Monday, November 09, 2009

Four to one against

Neil Dawson once said that there is no such thing as a temporary outdoor sculpture. His point was that to survive at all temporary outdoor works had to be as secure, as well designed and as robust as permanent ones. The wind – as Neil himself once discovered to his cost – blows with the same strength on the temporary and permanent alike. This reality is one faced by the four plinth project outside Te Papa: an exposed site, a lot of foot traffic day and night and a big space to fill with not just one sculpture but four.

Bearing all this in mind, how would you expect four sculptures on four plinths to cost out? Did anyone come up with $6,250 each? That’s what we’re talking about for the next project which has been awarded to Ilam trained Wellington artist Peter Trevelyan. We’ve posted before about what an absurdly small amount of money is allocated for this large sculptural project. The first contender, Regan Gentry, sensibly opted for a work using cheap rugged materials (Number 8 fencing wire) in his homage to the popular hobby art of wire tree sculpture, but Peter Trevelyan is taking a different tack with his work Mimetic Brotherhood.

Film maker Stephen Spielberg famously claimed that his big lesson from making Jaws was to never again work with mechanical sharks and never shoot a film on water. The same might be said for mirrors and hydraulics in public sculpture. That Trevelyan can even consider making four hydraulically moving sculptures for $25,000 is extraordinary, but that each work is covered in mirrors and has to stay in motion for months on end ventures way beyond the usual demands placed on temporary outdoor sculpture. Let’s hope Trevelyan’s contract with the Wellington Sculpture Trust puts the replacement of mirror parts, the maintenance of the hydraulics and third party insurance on someone other than the artist.
Image: Bruce the hydraulic shark used in Jaws