Ben Rowe’s Unobtainable Power
Ben Rowe’s sculptures are industrial objects made by hand from a high density fire board, Valchromat. Each component is meticulously crafted resulting in a three to six-month process for each piece. Representing the technological world and the acceleration of advancements, his work questions the meaning and repurcussions of this phenomenon. Aesthetica talk to the artist about his practice and Aesthetica Art Prize 2016 longlisted work, Unobtainable Power.
A: Many of your works are inspired by sci-fi films and television props. Can you talk about the affinity between you and this particular genre?
BR: Born in 1985 I was brought up through the 1980s and 1990s and I’ve always been interested in sci-fi films and TV. I am essentially a geek; but there is more than just a personal nostalgia. The sci-fi genre encourages an escape from the real world and explores ways of manipulating time and space. My work has always been concerned with pinpointing moments in time, memories of yesterday and tomorrow.
A lot of my works reference time, from making memory banks to adding numeric titles based on the dates and times sculptures were completed. Choosing this genre allows me to reference my own childhood and the passing of time that we all experience as each day drifts in to the next, and we march on into an unknown future.
There are lots of similarities between the genre and my work. Sci-fi can be quite chaotic in appearance, with weird and wonderful inventions not quite properly thought through, predictions of technological advancements we are yet to invent. Although referencing this, my sculptures are always very ordered, I work in symmetry and progress through the making process in an orderly path, however my studio does become very chaotic when I am working! I am interested in this order from chaos mentality alongside the irony of making work that looks like digital technology, like it runs on electricity, is connected to the internet, can perform extraordinary tasks outside of a human’s capability but is in fact made of wood, still and silent captured and now stuck in its own moment of time, in its own reality. . .
. . . A: Technological advancements play a major role in many artworks being produced today. Remarkably, you do not employ any digital technologies in the creation of your work. Is there a philosophical belief and practical reason behind this?
BR: I believe the word “Artist” comes from “artisan”: a craftsman creating with their hands. I have an over romanticised view of artists working alone in their studio, closed off from the world for long periods of time agonising over their work. Although my making process is labour-intensive it is so intrinsic to the development of the finished piece I have to work in this way. To be connected to the making material, to spend time with my work and really get to know it is the way my creative ideas develop. I feel this makes the work accessible on many levels, even if the viewer is not interested in the ideas and source material behind the pieces they can still appreciate the craftsmanship involved in the making process.
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