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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Costello, workbooks

Art Studio Week 2, 26-31 July 2020

Technical workshop, Artmaking and one-on-one mentoring with Richard and Shannon and Flat Earthers Artist Talk.

1. TECHNICAL WORKSHOP I've been keen for a while now to explore the Design technical workshop area - it has mould making, metal and wood workshops, 3-d laser printing, loud music and machines everywhere. We completed an induction course which allows us to use the workshop.

Caitlin demonstrated the 3-d laser printer which just fascinated me. I am very keen to create a large resin sculpture of the cicada shell using this technique and referencing it with the female bronze shape. Both seem to speak to the Void, the source of creativity. The scaffolding created automatically by the 3-d laser software is quite sculptural in its own right and I think by incorporating this into the artwork it will speak to modern non-human technologies and other forms of intelligence.

As Massey's scanner is not detailed enough for very small objects, Caitlin suggested I contact Jason Mitchell, a lecturer in Design, for other options. I have contacted Weta and Te Papa at his suggestion and hope to hear back soon. Caitlin also recommended Zebrush and Sculptris, a software program for online sculpting, that will create files for the 3-d printer.

Caitlin then did a mould making exercise with us using clay and PinkySil (a silicone product). The detail it retains is remarkable but Caitlin said its integrity lasts for about 6 months.


Continuing with the exploration of the cicada shells, I started piling them on top of each other to see how well they could knit together and hold a shape.

The idea of pyramids seemed an interesting shape to consider given the narrative of rebirth or metamorphosis contained in the final in-star molt of the cicadas. After exploring google I stumbled upon the Mastaba - an Egyptian burial house construction that predates the pyramids, borrowed from Mesopotamian civilisation. Mastaba means "house of eternity" and was built into a bench-like shape using mud from the Nile river, formed into bricks and sundried. It's a spectacular shape full of parallelograms and rectangles. It was the inspiration for Christo and Jeanne-Claude's The Mastaba, a project for the United Arab Emirates begun in 1977 using 410,000 multi-colored oil barrels.

I created a cast shape made out of paper by following a you-tube on origami paper bins and practiced gently vibrating the cicadas in it to see if they could hold the shape...

Speaking with Shannon and Richard they offered these insights -

  1. Speaks to community structures

  2. Consider installing this sculpture in a large room

  3. Have cicadas positioned in hidden-away places to be discovered unexpectedly

  4. Continue exploring the materiality of the cicada shells

  5. Check out artists Tim Wagg, Rachel Whitehead and Mark Manders who all use casting in their practice.

Photographing the object enabled me to view the cicada skein in more detail i.e. the small hairs and antennae, the legs, the different undersides for male and female, the connective tissue remaining inside the shell from the molt, the cutaneous quality of the shell which is similar to our finger nails. By enlarging the images, it will allow others to appreciate these intricacies too.

Seeing Letters and Documents, Dane Mitchell's large, glossy photographs of documents at the Adam Art Gallery gave me an idea of size, format and positioning. This will require more knowledge in photography than I presently possess!


The Flat Earth panel included 4 artist from around the world, connecting into the Massey lecture room via zoom and chaired by ? using a voice distorting device that sounded quite other worldly/lost in space. The premise of the talk was to challenge the notion of pedagogies - who tells our history, who is omitted and why - and examine our current media landscape that is both fractured and eccentric. They discussed "how Flat Earth theory and other conspiracies emerge to challenge 'voices of authority' and 'expert information' to circulate and be trusted during a time of emergency." (Kelly Pendergast)

This is an extract from Antistatic (Anna and Kelly Pendergast)...

"Gabrielle talked about the search for the missing subject i.e. those who have been omitted and elided from history. When we’re looking at stories, we’re starting to ask “who is telling this story? Who is it about? Who does it serve? Who is missing?”. Gabrielle’s discussion of “Black time” refers to strategies for time-making and time-keeping that don’t just rely on strictly chronological understandings, and don’t require a clear step-by-step continuity between the current moment, history, and the future. For Black Americans, part of the reason for seeking for missing subjects, and looking to understand non-flat versions of history, is because of the catastrophic rupture caused by slavery. This was a break in geography — a ripping of people from one geography into a new one — and a break in temporality — tearing whole families and communities from their embodied histories and genealogies.

A useful recent model for searching for missing subjects, and a different way of researching and understanding history, is the idea of the “undercommons.” (Fred Moten and Stefano Harney). An idea of “fugitive study”, learning outside of the classroom, searching for missing subjects, refusing the authority and the university and traditional models of pedagogy.

Teaching and queer kinship. Ways for bringing attention to our elders, our genealogy, the people we owe our worlds to Lisi’s Freedom Movement video — an archive, with a spreadsheet. Reclaiming histories, learning to cite our elders, etc.A way to do due diligence to the missing subject, to bring lost stories into the present, and consider alternative geneologies." (Excerpt from Antistatic - Anna and Kelly Pendergast)


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