In-Visible, Waterford. Peoples Park Commission, 2002
In this, my first large scale public work made to be sited outside, I wanted to make an intervention that would resonate with the specific cultural context of Waterford and the landscape of the Peoples Park. Having worked with Waterford Crystal on a small-scale project for PS1 at MOMA in New York (0044), I wanted to create a large piece of glass, an optical apparatus and form that would invert the landscape – a crystal ball. This proposal required detailed research into the crafts expertise of glassmakers at Waterford, which then led onto space and deep-sea exploration. I had input from a NASA engineer in the US who had first hand knowledge of the production of the Hubble telescopes enormous glass lens, which like the slowly cooling kilns of Waterford Crystal, required a NASA amount of money to make; with a specialist oven to heat and cool the glass to prevent cracking – a project that would require two years cooling time.
Moving onto explore plastics, a solution was found in the form of a deep-sea submarine diving bell, made from optically advanced high-grade acrylic by Stanley Plastics in the UK. Spotted on a scrap pile on a visit with the engineers, this serendipitous find led to my reassessment of the approach. Working with specialists, it was calculated that by filling the internal volume with a constant stream of clear water, a form optically equivalent to the glass sphere could be achieved.
In its final realisation, In-Visible brings together two key elements that I have continued to explore in my work. First, the simple and monumental materiality of form, the contrast of hard acrylic, local black Kilkenny marble and the cascading water, whose sound was an added bonus. Then the image of the park, captured and then inverted by the optics of the sphere, watching others walk past upside down, the trees above, the sky below. The final work is both a sculpture and an image, which like a Camera Obscura, captures life not through the transmission of messages or representations captured on film, but through the physics of light bent and diverted through the material form itself.
Acrylic Sphere – hollow 6ft diameter up-cycled diving sphere with constant flow of clear water running through it. Sits on a black marble base which acts as a pool approximately 30 feet wide and 2 feet high.