Viewpoint: How to activate an artwork in isolation

Photograph of a sculpture made by the author featuring a model treehouse located on the top of a stack of books with a small model stepladder resting against the house.
Image Credit: Sculpture and photograph by Marc Rocks 2020

In this post and accompanying artwork, Marc Rocks a sculpture student at Edinburgh College of Art describes his process of producing a project both during and as a response to lockdown and the limitations and opportunities that come from observing the moment from a position of isolation…

I’m Marc, a sculpture student at Edinburgh College of Art who created the artwork, Viewpoint which will feature as part of the ‘Room with a View’ project co-curated by ECA and Google Arts and Culture. This work is a modest piece in truth, composed of scrap material sourced in my living space, table salt from a kitchen cupboard, and books including Alan Partridge: Nomad, a dictionary, and An Introduction to Modern Architecture. It was very much a ‘what can I use to make art?’ kind of moment. Having to abandon my studio space before lockdown to self-isolate wasn’t an ideal scenario but was completely necessary. It just meant that my materials and equipment were sparse for a long period which was a trivial problem amid a pandemic. Anyone else out there have a long hard think during lockdown about using cereal boxes as an art medium? If so, you were not alone.

Viewpoint attempts to explore a correspondence between language and objects. In doing so, I became interested in the malleability of meaning derived from the word ‘viewpoint’ and aimed to translate this idea into a sculpture. The artwork also considers some of the sociological implications encountered this year which led to an isolated existence steeped in observation. I felt such themes were too poignant to ignore when responding to that moment for this project. Also, the brief ‘Room with a view’ inspired a more focused artistic response to the lockdown experience. This involved finding ways to activate an artwork in the context of a window setting which I admit sounds pretentious, but time was on my hands during lockdown for that kind of stuff.

Image Credit: Photograph and sculpture by Marc Rocks

The observational tower going on treehouse thingamajig had a free-range status at first, like there wasn’t an underprop in place as such, only the cabin part – it was incomplete in other words. I originally made the architectural model as a prototype for another project, before deciding to work with it as a component for this project. The autonomy of the cabin intrigued me, so I decided to explore different settings by testing out my immediate environment, aiming to find a fitting context for the model to be fully represented as a viewpoint. I eventually settled on a stack of books and I guess this idea stemmed from seeing the sheer amount of books behind people on the tele throughout lockdown. By using books in the artwork, I hoped to suggest a compilation of viewpoints that support notions of a viewpoint in a literal and metaphorical sense.

As a sculpture student, I feel that sculpture runs the risk of falling a bit flat in the virtual realm of display. A focus of mine was on finding ways to work around viewing limitations and to make Viewpoint compatible as a sculpture on screen. The unidentified books (apart from the books listed above) in this artwork for instance are a simple gesture that attempt to compensate for not experiencing the work in person. Here, I tried to accommodate ambiguity in the sculpture through seeing… strange times called for different measures.

By Marc Rocks

Marc Rocks is a student at Edinburgh College of Art studying sculpture.

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