reading and looking at things over the years. I used to feel frustrated, cheated even, then I realised that it’s brilliant! All the work combined is easier to work on, to build on, as parts of the building are shared.
Back at the beginning of this year I watched Vik Muniz on TED and was reminded of having been introduced to his work by a previous tutor (Mr Phil Tyler). At the time I was struck by how he played with scale, making huge earth drawings which are visible only from the air, and making small ones nearby which can be approached and appreciated. I was making oversized building blocks, and recently have been making oversized SIM cards and sculptures inspired by the telephone wire.
This talk was related to his film Wasteland (as recommended by Joanna Brown) and it has really given me a new perspective on my work and it’s place in the world:
Whilst I am confident that I am not in a position to tackle large-scale issues of social action, my focus on materials and objects which I womble or salvage is able to channel that awareness somehow back in on itself.
Vik Muniz achieves this on a significant scale as his materials-based practice feeds back into the ‘material’ itself in this case the individuals featured in the project. It has stuck in my mind, and sustains me during the dark moments when, overwhelmed, I question the point of it all, art. Unquantifiable in the plain supply and demand terms of Keynesian economics, art nonetheless is able to straddle that world and the world of human values seamlessly. Presenting opportunities for the observer to acknowlege or consider things differently or more intensely than they would have done otherwise is a very valuable effect which drives my work.
In reclaiming and repositioning objects and materials, I can respond to them and their settings to cherish or challenge them. The process of putting the final work together for our upcoming degree show has crystalised all this for me, as my work has turned into a cherishing of the studios, gratitude and lament to times past, and a few small repairs to sustain it for the future.