Transcience Exhibit – ‘Brighton Baths Displacement’

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I was very unsure about the merits of this idea and the final piece presented as part of the Transience Exhibition at Baltic 39.

I had experimented with ideas using mirrors as part of an installation but had not really tested it, retrospectively it was a good thing to go straight to a full scale model or trial as the result surpassed my expectations.  The 3d elements were made with a simple card structure of a triangular prism (Toblerone shape).  This proved strong enough but tricky to be accurate with mirror sizes that needed to fix to a central point.  The structures and flat elements all fitted a standard square in two sizes, although there was a degree of trimming and the final version was a bit inaccurate leading to some inconsistent gap sizes.

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The work used photos from scanned black and white negatives and colour digital captures. All were images of the Brighton Health Club and Sea Baths in Melbourne which I had photographed over Christmas – the idea was to create a kind of distorted image combination of this extraordinary location.  I wanted a feeling of capture, of fortress or protected area, of a kind of indolent space protected by its excluding walls

Artist Statement: (perhaps a little contrived)

William Pym

Brighton Baths Displacement (model version).

(Photographs, mirror tiles, card.)

Brighton Baths is a bathing area and private health club, originally built in 1861 in Melbourne, Australia, to protect the bathers’ modesty, now preserved as a historical monument to Australia’s beach culture. The Baths are enclosed by a substantial stockade – a porous fence with walkway, an acre of separated sea and beach.

A colonised beach territory is within, all other beaches are outside.

The light of that heat on our backs is reflected and refracted,

Recast into fugitive memories of experience

Displaced by mirrors into other times and spaces.

Trapped and boundaried, images are

Caught, flattened and pinned to virtual boards

Like botany samples.

 Rare worlds with such creatures in them

Sun sedated behind mental fences

Excluding others, to exclude ourselves.

The simple 60 degree triangular format for both mirror sections and the opposite arraigned photo prisms, created a myriad of reflections, including glimpses of the undersides of the prisms.  This dislocation created some really exciting effects, optical illusions, but not ones that necessarily presented as tricks of light, it genuinely felt as if small worlds were opening up.

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Lots of things to consider now:

  • Movement – as you walked around the piece there was a genuine sense of the piece moving in response – as each reflection responded.  Is this kind of movement more interesting that the work with video last year?
  • The mirror reflects the observer, entirely obvious, but it means that I must think how I want that to work for the viewer, their own image within the artwork presented by me. Does the human face have to be a stronger part of the images presented.  Do I need to acknowledge that the content or space presented needs to be one that the viewer can be part of – or is challenged because they don’t want to be part of it.
  • The Grid thing – so much of what I have done over the two years has been to force things into a grid format, using the square as the unit – there are obvious strengths to this but is it a worn formula?
  • The kaleidoscope – is that what this is?  It certainly appealed to younger visitors and I was delighted by that – the breaking of images into patterns is an abstract quality that all enjoy.  Visitors made connections with David Hockney’s Joiner photo collages and even cubism.
  • Mirrors create space – my most clear reaction was that this partially 3d presentation should become wholly 3d – a mirrored object, a spikey thing or a set of mirrors and images that revolved in some way.

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