This project took place during the months of March, April and May 2020 at Merz Gallery in Sanquhar. The plan had been for Rhona Jack and I to spend two months working collaboratively to create an exhibition of kinetic sculptures inspired by the past and present industries in the town and it’s surroundings.
However, soon after the project began the Covid-19 lockdown began, shutting down the possibility of an exhibition and dramatically changing the viewing of our project from one of tactility and interaction to one of video art with no physical interaction.
Over our time here, ideas changed from looking to the past industries of coal mining, weaving and brickmaking, to looking at the future of industry, wind power in particular. Before long we had created a series of wind powered drawing machines, utilising turbines and plastic bags to catch the wind and create sculptures and drawings.
Here you will see the work created throughout this residency, including our work on the Inside:Outside gallery and a greenhouse made on the Merz site from repurposed glass and timber.
Our first sculpture harkened to the carpet factory which used to operate out of Sanquhar. The idea here was to create a pair of spinning wheels which work in opposition to each other, working in a endless loop of spinning and unspinning.
Our second sculpure, “Coal Chute” took inspiration from the huge piles of slag on the outskirts of Sanquhar; the remnants of defunct coal mines in the area. Using a cog and cranking handle, the machine works to lift coal onto a slide, which then feeds a stove.
Strings, trough, turbine
As we started to consider using the wind as the driving force for our sculptures, we created our “Strings, trough, turbine”. Individual pages are mounted on a pole which is in turn connected to a turbine. As the wind turns the pages, they pass through a trough filled with ink. Strings mounted above also pass through this ink, so that as the wind blows them they create marks. These pages are then bound into a book.
The Bothy Greenhouse
As we were moved into more and more uncertain times with the Covid-19 crisis deepening, Rhona and I wanted to turn our efforts toward something concrete which would be useful to Merz Gallery and future resident artists.
Using found timber and panes of glass, we built a greenhouse to function as a nursery for vegetables and herbs. The bricks by the door are from a previous project run by Cat Robertson, in which she cast and fired bricks with local schoolchildren.
This greenhouse now has tomatoes, peppers, chillies and cucumber growing inside.
As we were unable to bring the public into Merz Gallery to see the work we were making, we ran the “Inside:Outside” project. As each new sculpture was finished, we installed a drawing of it on the outside wall of Merz Gallery.
Wind Powered Pinball Machine
As we moved into the final weeks of our residency, the growing worldwide crisis deepened. As such, we wanted to create something light hearted and playful, but which also reflected our complete lack of control over our future. We started building a pinball drawing game which was operated entirely by the wind, where one could watch and wager but over which they would have no control at all.
Ceramic balls are loaded into the yoghurt pot at the top, where they are spun by the turbine to be released through a hole in the pot. They then pass through a run, passing through an ink reservoir at the bottom, before pinballing to the end of the game, making a drawing on the way.
An Isolated Process
Despite having no idea of when it might be attended, before leaving Merz we set up our work as an exhibition; “An Isolated Process“.
The exhibition tracks our progress from our early sketches for machines inspired by local industry, to our attempts to have our work made public in a viable and safe manner in our outdoors “Inside: Outside” display, to finally our acceptance of complete lack of control over our situation and so also of our artwork in our wind powered drawing machines.