Calum Stirling

Image: Remote Village,
Copyright the artist 2019

Burnt Sierra and the Ship of Theseus

Calum Stirling was the recipient of the Wasps Anna Lobner Glasgow/Dusseldorf Exchange 2015. Here, he exhibits the outcomes of his Dusseldorf residency in the Briggait Project Spaces in our final exhibition of 2015.

In Burnt Sierra and the Ship of Theseus Stirling presents a group of work using a project initiated during his residency and recent show at Atelier Am Eck, Dusseldorf as the focal point. The show title references the Theseus paradox a discussion axis highlighting the nature and manifestation of an art object when continually reconstituted in a new forms. The original artwork Burnt Sierra first shown in Atelier Am Eck takes its inspiration from the conjectural notion, arising from a Scottish coastal walk, of magnetically imprinting spoken word recordings onto oxide coated stones from a mine outflow. From this transmogrified the audio, ferromagnetism and geology project of the title. Stirling has collaborated with scientists, engineers and online forum groups on the theory and practical aspects of embedding sound into ferric materials whilst simultaneously investigating the process in relation to its historic lineage of rock art and human documentation of existence from Palaeolithic times onwards.

The ship of Theseus, also known as Theseus’ paradox, is a thought experiment that raises the question of whether an object which has had all of its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object. For this show the artist entirely remade Burnt Sierra using, for example a new car bonnet, replacement sculptural components, sound edit and the addition of a newly made wunderkammer for connected alchemical, geological, astral and audio paraphanelia. During this progress the artist changed the nature of the final artwork including research artifacts informed by forum discussion. The forum discussion is presented as a 20min audio work, transcribed from the Tapehead magnetic recording forum and read by Barry Burns. It introduced elements from the forum discussion, which extending the artwork into the realms of offline/online group activity. Descriptors in a kind of a temporary summary of speculative progress rather than a defacto technical achievement.

Other works in the show reflect the artists research time during and directly before and after the residency. The new floor work Vor Ort responds to the circumstances of the artist on residence. A topic the artist has returned to on several occasions. In this instance an object appears as a document of time. Time spent looking and collecting detritus such as free newpapers, plastic bags and freshwater mussels from the Rhine whilst cycling between various far flung gallery and Kunsthalle, collecting materials on route.

The wall works StacI & II reflect an ongoing monologue around sound culture. In this instance framed groups of Fender and Marshall speaker cloth presented as tonal landscapes.

In the artwork Self portraits the viewer is presented with three machine drawings completed in the weeks before the Dusseldorf residency. Using the artists own handmade CNC milling machine the artist replaced the router with a pencil and provided the machine with a jpeg image of itself to copy from. Each drawing reflects an attempt but the mechanism and software to attempt a likeness in varied qualities.

In another technique using his CNC, the machine cut forms use political and social data in conjunction with a bespoke software which translated the excel data into a 3D sculptural form according to a set of rules predetermined by the artist. The presentation format used in this show presents digital fabrication technique as a kind of archaeological artifact more akin to the Elgin Marbles than a perfect computer generated cyber form and the idea of producing immediate antiquity at point of production.

With his sculptures, he investigates the historical and political resonance of materials and the physical relationships between objects and bodies, drawing from sources, for this show, such as archaeological artifact, car mechanics and the cultural symbolism of architecture to name a few.