Sunday, June 21, 2009

Concrete Camera Parts...

Lens pins. 2009. 3.5 cm (1.5"). Concrete, pigment, gold leaf.

This is an extension of the ideas I was writing about in my previous blog about the concrete cameras. I used the same silicone mold, but only cast small parts of it in the medium of concrete. As I mentioned before, the process of seeing is what interests me, so I have gold-leafed what would be the glass lens in these pieces. I'm still exploring the contrast between precious and non-precious in the jewelry world, so concrete and gold leaf are perfect to express that.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Concrete Cameras

Concrete Camera 1

This is a concept I have been thinking about for some time and am now beginning to resolve, having cast and finished the first two in the series. The concept is that "seeing" is the important part of the creative process; it's perception, not the objects or the media that we use to express our ideas. The central truths of the creative process are in the seeing, or to put it another way, in our points of view.

A concrete camera somehow gets closer to this truth. It has weight and presence. We want to pick it up to see if it works, if we can see through it to capture an image – but we can't. In the first camera (cast from a mold I made of a 1949 Leica, an archetype camera if there ever was one) even the lens is concrete. Nothing is functional, but it reminds us of the process of taking pictures, of seeing, of choosing a subject. My initial idea was to make a lot of these and leave them as artifacts at scenic locations in the countryside, like fossilized records of what we used to record things.

In the second camera I cast a lens in place. (I had earlier applied gold leaf to the back of the lens.) I like the fact that the clarity of the lens connects with the purity of the idea of seeing – and contrasts with the crudeness of the concrete – even though the light goes nowhere, never exposes film, never records anything.

Concrete Camera 2

I'm not sure where the series is going now. A local camera store was able to give me some old lenses that they didn't want, so I have been taking them apart for parts, so I have no shortage of those. I have also been making small concrete pins by casting into parts and corners of the mold.

The concrete mix in these pieces is half sand, half grey Portland cement with the usual additives like stone dust and fibres. The mold is a two-part silicone material that I have written about in other blog postings. The finish is an acrylic colour rubbed into the surface, then a flat clear acrylic spray as a sealer.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Concrete Arches from 1910

Former water filtration plant in Owen Sound, Ontario

Last weekend in an Open Doors tour in my local town of Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada, I discovered what few people even know exists: the abandoned water filtration plant. It was built in 1910 of poured concrete and you can still see the wood grain on the boards that were used to form the graceful arch structure which makes up two 'rooms' each 160' X 80'. Water from the Sydenham River was let into the chambers where it was filtered through a two-foot depth of sand, then through a 12" pipe six miles to the small town. A crew of 400 took two years to build the filter system.

Every couple of months the sand had to be removed and washed, then put back in the rooms through round holes in the roof. The entire structure was buried in earth and grass grown on the top. Over 2,000,000 gallons of water a day was treated by the system.

The filtration system has been closed since the 1960's and due to vandalism is only open to the public on special occasions. You can still walk over the grass on top of the structure and peek in one locked gate by following a trail in the Inglis Falls Conservation area. Owen Sound and Shallow Lake were early centres for Portland cement production from the 1880's.