Structures

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In a State
sculpture, balance, harmony, found objects, garbage reconsidered, garbage as collage, 3 dimensions, kinetic sculpture, "stuff", stuff of life, adapting materials, formal reconsideration of an object, moving sculpture, function and form, steel sculpture, using vehicle parts in visual sculpture, balance, variety, shape, form, proportion and scale, repetition,
description
start quote[Ad hoc construction solutions] have always interested me, they always seem to be more animated than the final construction that they are temporarily subordinated to.end quote
-- Bernie Miller

Bernie Miller has worked extensively with  foundAn image, material, or object, not originally intended as a work of art, that is obtained, selected, and exhibited by an artist, often without being altered in any way. The cubists, dadaists, and surrealists originated the use of found images / materials / objects. Although it can be either a natural or manufactured image / material / object, the term readymade refers only to those which were manufactured. Also known in the French, objet trouvé. (Artlex.com)  objects in his mechanical, moving sculptures and other artists have used similar techniques of re-use. Perhaps the most notable of these is Kurt Schwitters. Schwitters’ Merzbau (a Germanic word he made up to mean “trash buildings”) were collections of  foundAn image, material, or object, not originally intended as a work of art, that is obtained, selected, and exhibited by an artist, often without being altered in any way. The cubists, dadaists, and surrealists originated the use of found images / materials / objects. Although it can be either a natural or manufactured image / material / object, the term readymade refers only to those which were manufactured. Also known in the French, objet trouvé. (Artlex.com)  materials, mostly garbage, assembled into new forms; they were  collagePainting and/or gluing a variety of materials on a prepared surface to create a work of art.  in 3-D, or three dimensions.

Bernie Miller’s In a State is, in some ways, a later reinterpretation of Schwitters’ Merzbau works. If robots had a version of Frankenstein’s monster, it would likely resemble these  kineticExpressing movement. In art, kinetic refers to sculpture that moves, such as a mobile. (Artlex.com)  sculptures. Built from parts of other machines, works such as In a State are reminders of “the stuff” of everyday life and how such stuff has structure and adaptability all its own.

Miller also reminds us that the things we make and use tend to stick around for a long while, even if in various forms. Together, these technological leftovers make up a large portion of our mark on the planet. This work, however, is not purely environmental activism; it also suggests formal considerations. In other words, Miller is asking us to reconsider the objects he uses not as “lamp” and “wheel,” but as  designA plan, or to plan. The organization or composition of a work; the skilled arrangement of its parts. An effective design is one in which the elements of art and principles of design have been combined to achieve an overall sense of unity. Also [applied design], the production of attractive and well crafted functional objects. Subcategories of the design arts include: architecture, bonsai, fashion design, furniture design, graphic design, ikebana, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, stagecraft, textile design, and Web page design. (Artlex.com)  elements in a new, moving sculpture, an art object greater than the sum of its parts.

If you’ve ever seen a structure under reconstruction, you will know what Miller means about “Ad hoc construction solutions” in the quotation above. The scaffolding on the side of a building, the support columns under a rebuilt bridge, or even the braces on teeth, all of these are what Miller calls “animated” simply because we know they are not permanent. Consciously or otherwise, we recognize that certain things which are here now will, in the future, not be here. Or, more accurately, that they will one day take on other forms.

It is this changing of technological structure, and its awkwardness, that is demonstrated by Miller’s moving sculptures. They don’t move in a way that we would necessarily describe as graceful; instead, they move mechanically, artificially... both precise and clumsy in their turning and stretching.

additional resources Things to Think About

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  • Miller talks about “the monumental”.  What does this mean to you? If In A State is a monument, what do you suppose it might be a monument to?

 

Advanced Activity

Create a  kineticExpressing movement. In art, kinetic refers to sculpture that moves, such as a mobile. (Artlex.com)  wind sculpture

  • Design a base using three wooden dowels. Fashion a tower or tripod by taping the tops of the dowels together. The other ends can be pushed into the ground or attached to a flat foundation.
  • Bend some wire around the tower to reinforce it
  • Consider attaching objects to add a sound element such as light weight wood or metal parts, or things that might whistle when the wind blows.
  • Experiment with a number of materials indoors using a motorized fan before placing the sculptures outside.

Link to these sites to find other plans other  kineticExpressing movement. In art, kinetic refers to sculpture that moves, such as a mobile. (Artlex.com)  sculptures or whirligigs:

Online Activity
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Mobiles are a form of  kineticExpressing movement. In art, kinetic refers to sculpture that moves, such as a mobile. (Artlex.com)  art that utilizes air currents and gravity.  To find examples of mobiles as art, research Alexander Calder (1898 – 1976).  Try http://www.calder.org as a starting point.

To create your own  virtualExisting not in actual fact or form, but in essence or effect in the mind, especially as a product of the imagination or of illusion. (Artlex.com)  mobile use the mobile maker.

  • choose branched or arms by clicking on them,
  • choose shapes to hang on the mobile by clicking
  • click to balance the mobile and start movement
Studio Activity

Create a  kineticExpressing movement. In art, kinetic refers to sculpture that moves, such as a mobile. (Artlex.com)   sculptureA three-dimensional work of art, or the art of making it. Such works may be carved, modeled, constructed, or cast. Sculptures can also be described as assemblage, in the round, and relief, and made in a huge variety of media. A sculptor is one who creates sculptures. (artlex.com)  by using recycled motorized parts from discarded small appliances or toy

  • Collect things such as small fans, old stereo turntables, drill motors, electric mixers and mechanical toys that use movements like walking, jumping, sitting up, talking etc.
  • Take the toys and appliances apart to expose the inner workings of the objects. Brainstorm how you might use these parts. Be creative with what you make – it doesn’t have to resemble anything in particular.
  • Redesign the look of the objects; take old materials off, attach other materials such as: plastic cups, small wheels, foam pieces, springs, coloured wires and toy parts by bending or wrapping wire, soldering wires, sewing, taping and gluing.
Studio Activity References

Eyland, Cliff. Terminations of View: A Series of Proposals, by Bernie Miller and Alan Tregebov at Gallery One One One:  http://www.umanitoba.ca/schools/art/galleryoneoneone/term2.html

Bernie Miller at the Mercer Union Digital Archives.  Retrieved from the Internet on February 4th, 2008 at:  http://www.mercerunion.org/archive95/206.html

Miller, Bernie.  Website.  Retrieved from the Internet on February 4th, 2008 at:  http://www.yorku.ca/BodyMissing/artists/bernie/home.html

Paul Petro Contemporary Art.  Bernie Miller.  Retrieved from the Internet on February 4th, 2008 at:  http://www.paulpetro.com/miller/miller.shtml

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning