The artwork that the London-based artist Conrad Shawcross has installed in the Grand Hall of the Mudam in Luxembourg is basically a giant machine that produces rope. Visitors are able to climb the hexagonal structure via two staircases and watch how the spinning machine slowly builds the rope. In this video, we have a closer look at Conrad Shawcross’ kinetic artwork.
The exhibition, curated by Marie-Noëlle Farcy and Clément Minighetti runs until May 6, 2012.
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“I’m fascinated by issues to do with certainty and scientific imaginings such as the shape of the universe and movements such as string theory. I see Science as an absolutely rational empirical structure which builds upon itself. Yet as it grows it is actually fundamentally unstable, like a big tower or building that is built on precarious stilts.” Conrad Shawcross
The interests of Conrad Shawcross are mainly focused on scientific and philosophical questions in areas such as mathematics and epistemology. These disciplines combine in his artistic work to create pictures which, like the experimental mathematical models in a science museum, make complicated connections or fundamental theoretical concepts visible so that people can experience them, but without explicitly naming them. The frequent use of wood and the sheer size of the kinetic sculptures by Conrad Shawcross also create an anachronistic effect: like gigantic machines from the early days of industrialisation they jolt and vibrate, go round and round and produce things with a direct usefulness which seems completely intangible – rather like basic scientific research.
The Nervous Systems (Inverted), an installation designed specifically for the Grand Hall of the Mudam, is similar to a number of other machines created since 2003 by Conrad Shawcross, an enthusiastic sailor, which produce rope, which then usually is separated into its individual strands again.
The impressive towering form of this metaphorical machine is reminiscent of both the large-scale technological installations of modern nuclear physics and the spinning jenny, the first automatic spinning machine of the industrial age. Its hexagonal structure, the double helix of the spiral staircase and the threads which converge like rays on a single point create visual associations with the latest insights and theories of science, from the analysis of the genetic sequence to string theory in hypothetical physics. The slowness of the movements also clearly articulates the theme of time, which is present in both of its possible basic forms, i.e. in the cyclical repetition of the 162 bobbins and the linear progression of the rope which is produced.
Conrad Shawcross’ The Nervous Systems (Inverted) thus provides an artistic statement on subjects which are on the boundary between physics and metaphysics. His mysterious machine remains enigmatic, paradoxical and fascinating.
Conrad Shawcross was born in 1977 in London, where he lives and works.
The exhibition is organised with the support of Kurt Salmon and in collaboration with the Victoria Miro Gallery, London.