David Rickard talks about collaboration in art, with a focus on his new exhibition Foreign Bodies
What gave you the idea for the Foreign Bodies project?
The project started by thinking about the gradual solidification of international borders within recent politics, and considering the international agreements that allow our interconnected world to function. The work builds on a number of recent projects that have considered our relationship with the air (such as Exhaust) and also a series of collaborative works which have been realised through the connection of people in distant places.
When you talk about gradual solidification of international borders, could you elaborate on this a bit? Would Trump’s wall be an example?
Yes, Trump’s wall is one of the more obvious examples I’m referring to. There’s also Brexit and a myriad of international agreements that are currently being eroded.
Were the artworks themselves derived from and shaped through a collaborative process?
Following the receipt of the air samples they are being combined within a bespoke glass vessel.
This second stage of the project involves collaboration with a scientific glassware blower, who is involved with determining on the size and form of the glass vessel.
The final work combines traces of multiple collaborations, in the form of the postal boxes that track the global connections undertaken, images taken by collaborators and importantly the glass vessel containing a fragile, invisible ‘international airspace’ built on trust and collaboration.
Could you tell us more about the collaborative aspect of the project, please?
The work ‘International Airspace’ involves the collaboration with people located within each of the twenty seven countries that signed the Paris Convention in 1919, the first international agreement on the governance of airspaces. Within each of these countries a local collaborator has taken a sample of the air and several photographs. I’ve sent to each person the equipment needed to take the air sample and guidelines for taking the photos, however they have been free to select the location and interpret the guidelines accordingly.
How did you select the people who take the samples?
In some of the countries there were people that I knew, however in many it was a case of connecting with people for the first time. Generally the collaborators are involved with galleries or art spaces of different types; from museums to artist run spaces and community groups.
Could you elaborate on how the Jerry Can and drum sticks fit into the exhibition? How do they relate to the International Airspace part of the show?
‘Distant Rhythm’ and ‘Globus’ also consider borders and the connections between materials and place.
‘Distant Rhythm’ is a single pair of drumsticks formed from trees growing in antipodal locations of Kupo, New Zealand and Algaidas Spain. [Each one of the two drum sticks is made from the wood of a different species of tree.]
[When played] with cadence rhythms originally developed to sustain pace and energy during long marches, they also reference the wider politics of movement, migration and power.
The name ‘Jerry Can’ refers to the German army that first used this design during the second world war. So successful was the design of the vessel that the allied forces changed their own cans to match it, which also allowed for the vessels to easily migrate between forces when territories were claimed by either side.
The can that forms ‘Globus’ is perforated until largely transparent, so the dissolved boundary reveals a sphere of aluminium inside. Cast from the material removed from the vessel’s skin and too large to fit through its mouth, the solid globe remains internalised within the body from which it is formed.
And both in he context of the show and in general, what are the main benefits of collaboration? What is the biggest benefit?
The work ‘International Airspace’ is developed from the idea of international collaboration and the work couldn’t have been made without help from others located around the globe. I’m interested in the dialogue and exchange that’s generated from the seemingly futile activity of exchanging air. In the end the result remains invisible other than the traces of collaboration.
David Rickard: Foreign Bodies at the Copperfield gallery, London
Wednesday to Saturday until 18 April, 2020