Friday, February 22, 2008

Steven Pippin

Steven Pippin (born 1960 at Redhill, England) British artist. He was a Turner Prize nominee in 1999. He works with converted photographic equipment and kinetic sculptures. His work shows a strong interest in the mechanical, which he has said stems from an early childhood memory of seeing his father surrounded by the wires and tubes of a television set he was repairing.

Pippin's early work was based on converting furniture and everyday objects into makeshift pinhole cameras which he then uses to uses to take sympathetic photographs. This sounds simple but often involves a significant amount of planning to overcome the practical problems posed by the chosen object. Pippin typically has to plan and construct a significant amount of supporting equipment in order to achieve his pictures.

Frequently the resulting photographs are distorted or otherwise compromised by the manner of their construction, but the imperfections are seen as an important characteristic of the image giving a link back to the object which was used as a camera. The photographs are always shown along side an image of the converted object and later much of the equipment used in the conversion along with supporting documentation.

So for example his piece 'The Continued Saga of an Amateur Photographer, November 1993' was based on converting the toilet on a British Rail train on a journey between London and Brighton. This involved designing an aluminum plate housing the lens and shutter to fit into the top of the toilet bowl and sealed with an inflated bicycle inner tube. The photographic paper was cut in the shape of a semicircular fan to line the sides of the toilet. When making the photograph the paper and lens have to be mounted in the toilet under darkroom conditions. To do this, the artist removed his trousers fitted them over the top of the toilet and put his arms down the legs in order to manipulate the various components in light safe conditions. Once assembled, the trouser were removed, and the photograph taken. Then the photographic paper was developed in-situ, pouring developer then fixer into the toilet cistern whilst flushing. Since the train journey takes less than an hour, Pippin found it a little tricky to complete and document the process within the time available.

In 1999 Pippin was short listed for the Turner Prize at the Tate Gallery in London. His entry was based on the work 'Laundromat – Locomotion' in which he converted a row of 12 washing machines in a laundromat into a series or cameras triggered by trip wires and then rode a horse through the laundromat to recreate Eadweard Muybridge’s The Horse in Motion from 1878.

Again the doors of each washing machine were fitted with a lens and shutter mechanism. A circular disk of photographic paper was loaded into the back of the drum, protected from light by foldable plywood plate which could be made to collapse by pulling a string from the outside. With each machine loaded, tripwires running across the aisle of the laundromat were attached to the shutter releases. Riding the horse through the laudromat triggered the cameras in sequence to give a 12 frame movie of the horse in motion (unfortunately Pippin didn't have the space to ride the horse at a gallop). The papers were then developed, switching the washing machines to their rinse cycle whilst adding developer and fixer into the detergent drawers. Once complete it was safe to open each washer and dismantle the apparatus.

The finished photographs were then displayed along with the 12 lens and shutter mechanism presented in a wooden chest.

Pippins more recent work also includes kinetic sculptures.

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