Phil Ross

September 4, 2006 at 12:38 am Leave a comment

“Triple Now Power,” 7′ x 6′ x 3′ Salvaged redwood, steel.

In the Museum of Natural History in NYC there is an eight-foot wide cross section of a Sequoia sempervirens, its polished surface engraved with important dates in human history at corresponding growth rings. It is both awesome and troubling to stand before this several thousand-year-old tree: awesome to see epic time in a physical manifestation, troubling to think about the need for this type of graffiti in the first place. My desire in making Triple-Now-Power is to suggest a view of time that is more complex than a progressive chronology

Many of the artworks that I make are created through the design and construction of controlled environmental spaces. In these environments I nurture and transform a variety of living species into sculptural artifacts, much as one might train the growth of a Bonsai tree. My desire is that a person encountering this living artwork will consider biological phenomena and entities within a frame of social and historic contexts.

Below is an image of a recent project, Juggernaut, which is a self-contained survival capsule for one living plant. Three blown glass enclosures provide a controlled hydroponic environment; the plant’s roots are submerged in nutrient-infused water, while LED lights supply the necessary illumination. I have drawn on two culturally divergent traditions for Juggernaut: Chinese scholar’s objects and Victorian glass conservatories, which share the belief that nature is best understood when seen through the lens of human artifice.

Juggernaut, 2004, 24″ x 36″ 10″

“Composed,” 1998

6’ x 5’ x 12’ PVC tubing, shrink-wrap, compost.

In 1998 I was invited for three months to live and work in residence at The Headlands Center for The Arts (HCA). At this time I was building different kinds of structures to help make compost, and was interested in using the vegetable waste from the meals being prepared for the artists. Because HCA is located on federal parkland it was not possible to make a compost pile outside- this would introduce foreign organic elements into the protected environment of the park. So I decided to build a composter in my studio, which was on the second floor of an old army barracks building. Compost is a complex living ecosystem, and needs to be exposed to air circulation, bacteria and insects in order to digest and transform organic materials. The clear plastic structure was attached to an open window, allowing the ambient flora and fauna to visit the pile. This structure was closed to the interior of the building, which made it difficult to get more scraps inside. In order to do this I had to place a ladder against the building and pour buckets of material into my studio from the outside.

“Was Below, Now Above,” 2002

This sculpture was grown at the Johnson oyster Company in Point Reyes, thirty miles North of San Francisco. I made a set of seven steel ribs that were covered with young, microscopically small oysters. Over a two and a half year period these oysters grew as a colony while suspended beneath long wooden docks on the ocean’s surface. During this time their shells fused together into a solid mass. The colony was then removed from the sea and moved to an inlet with brackish water. The warm, less salty water killed the oysters. Over a three week period bacteria and scavengers removed all the soft tissues. The finished sculpture is twenty one feet long by five feet at the widest point and around four feet tall.



Entry filed under: adaptation, artist works.

Erwin Wurm hand-knit leprosy bandages

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