SPICEE - the first permanent suspended rotating living air plant sculpture, Friends School, Hobart, Australia - relocated to a more sheltered location - July 2016
Photograph Nic Maxwell
Photograph Nic Maxwell
Nic Maxwell installing SPICEE - the first permanent suspended rotating air plant sculpture, Friends School, Hobart, Australia - March 2015 - after record breaking wind gusts the site proved too much for the work and in July 2016 it was relocated to a more sheltered location.
We got clearance to install the work at 2.15pm. Then after the work was installed at The Friends School Hobart, I managed to shoot about 1 min. of video before the rain came in and we came off the roof, the door was locked, the staff went home and I never got back before I flew back to Melbourne - so here is the limited video
The site of SPICEE suspended rotating air plant sculpture - on North Block Friends School Hobart, Australia as seen from the city
The Tensegrity structure SPICEE, adorned with Tillandsia plants before the installation.
Digital drawing for the living plant sculpture at The Friends School, Hobart.
The selected site at Friends School Hobart to install the tensegrity icosahedron Air plant Sculpture
Digital site drawing for SPICEE
Digital site drawing for SPICEE
From 22 - 29 March 2015 Lloyd was invited to be Quaker in Residence at the Art department in Friends School Hobart.
As part of this residency he spoke to many groups of students about how Quakerism informs his Ecological art.
He was also aiming to work with students to create a living Tillandsia air plant sculpture that will remain at the school and continue to grow. While he has been experimenting with this work since 2008, this will be the first permanent installation of these living art works. When the plants have grown in a few years time, we are planning to harvest the excess growth to create more living air plant art works with another group of young enthusiastic creative art students. " In an age of pressing environmental concerns, as an ecological artist, the greatest legacy I can leave to future generations is an art work that cleans the environment, feeds the spirit and grows to offer the next generation of young artists a living medium to harvest and then create their own living sculptures".
The project is based on Tensegrity -
Tensegrity, tensional integrity or floating compression, is a structural principle based on the use of isolated components in compression inside a net of continuous tension, in such a way that the compressed members (usually bars or struts) do not touch each other and the prestressed tensioned members (usually cables or tendons) delineate the system spatially.
Then the students were encouraged to play on a small scale to work out how the wires can hold the structure in tension to retain its form before scaling it up, The final work is constructed from stainless steel and uses 6 tubes one for each of the Acronym SPICEE - this represents the Quaker testimonies and bear witness to Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, Earth Care. A testimony is neither a rule nor a creed, but is both an ideal to strive for and a way for our lives to speak. No testimony stands alone. They are like threads which we weave in and out of each other to create the material of our lives.
Lloyd spoke to the students about as in the tensegrity model, when these testimonies are strong in our lives and an event or situation places pressure on one testimony, the tensional intergity of the others pushes back to resolves the equilibrium of the one in stress.
The wires that hold the structure in place then have the air plants attached with a special wire.
Before the project began, these questions were asked by the school.
How might students be involved with the making and construction?
I am open to this - the more student the quicker the work can be created. Students would be involved in planning, design, model making - I would imagine this would take 1 -2 hrs. With 10 or 12 students the construction would take another 2 -3 hrs - more students less time, so it is a collaborative project where I introduce how it will work and direct the project.
How many at a time? A whole class or small groups or are they observing the artist making?
I would be happy to see as many students actively involved as possible - those who are not involved directly could be involved in documenting the making with photographs and video.
What is the time line for finishing the sculpture?
In terms of time line I would like to complete and install the work while I am there. From past experience if the materials and plants are on site it could be achieved in a few days. The installation could take place at a later date.
Will there need to be access to the workshop and machinery?
Very limited use of tools are required to construct the Tensegrity work- This is a reason for choosing this method of construction - a drill to drill holes in the ends of the poles, wire cutters, crimp tool, spanner. Further tools may be needed depending upon the chosen site to locate the work but depending upon the site the installation work may not be done by the students
This will need to be negotiated with Technology, there has to be training before a person can use the machines.
The Facilities and Services manager asked:
What is the shape, size of the sculpture, what is the frame to be made of?
The poles can either be stainless steel or aluminium - obviously Stainless is heavier but stronger - for a work of this scale either will work - the scale of the work is not intended to be huge - the poles would be no longer than 1.5m - the shape will depend upon a design resolved by the students - but in reality they will find with only 5 or 6 poles the design choice is limited - This is part of the learning
The wires that hold the poles together would be 128Kg stainless wire with appropriate thimbles - This has proved to work for past works of much larger scale and weight.
Will the sculpture be suspended?
There is the possibility that it could suspend but it could be mounted onto a wall or even sit on the ground - the work will be light weight and very strong, experience of having similar works installed for 14 months in central Melbourne and other locations has shown that the force of any strong wind is dissipated by the rotation of suspended works - in the past these have been tested in winds over 138Km/h - the same winds that have torn other sculptures down and toppled a brick wall in Central Melbourne that killed several people
On which campus is the installation wished to occur?
As I am not familiar with the campus, in terms of this I would best be guided by the staff once I am at the school
· What is the expected date of the installation to occur?
Ideally it would be good to do this before or during the last day of my visit - Friday 27 March - but as mentioned it could take place at a later time
What is the duration of the installation?
The concept I am exploring in this work and would like to introduce the students to is to produce living sculptures that are permanently installed and are super sustainable - that means the plants grow to create a living art medium that can be harvested by another generation of artists to experiment with and create new living art works. As plants they are capturing carbon but these particular plants are able to do this at night and produce oxygen in the dark when other plants are asleep. No other art medium is super sustainable, so environmentally it offers a great model for the future. However the success of the work can be reviewed on a regular basis - similar works have been installed the Baldessin Studio where I live for over 8 years with no maintenance.
Are there any other specific requirements, e.g. watering, maintenance etc. that we need to be aware of?
The wonderful attribute of the sophisticated biology these plants have evolved is that placed in the right aspect there is NO soil. No watering or nutrient system. No maintenance at all.
In nature any roots are aerial and are formed only for attachment to a rock or tree. They are completely dissimilar to vertical gardens or roof gardens that require regular upkeep. This is the reason why I only work with these plants.
Similar installations of works with these plants have been carried out successfully in central Melbourne as part of the City of Melbourne Arts Grants Program 2013 for 14 months, CH2 building MCC for 18 months on a north facade in a wind tunnel, Levels 56, 65, 91 and 92 Eureka Tower Melbourne for 8 months where the winds reach over 200Km/h ( tallest building in the world with plants a top). I have also had these plants installed outdoors in a coastal environment in Dunedin for 4 years and in Paris for 4 years.
While these plants grow at a very slow rate they will grow asexually - that is they grow, flower and then divide into pups or babies. After several years these need to be harvested - but as mentioned this creates a new resource to create more living art works - so once the initial investment is made in purchasing the plants the living art medium self replicates and provides a raw resource for the next generation of students. On past experience the harvesting would occur about every 3 -4 years. The plants will flower once a year with vibrant red bracts and small purple flowers. Insects including bees and honey eating birds like the Eastern Spine bill will feed from these. For some reason Praying Mantis like to lay eggs on these plants and this even happened in Central Melbourne.
In a few years time, we are planning to harvest the excess growth to create more living air plant art works with another group of young enthusiastic creative art students.