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Manifest Identity

(Live Installation, Milton Keynes, Sept 2018) mannequins, postcards of Milton Keynes, fibre rod, rubble netting.

Created as the culmination of my residency for GroundworkMK. All the materials used are part of my regular sculptural vocabulary. It brings together strands of my thinking about the space around us, about personhood and identity, and about grief. It is dedicated to the wonderful Chaz Scott, from whose loss we shall never recover. For details, scroll below the gallery.

Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to take my own photographic record of the work, but others have kindly donated images.

 

Concept:
This piece developed from a strand of my work that is concerned with ideas of space and dimensionality, particularly dimensions that we can’t apprehend. The postcards are a sort of topographical metaphor for the MK that is in the spaces between; the dimensions that are locked away from us.
At the same time, after the loss of someone close, I was thinking about persons as objects in the world. I was dwelling upon the universal human conundrum of how, in death, the ‘person’ has gone, in spite of the continued existence of the bodily vessel. What is it exactly that has gone? What was it that comprised that person? I became interested in how data and narrative sticks itself to material objects (including human bodies) like dust in static. And the objects (including people) become a sort of manifestation that is burdened with all that is stuck to it in this way. And that becomes what or who we are. Our identity.
It almost seems like a perfect mirroring – this one set of concepts – these extra dimensions – that exist in objective reality, yet we can never perceive them; versus the other set of things that are not of the material world, and yet which we experience in the most immediate and profound of ways, and are arguably that which determines identity.
I decided I wanted to try to bring together these two almost contradictory truths about the nature of our reality. I tried to do this by live installation. I am bringing together the topologies of the postcards, with the empty bodily vessels of mannequins, and attempting to create an identity in a particular moment – something that is of this time, and this place (Milton Keynes) but further ensnaring something more profound, and more human, and less physical. I hope this further identity will be acquired from the materials, which have gathered their own ‘dust’ narrative, from being used repeatedly in my other works.
More About the Physics:
We live in our familiar three dimensions of width, height, and depth, plus time. As humans we are not capable of experiencing anything other than that, despite physics telling us that there are likely to be 11 dimensions. It is theorized by some physicists that some of these dimensions could in fact be contracted to a tiny scale – such that we could perceive them in theory if we could see small enough – in much the same way as a cable is a line to us, but a cylindrical object to an ant crawling on it.
The postcards make an alternative landscape. For me they become like what physicists call a brane (short for membrane), and represent our reality, in the context of wider dimensionality. This is also an allusion to the idea in cosmology that objects inside black holes are also represented by data kept on an outer membrane of that black hole, and that our reality may even be just a projection of that data.
The Materials:
A lot of my work involves rendering 2-d paper to 3-d – this is a very significant act for me – a  metaphor for the other dimensions around us that we can’t appreciate.
Postcards have featured in several of my works, as do fibre rod and rubble netting. I hope the non-material narrative these components have acquired will impart some of this ineffable identity to the artwork.
The mannequins feel like quite sad objects to me, and remind me of sitting with my friend’s remains sealed in a casket at the funeral home, and realising that I had made a mistake in thinking this would allow me to feel close to her – she could not have been further away.