Plasticine Diderot (2011)      

Plasticine Diderot involved the translation of an engraving from Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopedia into a three dimensional statue made of five different colors of Plasticine (made by Nick Palmer).

Produced over three days, the statue was made in strictly controlled working conditions, which structured the model maker’s working time and the way in which he used the different colors of Plasticine. The restrictions imposed meant that the model maker worked with one color of Plasticine at a time for set periods of ten minutes, separated by one minute of rest. During each of the ten minute sessions a different color of Plasticine was used, so that the finished object had a grain or patina, a visualisation of the structure of this working time.  The build up of colored material and its distribution was structured by this timing method, not by the aesthetic choice of the maker.

Once finished, the statue was squashed into a ball and then using a mechanical press squashed into a flat disk. This object was shown to groups of students invited to make a close reading of the object.

To aid their close reading, the students were provided with five texts to prompt a response to the object. Working in small groups, the students were asked to use these prompts to speculate or extract the potential making process of the object and to describe its visual and material characteristics. The student’s discourse was recorded and used as material to produce a short ekphrasis text, this text incorporated.

The text accompanied the object in an exhibition. Narrated by a female voice and broadcast on wireless headphones, the text is reminiscent of a museum audio guide – which authoritatively tells you what you are looking at. However, unlike the authoritative voice of the institution, the text is contradictory in nature reflecting the different interpretations of the object that emerged through the workshops.

© 2017  Jerome Harrington