Worth the Weight
I’m excitedly waiting a delivery of two large cartons of rubber – yes I know it’s probably only me that becomes excited by a delivery of rubber, but this is no ordinary rubber it is raw and has been waiting for over a year to wing its way to my door. Ok, I’ll explain, last year was absolutely shite and aside from freaking about getting my bills paid, all things art that I was a half way through, had to stay that way.
I don’t usually blog about my art in progress – I leave that to my art website, but my work in progress suddenly turned into work in stagnation. I became the frustrated artist who knew deep down that getting my bills paid and food in my fridge were screamingly more important than 10kg of rubber. So I waited it out, everything is still not totally hunky dory (is it ever?), but at least now I can! – hence the excitement.
Kuparak Alaskan crude oil
I have still to resource the other elements of my current piece, Mexican silver and Spanish jet. But I now have half of the ingredients, I had already managed to find some crude oil – very kindly donated to me from Imperial College London who were doing a geology science project that was looking into Kuparak- Alaskan oil at the time (2 years ago now!).
I am though content, being well on my way with this, having made the frames up already with Monkey Puzzle wood. They have stood in an orderly line of three in my studio for over 20 months now waiting to be filled with the above concoction.
I‘ve been using rubber (unprocessed) and various other organic, mineral and synthetic products for a while now, so these current products have been a progression. I am using monkey puzzle wood for frames which after of years of compression would have turned into jet. And that jet still has a quasi religious connotation for jewellery in Spain going back to the Moors and Pueblo Indians who wore it to ward off the evil eye, holding value on that basis, and very similar basis around the world today.
Azerbache or Jet from Spain
All the current products I'm using have some sort of status value.
Silver being the most well known for symbolising wealth, especially, as it was the beginning of one of the main types of currency first delivered as troy pounds in weight, evolving into coins which in turn set a value on other things.
The Mexican silver in it's Peso's was drastically reduced until there was virtually no silver involved. Then in 1982 the one-ounce pure silver Libertad coin was minted.
Another side of using these and the other products has also been simmering with me and my work for over 10 years. Globalisation and land premiums with the wealth and status of geological and mineral *assets* still overshadowing other factors like populations, health and environment. You name it, it’s not exactly uncommon knowledge, but the fact that this imbalance can still go on, seemingly uncontested.
Ok, yes we do need minerals they are incredibly useful and they need extraction. It’s a messy business , and well oil, where to start with that one, especially after the near miss last week in the gulf of Mexico. The earth is made up of volatile, messy but useful stuff.
nb: update; this seems not so near miss now, with lives lost and oil gushing out far, far worse than expected and the slick heading for the Louisiana coast, this also having difficult terrain for clean ups, rescue and a devastated fishing industry wholly unique to the area with incomes lost.
Time was that oil rich-oil companies would see their mess as an inevitable part of the process and the liberal-lefty-whale-huggers, began to be the bain of their business.
One of the problems that I see with the oil industry especially, and with its monitors, is a certain amount of complacency and inbreeding, if you like, with too many people having leverage in this and other types of mineral asset industries, showing conflicting interests, living in each other’s pockets.
Hmmmm where have I heard that one recently.....ahhh yes banks.....
It has always taken major environmental disasters to prompt any development strategy for crisis in extraction processes. The extremely damaging Exxon oil spill of ’89 hit the headlines mainly for the excessive use of chemicals in dealing with it and the difficult terrain. But there have been far worse in terms of the amount of oil spillage five times as much in some cases. Oil being the most obviously environmentally volatile over things like silver mining etc.,. Very useful stuff, but very messy and lethal.
When I first started this project early to mid 2008 there was still apparently according to the US Marine Management Services a likelihood of a major spill in the Chukchi sea (Alaska) measuring in at somewhere between 30 and 50 percent. See the Guardian related article here.
And in an attempt to reclaim some positive public image after a number of crisis and accidents recently, was made all the more absurd by an advert promotion by Shell – the advert was screened by many cinemas immediately before a film and lasted a full 10 minutes – if you managed to miss it, it was a slightly patronising mini film intent on force-feeding Shell’s own self eco-aggrandising image (and nope I didn’t like it! – I’d gone to see a film!).
Now, cinemas usually house fairly accommodating audiences, popcorn at the ready, eager anticipation and all that. Let’s just say though that the audience (in the cinema I was in at any rate) were probably on the wrong side of gullible for quite this sort of affront of brainwash, brain-dead advertising.
Any advert lasting 10 minutes placed in front of a film has got to be good, no, better than, it has to be almost as good as the film it is encroaching on – valuable cinema goer’s time. And I might have just listened! had it been veering a little less off into some fairytale-reality of clean oil delivery and fluffy seals with bright blue seas and skies etc.,. How they ever thought it would work I don’t know.
Comprehensive reasoning seems to be obscured in these earth resource debates, I mean just plain scientific reason here not fluffy bunny syndrome. It is obvious that if you are going to mine or drill even with advanced technology there will still be some risk, and some damage and yeay! to any advance and lessening of that. But the angle seems to be so weighted down by the need for the extraction process to be first and foremost a profitable affair – although nothing wrong with that – it is without the realistic inclusion of all the *side* issues.
That is where I think, the us and them war-like attitude seems to have come in; big business vs the wronged or the supporters of. Not really a good situation for projects like these to have a sustained and welcomed reception, and seemingly too cloak and dagger for many. Trust figuring very largely.
Oh, let’s hope some lessons will be learnt for the better for us all out of the last 19 months or so.
But on the art front, for me anyway, I have my crude oil sourced, for free! and worth its weight in gold! and rubber in the pipeline – the small but poignant irony being, with the event of the global financial crisis.
Boy, did I have to wait for it.
I don’t give chapter and verse on *reasons* for my work, but their physical make up sometimes gives indications other than that of the finished piece.
Rubber sourced, Malaysia Rubber Board, rubber trees were originally from South America, Kew Gardens took samples to Malaysia and those formed the basis for Malaysia’s thriving rubber industry.
Crude Oil courtesy Imperial College London, sourced from Alaska, value based on the controversial mining and costs.
Mexican Silver to be sourced value based on the Libertad silver ounce peso
Spanish Jet to be sourced value based on Moorish Spanish religious-superstition belief
Monkey Puzzle wood from a very nice man in Cornwall
Back on Sunday!..............