Struve Arc, Trip 1: Mustaviiri Island

Uncategorized December 14, 2015

A few images from today’s start to the series of trips planned for one of my MA graduation projects about the Struve Geodetic Arc. Over the next few months, I’ll visit each of the six nominated original triangulation spots in Finland maintained as part of its status as a UNESCO World Heritage sites. Along the way, I’ll be collecting geological samples, taking notes and images on my trusty Hassy 503cx. I’ll then make a series of commemorative stone sculptures – one for each site – in a relevant type of local Finnish stone, all of which will be exhibited here in Helsinki in June, 2016.

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How to design, construct and install a large stained glass window

Uncategorized November 30, 2015

1.altasThe original visualisation on which the window design was based

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Matching glass colours

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The glass is mouth-blown into long cylinders and then formed into sheets through a series of varrying-temperature ovens

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Making a small test panel with the first cartoon (it did not go well at all!)

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After the test panel made quite obvious that the margin of error was very small (1-2mm), I redrew the cartoon using more precise tools for greater accuracy

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Early stages of glass cutting

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Later stages of glass cutting

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All 650 pieces of glass cut and labelled before being joined together with lead came

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Early stages of leading up – the came is an H-profile which holds the pieces of glass on either side. It is later held together by soldering at each joint

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Later stages of leading up

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Once the window has been fully leaded and soldered, a cement-type compound of linseed oil, calcium carbonate, turps and carbon black powder is forced between the gaps in the glass and the lead. This cement helps to strengthen the window. Additional calcium carbonate is spread over the window to dry out the cement – it is later brushed off as part of the final cleaning process.

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The angle steel outer frame was bent in the UK, before being shipped to Helsinki for final welding.

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The outer frame and ferramenta – a steel internal support structure which was later tied on to the reserve side of the window – prior to installation in the Kunsthalle

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The tricky installation process…

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The back of the window following installation. The ferramenta – attached with bronze wire ties – is visible from this angle.


Famine in Scotland, 1690s

Uncategorized September 7, 2015

Looking at the connections between cereal crops, famine and crisis in five case studies across European history for an ongoing work.

Discovered much of relevance and of interest in the archives of Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun’s in the National Library of Scotland last month.

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Everything was Caesar

Uncategorized April 7, 2015


I’ve started working on my final year MFA project – a series of works in different media looking at the history of the concepts of uncertainty, progress and crisis – across physics, epistemology, political theory and literature – and how this history informs present understandings of the three concepts.

I’ve been thinking of a way to bring Lucan’s Pharsalia, which was the text I studied for my DPhil., into the fold of this project partly because I love it, but also because I think it works well as a starting point for a loose conceptual history of “crisis”.

There’s something about contemporary rhetoric, particularly in a news context, in relation to the use of the word crisis which I find deeply unsettling and extremely ahistorical. Housing crisis, oil crisis, environmental crisis, terror crisis, suicide pilot crash crisis, Eurozone crisis. The word becomes almost meaningless in its constant overuse. My reading of the present moment as one beholden to the idea of crisis stems from what seems to be an underlying cultural anxiety about information overload (coupled, perhaps, with a lack of “real” knowledge), the media’s need to make profit by the selling of constant catastrophe, decision-making fatigue, and the digital present’s lack of a filter. All of these factors, plus others no doubt, aid us in our collective efforts to privilege the present as an urgent time of crisis, viewing the past as a far more benign period of crisis-free living. They never had to deal with housing shortages, global warming or airplane hijackings. Never mind that the render ghosts of the past had to deal with famine, enclosure, plague, war, nuclear bombs, etc.

One of the reasons I love the Pharsalia in the context of undercutting assumptions about contemporary notions of crisis is because, not only does it take as its subject an important historical moment of crisis (nearly 20 years of civil wars) – when Rome lost its so-called freedom – but because it also takes a no-mercy approach to apportioning blame. In his inimitably vitriolic style, Lucan chastises the major actors – Pompey, Caesar and Cato – for their part in the crisis, but he reserves his harshest judgement for the Roman people, who he holds primarily responsible for the loss of the freedom of Rome.

The following passage describes the scene as Caesar enters Rome with his troops, after crossing the Rubicon.

Sic fatur, et urbem
Adtonitam terrore subit. Namque ignibus atris
Creditur, ut captae, rapturus moenia Romae,
Sparsurusque deos. Fuit haec mensura timoris:
Velle putant, quaecumque potest. Non omina festa,
Non fictas laeto voces simulare tumultu:
Vix odisse vacat  Phoebea palatia complet
Turba Patrum, nullo cogendi iure senatus,
E latebris educta suis. Non consule sacrae
Fulserunt sedes: non proxima lege potestas
Praetor adest: vacuaeque loco cessere curules,
Omnia Caesar erat. Privatae curia vocis
Testis adest. Sedere Patres censere parati,
Si regnum, si templa sibi, iugulumque senatus,
Exsiliumque petat. Melius, quod plura iubere
Erubuit, quam Roma pati.

Pharsalia, Book 3: 97-112

So he descends to a city thunderstruck by terror.
For they believe he will torch the walls of Rome,
scotch it like a captured city, scattering her gods.
This was the extent of their dread: they think his will
is equal to his power. No one has time to invent
good omens, or to feign a shout of acclamation,
let alone dissent. A mob of patricians
packs the Palatine temple of Phoebus, and a Senate –
convened without authority – is brought out of hiding.
No sacred benches shine with consul’s cluster,
and the praetors, next in lawful power, are absent,
their empty ivory chairs are moved from their places.
Everything was Caesar. The Senate assembles as witness
to one man’s private interests. The fathers were prepared
to sit and vote, should he seek monarchy, or a temple,
or even the throats and exile of the Senate. Good thing
he blushed as demanding more than Rome would endure.

From Matthew Fox’s 2012 Penguin Classics translation.

thought is mist, not clarity

Uncategorized March 30, 2015

His brother used to say that thought is always of the heights, Wittgenstein says. Of the mountains. The thinker must soar above everything. Close to the truth. Close to eternal things.

His brother dreamt of a celestial logic, Wittgenstein says. A system of logic that blazed in the sky. A logical system at one with the order of things, that might be divined in the order of things. A logic that God Himself must have studied, before embarking on the Creation.

It is a terrible thing for the thinker to be sent down from the heights, his brother told him – to be forced to return to the world.

But what if thought is low, and not high?, Wittgenstein says. What if the thinker’s place is below things, or with things, rather than above it all?

What if to think is to sink, not to rise?, Wittgenstein stays. What if thinking is falling, failing, defeat? What if thought is the eclipse, not the sun? What if thought is mist, not clarity? What if thought is getting lost, not discovering? What if thought is waylessness, and not the way?

Wittgenstein Jr., Lars Iyer (149)