2014 // Walnut, cast bronze, acrylic, brass, black-oxide steel, steel wire.
Useful Gestures series explores the human instinct to use the material world as an extension of the body. The series is based on primitive tools for fabrication, transportation, and community, which are represented by a mallet, wheel, and bowl.
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Useful Gestures was my first work during my residency at Pier 9. Personally, it was the synthesis of the tension I felt there between the traditional materiality of craft, and the precise, premeditated world of digital fabrication. As a sculpture, the piece raises questions about the world we are creating for ourselves with technological advancement.
The cast bronze is the heart of the sculpture. These parts are icons of the powerful, ancient tools that moved us beyond animal interactions with the material world. These were made by hand, but with the aid of the wood lathe, table saw, and a furnace for casting that is well over 2000 degrees. The bronze is a careful alloy of copper and tin, but it can also be shaped and reformed over and over again. It’s both a natural material, and a controlled process. The hand-carved wood is a primitive contrast to the refinement of bronze casting – these are organic materials shaped by an unbounded process. The acrylic pieces are on the far opposite end of the spectrum – rigorously controlled through computer machining (CNC), made from a man-made, highly artificial material that will not decomposed, and shaped as perfect Platonic forms.
Our technology and precision manufacturing equipment now enables us to create forms, quantities, and materials that have no relationship to any basic needs or simple natural elements. As our capabilities progress in the 21st century, how are these tools changing our engagement with the natural world? We are surrounding ourselves in layer upon layer of ideas, artifacts, and artifice.
For lots more detail on the process, check out the Instructable.