“Nature in the twenty-first century will be a nature that we make” – Daniel B. Botkin
In 2012 Daniel May was CAT’s Artist in Residence, sponsored by Arts Council Wales. The work he created during his residency is currently on display as part of the visitor circuit. The project’s theme was motivated initially by the artificial shapes we now see all around us in-amongst the natural world. As Daniel explains:
“On arrival at the Centre for Alternative Technology what affected me most was the proximity of the outside world. The Centre promotes things like organic gardening, environmental awareness, self sufficiency and a do-it-yourself lifestyle, yet it is surrounded by intensive sheep farming and huge monoculture forestry. Big industry ploughs a new gas pipe right past the Centre’s entrance, the local roads are being widened and resurfaced, the air around us crackles with energy from overhead pylons. Every now and then, and especially on bright days, military jets roar past in training, always in pairs. I can’t help but think they have us in their sights and they remind me rudely of my insignificance. Even within the visitor centre great chunks of redundant machine parts litter the ground with false promises of salvation. They speak to me as ‘understand this and you will overcome’. Except in my case I never quite get it and break more than I fix trying. In retaliation to that blasted clever hydroelectric turbine I say hopefully, ‘that’s pretty’, but its response glares back metallic grey, sulking I think, in its functional redundipity.”
The exhibition outside the restaurant considers the idea of synthetic icons as being the nature of the future. In particular shapes such as pylons and buildings that stand out in our landscape are the only obvious parts of a now universally human managed and controlled world. What now is truly natural? Does human influence improve nature?
With this in mind Daniel chose to limit his sculptural method to the creative restrictions implied by a self-built wood-turning-lathe. This machine forces symmetry and engineered order onto the chaotic raw material of wood. In so doing does it perhaps improve the material’s natural appeal through added culture and value as apparent artefact? The object’s self-importance is made more so by being presented at head height or above. Yet its worth as both natural and man made thing (even as they both degrade), is ultimately just an object for us to contemplate, whilst remaining useful as a perch for a bird or a meal for a fungus.
Daniel’s sculptures will be on display until the end of the year. For more information about the processes Daniel used visit his website.