Sound Work Proposal

As part of THE MACHINE STOPS, I’m proposing a sound work based on the recent scientific discovery and observation of colliding black holes.

If possible (might not be due to lift work), I’d like to place a speaker at the top of the metal frame which opens up the space next to the lift shaft, and one at the bottom, working in a call and response signalling, across the galaxy. If possible (I’ve already made enquiries regarding mimicking birds) the sound should be mimicked by a bird, again suggesting the sublime, as a phenomena beyond form and the physical, the relationship between animal and machine and this cosmic event, which is translated by a machine.

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Space next to the lift shaft at Margret Street.  As the structure is metal I’d propose a bare speaker, using its built in magnet to mount the speaker.  There would have to be either a long lead or two media players.

Edited Statement

Landscape, geography, place and space are strong unifying themes in O’Brien’s work, often as a metaphor for navigating the ambiguous spaces between our shared reality and our personal constructs of reality. His work explores issues of ecology, movement, migration, borders, and openings, commenting on technological, social and political powers that shape the landscape of the anthropocene. Through the appropriation of conversation’s, objects, and sound, ‘THE MACHINE STOPS’ suggests a narrative, which maps the rhythms of the everyday, experienced as a fictional, future archaeological survey of the current state of things.

Burbage Common Install, ooh public art…

I’ve secured a spot at Burbage Common to install the text work (tags).  Not the spot I was hoping for, which was next to the train line, but still within hearing distance of the train and in a spot used by the forrest school.  The plan is to install next Monday, with a statement and a map at the visiter’s centre, and an email address for comments.

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The Common is part heathland/meadow and part woodland which is intersected by the main Stanstead  to  Birmingham train line. The text was collected on the Leicester to Birmingham section of my regular commute to the School of Art.

Bones, Critters and the Fox

The rest of the fox’s remains have been, for a bout two months now, sitting in a bucket of water, being picked clean by what appear to be blood-worms, or gnat larvae.

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This precess offers an insight into how dead tissue gives life to new organisms and the circle of the wild and the really wild, taking place in an artificial, plastic bucket.

RIP – Provocation: The Sublime is Dead


Long Live the Sublime:


The question that seems to be emerging is related to landscape and nature, the sublime, in terms of the way we look on nature and the ‘open’ with both pleasure and fear. The provocation is that – The sublime as a natural force, as something, which in some way transcends the physical, is no longer relevant, as human activity impacts on every part of the planet both within the atmosphere and within the orbit of the earth. This provocation leads us to examine our definition of nature in the age of the anthropocene and begin to explore the sublime as a mediated phenomenon. One of the drivers for this debate is my own personal experience of trying to make art, which explores landscape in its broadest definition. To look upon landscape in a romantic sense, as the beauty of the sublime is to miss the shaping of the land by political and industrial forces. We adjust our own definition of the sublime, for example by seeking beauty in human shaped landscapes, scars, civil engineering, intensive farming, against a constant backdrop of war, fear, trauma and late capitalist excess.  When you examine the anthropocene time line our impact, on the landscape, is as old as the human race.

The challenge is how to narrow this subject into a workable, tangible form. How can I separate one aspect of the bigger picture (without being distracted) and how can this be explored and realized through artistic practice?

I’m considering running my RIP student led seminar as a debate, based on the provocation that ‘the sublime is dead’. I’m trying to devise a session which helps to explore this issue and what it has to do with art…

One way of dealing with this struggle, to make sense of the world, is to escape into abstraction.  For me ‘abstraction’, rather than extracting detail to reveal form, is more about realising from from the formless.  Ideas which are difficult to form into tangible objects, ideas which are inherently abstract in nature and therefore struggle for from of some kind. The act of drawing becomes an act of forming the formless, pinning it, temporarily, to a surface, be it paper, canvas of a digital screen.  Perhaps then the sublime exists in these new forms which have no other purpose than to help the ‘drawer’ make sense of the world and seek form and therefore beauty in abstract concepts, much in the same way that a mathematician might employ an equation to give form or a ‘language’ to a concept or theory.

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