The zip ties and bicycle wheels of life
What do you get when you combine zip ties, dryer vent, wood, a bicycle wheel, car air fresheners, masking tape, paint and other quirky household items?
A piece of art thats sure to get people engaged — or so believe artists James Cooper and Russell de Moura.
The two men, who founded Fungus Arts Collective last summer, have constructed their first large-scale art project in Bermuda together. The piece, Ouroboros — A Cycle of Life, is currently on display in the Bermuda National Gallery Bacardi Limited Biennial.
Mr Cooper said their aim was to make art more accessible on the Island, by encouraging the audience to get hands-on and interact with the piece.
The photographer said they also wanted to attract some of the traffic coming into the City Hall building — and entice them to visit the art galleries there.
It kind of started from asking ourselves the question who really sees art in Bermuda?, he said. We knew we would make something for the Biennial, so we decided to answer our own question and the answer was not many people see it.
So we thought we would make something that wasnt physically in the gallery, but still connected to the gallery — that was the starting point. We wanted to do something to resolve the issue.
Mr Cooper and Mr de Moura, a freelance graphic designer, spent four months brainstorming. It took the duo two weeks to build the contraption and then four nights to install it, making sure all the components worked together.
They also enlisted help from craftsmen Roger Simmons and Robert Wilkinson, artist Emma Sloan and fabricator Ian Menzies.
On a basic level, the work involves taking a ball to a birth tower near the Bermuda Society of Arts Gallery and watching as it whirls and jumps through an obstacle-like course to the ground level of City Hall.
But the piece has a deeper meaning; it represents Erik Eriksons eight stages of development, which sees humans move from birth to death.
It starts with an infant stage, represented by some comfortable cushions, moves on to a school stage, depicted through books and learning materials, and concludes with a mature elder stage when the ball drops.
Mr Cooper said: Its really about life cycling around and around. This was something we came up with as a way of organising the design of it.
I like things that can be visually interesting, but if you want to spend more time on it looking into the conceptual ideas behind it then you can.
The two friends had talked about collaborating for a while, then one day last year while having a couple of beers decided to take the idea more seriously.
Mr de Moura said the collaboration allowed them to think outside the box more and push the boundaries of what is considered art.
I am a designer by profession and James was an exhibiting artist for a while, so this is just a collaboration of artist and designer coming together and means both our skill sets can be represented, Mr de Moura said.
We can also make something really different than we might do individually.
Last December the artists, along with craftsman Mr Simmons, decided to test out their concepts at the Ghetto Biennale in Haiti.
The challenge was they couldnt bring anything with them to the earthquake-wrecked nation. They had limited resources and just a week to put everything together.
A lot of the art in this particular Biennial is to be made on set and in Haiti and we had some ideas [beforehand] but most of which we couldnt do because of the lack of order, said Mr de Moura.
We found conditions were so hard to work with including purchasing things, and locations for some of the ideas we had werent available.
In the end they created a leaning building with a massive crack in it — and used tape to hold it together.
Mr Cooper said it was a metaphor for what was going on in the Caribbean nation and asked Haitians to consider the question: how serious are aid organisations about helping them?
He said many groups provided aid that was assisting the country up to a certain point, but in some cases it was like the tape and just a temporary fix.
Mr Cooper said the piece was well received and allowed people to get hands-on, moving some of the pieces around.
That is satisfying as an artist to have that interaction with the people involved with it, he said.
We wanted to break down the barrier with the arts and the people to create more of a connection between the artists who are creating it and the people who are looking at it.
There is room for that relationship to be more personal rather than coming in and staring at something, to create your experience and make it a bit less passive.
They are trying to push the same boundaries in Bermuda, Mr Cooper said.
One of the main functions of the Ouroboros piece was to get locals into the building and draw them up the stairs to interact with the rest of the interesting pieces in the exhibit, he explained.
Mr Cooper said it was important to the design team to use recognisable materials, many of which you can get from a construction site or store like Gorhams.
Part of our work, I think theres an element you can do it yourself and to me that is important.
To me art is a conversation and a form of communicating so if you are making art that is very cold it maybe isnt working. That is not that profound a thing, but you are really trying to make something with the material choices that is saying art can be fun too.
The downside of asking people to get hands-on with the design is the designers have had to return to City Hall and repair bits and bobs. But in the end, they say, its worth it.
Mr de Moura said: It was very important to us to make it accessible, interesting and fun. And the greatest thing is when someone comes to this space and smiles, it means they got it.
The BNG exhibition runs until November 24. Admission is free.
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