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Basic Bodily Functions

Watch full footage of 'Heartbeat Sculpture' here:

Watch full footage of mockup 'Breathing Sculpture' here:

'Heartbeat Sculpture', photograph of sculpture

This week has been a rather productive week of making and playing with exciting ideas. Pre-lockdown, I wanted to play with performative, moving sculpture, but thought that without workshop facilities that it would put those ideas to hault. However, I've been getting creative with materials and found easy ways to make mockups of sculptures. I wanted to depict basic bodily functions and primal urges, to relate us to meat, and the pointlessness of these basic actions and systems if there is no point to life. So I started with looking at the circulatory

'external heart', Mia Iizawa

system, specifically the heartbeat. I was partially inspired by Mio Iizawa's moving bodily sculptures, specifically the moving hearts, that propel forwards at the same time as the user's heartbeat. Out of left over sculpey clay I had tucked away, a cardboard box, a bit of paint and my mobile, I made a sculpture that had it's own heartbeat. I made a fleshy dome by moulding the sculpey over a bowl, and made little 'pores' in the surface by poking a sewing needle into it, to play with extra bodily details. After the clay was baked, I painted the underside of it with acrylic paint to make 'veins', just visible when the right way up. I taped up a cardboard box, cut a whole in the top and painted it white to make a make shift mini plinth for the sculpture to be places on. Hidden in the box was my mobile phone, which I used (using an app) to create the rhythmic light and to play the heartbeat sound. Due to the hole cut in the top of the box, concealed by the sculpture it meant the light could escape into the sculpture. Due to the transparency of the sculpey, the light was visible from the outside and also lit up the 'veins' more prominantly. I feel that the sound and light worked well played off of each otherto make the heartbeat theme obvious and make this sculpture come to life. To push this work further it could be interesting to have mechanical veins, rather than 2D painted ones, by using tubing and pushing liquid through it, to have movement as well as light and sound. However, if I were to do this is might be best to use another material, as I don't know if it would be obvious enough through the clay and I wouldn't be able to bake the tubing into the clay because it would melt. Ideally it would be nice to have a bigger plinth and a proper light and sound system but for the sake fo the experiment during these limiting times, I think this will do. I also think that maybe it being so close to the ground might work, like some pathetic, insignificant, disgarded blob in the corner.

The next piece that I wanted to make was actually my plan for the end of year show at uni. Inspired by Harrison Pearce's artwork, such as 'The Pressure Not To Believe', with his dynamic blobs. I wanted to make various meaty, fleshy blobs that performed various bodily functions and primal urges that are key to our existence:

1. Breathing

2. Digestion (both eating and excreting)

3. Circulation (but I wasn't completely set on this one)

4. Reproduction (particularly sex)

5. Death

I wasn't sure that I would have all of these complete by the end of the academic year even with a workshop and support, but now that definitely isn't going to happen. So instead I

'The Pressue Not To Believe', Harrison Pearce

thought it best to focus my attention on just one for the hand in and maybe continue with the project over summer or in third year. One of the characteristics that I wanted to take from Pearce's work was the industrial casing, like observatory tanks for a scientific experiment or zoo. So I made mine out of mounting board, super glue, plastic (from plastic file wallets) and paint. Whilst a little filmsy, it still served its purpose for the mockup. I decided to paint mine completely white to make a more clinical feel, but it could be interesting to have the sculpture in a cabinet of curiosities style case, to create that Victorian scientific morbid curiosity feeling. To make the actual blob I layered multiple layers of liquid silicone onto a small clay pot (to give it it's shape) over three or four days. To get the texture on top and add an extra layer to make sure the blob was air tight (so it would expand and contract), I added another layer of silicone but this time

Harrison Pearce

I wrapped it up in cling film while it was setting, to make wrinkles on the 'skin'. As a first attempt at using silicone I was quite impressed with myself! However, silicone is quite hard to cover things with as it sinks to the bottom of the shape. I made a small incision into the back of the silicone blob and stuck a drinking straw in (that I had painted white) and painted the blob pinky fleshy colours. Rather than use electronic air pumps, I was able to blow into the straw and make the sculpture 'breath', almost like an extension of my body, creating the illusion of something more clever going on, but also keeping an organic element to the movements. When I create the real, larger piece, I would like it to have a less structured form, as this looks too sythetic. It needs to be more of a wobbly blob with a sinking form to create a bigger sense of weight for a heavier, struggling, realistic breaths.

I am pleased with both pieces, as I feel that they really show the living meat idea, especially the second piece, which also combines performance with sculpture, which was my aim. They both perform these bodily functions to exist, and they exist for no reason at all, which is representative of our own existences. I am excited to take these ideas further and create more resolved pieces.


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