Aleksandra Mir «Gravity» 2006.
This photo was taken in Sheffield, UK, July 2006. I am visiting an agricultural tank graveyard looking for parts for my biggest monumental sculpture to date, a 20m high rocket to be built out of junk. I am posing in front of the best find of the day, what will form the bottom part of the rocket. It is a discarded tank from a toothpaste factory. The rocket will be erected for only 5 days before it gets dismantled and all parts returned to where they originally came from or sold off as scrap. So as much as a very big sculpture, this is also just another ephemeral event.
The project is a new commission by Art Catalyst, supported by the Henry Moore Foundation and built for the show Space Soon at the Camden Roundhouse, London, 9 - 13 September 2006
The Roundhouse is an incredibly solid and gracious space originally conceived for industrial use. Through its current renovation, the purpose is to transform it to a permanent art space, and so I revert it back again to host my 'Rocket factory', much like NASA's 'Barn' at the Kennedy Space Center. The circular stage and 20 m+ high elevation is perfect for the cylindrical shape of my rocket, which is also structurally designed to fit exactly into that space.
What are the dimensions of the rocket? What will be made of and what is the rational behind this?
20m high. It will be built out of junk, discarded parts from our immediate environment that have already served their purpose in other parts of society and that can be easily traced back to their original and respective functions. The main bottom part measuring 3m in diameter is a tank from a toothpaste factory. There are a variety of other tanks, heavy car tires, pipes and containers of various sort. The idea of using found objects, cultural residue, or garbage, stands in direct opposition to the utopia of new shiny things. It also means I can work with to a certain degree a ready made aesthetic, using stuff that is already telling a lot of stories. This is appropriate and very rewarding since I am not a rocket engineer and I am not looking for that sort of credibility at all.
On the other hand, the pragmatics of working with discarded and old materials is 10 times harder than making something new from scratch. The labor behind the scene; to create a viable structure, the sourcing of materials and the meeting of safety regulations alone takes months to research, assess and clear. The production therefore depends on numerous factors and lots of other people having their say. So the result is always going to be the effect of a process of negotiation between my personal whims, engineering factors, availability of materials, their properties and legality, the space requirements, worker regulations and public safety codes. Leaving a big portion of my work in the hands of others is something I have had to do by necessity but is also something I very much enjoy. This way of working always leaves a collective sense of accomplishment and produces a shared labor of love - a playfulness and sense of joy I hope is always going to be infused in my work.
interview by Jes Fernie with Aleksandra Mir for Blueprint Magazine, London, July 2006.