New artists at Sculpture by the Sea
Emergent is a collaboration between Australian sculpture network member Christine Simpson, and sound and performance artist Hirofumi Uchino from Japan, currently based in Sydney. Both artists have been collaborating since 2018 and were finalists for the North Sydney Art Prize 2019 with their artwork Henka. Both Henka and Emergent are artworks that combine form and sound.
Process and Journey
The process began with a visit to Marks Park (Sydney, Bondi) by both artists to select a suitable site for their collaborative work. They were attracted to the trees clustered in the mid area of the park which forms part of the sculpture walk for Sculpture by the Sea.
The initial concept was to create a sculptural metaphor for the “constancy of change”, reflecting the ever changing weather patterns and environment of the Sydney coastline. From these conceptual beginnings Simpson decided to create a sculpture that was to “morph” out of the tree trunks at that site and Uchino was to “throw” some sort of soundscape into the artwork. The initial thought was to use natural materials and that this “morphed structure” would appear as an extension of the tree’s trunks and branches – as some sort of woven structural phenomena.
Simpson and Uchino discussed throwing the sound from quite a distance away, across Marks Park to land in the sculpture. This was to be achieved using a directional speaker which has the capacity to “throw sound” for up to a kilometre in distance. This concept was presented for submission to the curatorial panel of Sculpture by the Sea as a drawing and a written concept, and was successfully selected.
It became apparent after the first site meeting, that the collaborators would not be allowed to “throw the sound” from any great distance – it was to remain within the confines of the footprint of the artwork. They were also advised that the proposed sculpture, as a hanging structure, would have to accommodate for the dead weight of an adult male hanging from it, (in keeping with the health and safety regulations of Sculpture by the Sea).
These constraints then dictated the materials which could be used to build the sculpture. The concept therefore shifted from a natural woven process to a welded process, consisting of a stainless steel frame with an aluminium mesh skin. Both materials are light weight and strong enough to handle the exposed, and often inclement weather and windy conditions for this section of Sydney coastline. Simpson and Uchino then decided that their collaborative work would be a structure suspended through the negative spaces of the tree-line, rather than a structure morphing out of the tree itself.
As the work developed they decided upon a colour field and refined their ideas for the sound scape. They both wanted the artwork to appear as a kind of rainbow energy body, that was in conversation with the trees, and at the same time acting as a metaphor for change.
Simpson wrote the following “haiku”* poem responding to the form
“bending through branches,
Twisting and turning colours
Release my spirit”
*(“haiku” is a very short form of japanese poetry in three phrases)
This poem was then transposed by Uchino into Morse code and from this code Uchino composed a sound-scape. The composition interestingly has a very spatial element and sounds somewhat like a whale moving through the atmosphere with some kind of industrial edge.
To be well prepared for installation the collaborators had three dress-rehearsals on site. First was with a template constructed of rattan and mild steel. Then another with the stainless steel frame, and finally, one with the aluminium mesh skin. Originally the structure was welded into four segments. However, after the second rehearsal a decision was made to weld the work into just two sections. After the colouring process, the installation was finally assembled on-site with the aluminium mesh panels stitched over the two adjoining segments. The directional speaker was positioned in one of the tree branches, behind, and above the work, enabling the sound-scape to project down and through the work to the ground below.
The exhibition was open to the public from 24th October until 10th November 2019 during which time many thousands of visitors experienced and became inspired by the vibrant and challenging work along the coastline.
Author: Elly Buckley
Elly Buckley is a sculpture network member, an artist and our coordinator in Australia