Friday, 22 May 2020

Particle Psychology & Carbon Skies

Particle Psychology, installation shot

I thought I would take the chance to reflect a bit on the piece I made for the exhibition 'Incendiary', which would have opened at Pound Arts in Corsham in March, but was closed on the evening of install.

Titled Particle Psychology, the piece came out of research I did into early examples of hearths and burnt waste on neolithic sites, and current exploration in to particulate pollution. I was interested in taking the long view of our history of exposure to carbon and other particulates in the air. This research also coincided with the atrocious bush fires that were happening in Australia. Experiencing this from afar through the media, the most pervasive images were of the orange and deep yellow skies. The changing colour of the sky engendered a primeval reaction to this environmental event. Although it felt counter-intuitive to me that the carbon particles created by the fires should make the  sky yellow rather than grey or black, what seemed to be intuitive is that when the sky changes colour, this signals a warning of wide-scale change and threat.

Particle Psychology, installation shot

Tim Smedley's book 'Clearing the Air' makes some of the complicated science behind particulates and air pollution more accessible. He also considers the exposure neolithic people had to carbon particles from hearth fires and drying kilns in confined interior spaces, and the fact that this can be detected in the lungs of neolithic human remains.  I found an article in National Geographic about an amazing set of carved limestone masks from the neolithic period, unearthed in Israel, which is the site of the earliest suspected prehistoric hearth (defined as a place used repeatedly for fire, rather than as a one-off event). I thought it would be interesting to use the mask, obviously an important cultural form to neolithic humans, as a way to reference the carbon culture of this time period.

With distant and nearby focal points in mind, I wanted to use a sculptural vocabulary combining both 'ancient' and 'synthetic' materials. In my next post I will explore how this vocabulary came together and reflect on how it could develop in future.

Particle Psychology, installation shot

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