Steve Cripps «Pyrotechnic Sculpture» 1974-82.


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Lentil Bombs.

In 1982, Stephen Cripps fired rockets along wire guides to crash into and explode against wall mounted cymbals. ~ from Performance Magazine, Simon Herbert.

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His sculptural work often incorporated an element which meant that the sculpture destroyed itself which made for easy comparisons with the auto destructive work of Jean Tinguely. His performances were dangerous, exhilarating, atavistic and seismic. But little remains of a body of work the central component of which was ephemeral. There remain photographs of his exhibitions, performances and also drawings for elaborate projects which were never realised (and some which were unrealisable). This reliquary nevertheless give us a strong flavour of his obsessions: The melancholy of the post industrial, military hardware, fireworks, light, smoke and amplified sound. There is also the recurring idea that sound is a thing which can be realised as a form as if an alchemical shift can take place when the elements of sound and light are organised in a particular way. Two instances of this from Cripps' Notes : «Sound, Physical air waves tangible visible» and «A speaker being subjected to extreme distortion throws out ball bearings onto percussion.»

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David Toop refers to a piece in which Cripps collaborated with Paul Burwell as «the visceral impact of sound as airoglyph, the sculptural movement of vibrations, the play of base elements.»

The most interesting of the accounts by those that saw Cripps working refer to the physical and psychological effect of Cripps' work, rather than the "ooh-ahh" responses one might hear at a fireworks display, they refer to a displacement and blending of sensory responses. The drawings include similar attempts to disrupt boarders. An underwater ballet involving divers and an anti-submarine net at the mouth of a harbour. A mechanical garden. The Decipher Recipher in which the graphs from a brain scanner are codes.

Cripps' notes say «World Trade Figures etc» would be transferred on to magnetic tape and played back as music. Firework boats. An organ powered by a turbo Jet engine. Speakers with very long leads to a microphone attached to rockets which are projected into the sky.

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«I see explosives as my paints... there is an instinctive paranoia about explosives, my show concludes the opposite of this, they are not being used for all the dire things they can be used for. Some very gentle things can come from explosions.» ~ Steve Cripps.

sources: the-improvisor.com, spc.org