BØN541 v3.0 is the third in my BØN541 series, exploring the form of bonsai trees, using recycled & salvaged materials.
This work was created to be a setpiece for the 2018 staging of Rent, the musical, by Matt Ward Entertainment, at QPAC Brisbane. It is the largest work I’ve produced so far, and is constructed primarily from corrugated plastic water pipe, which is suspended using the truss and chain from my 2012 work Reconfigure.
The work features three major parts:
The play’s designer provided a bunch of old car hubcaps as a material she wanted featured, as well as decorations for the branches, in the form of aluminium cans cut into flower-like shapes, which the cast and crew produced. The designer also provided icicle (fairy) lights, to match the look of the hanging points of light I had included in my VR-based design.
Aside from that, the actual form of the work, the construction solutions and the materials from which it was made, were my responsibility.
Background of the Project:
I was approached by the designer of the play, who had seen my earlier work BØN541 v2.0 and wanted something similar for the Xmas tree that is created by a character in the play. The designer had a goal of involving “real” fine artists on the project, on account of the play being, in aspects, celebration of the 1980s New York art scene.
My initial idea was to build a welded steel armature of triangular cells, almost like 1980s-era computer graphics, into which various junk could be threaded. This was my first option, since welded steel is the only way to get the necessary combination of spannable distance, thinness and (relatively) light weight. Unfortunately, the production lacked the budget to spin up this process.
The next idea I proposed, was to use dozens of long stalks of bamboo, in place of a traditional tree trunk. I also developed the base in response to feedback that the specific shape of the base of BØN541 v2.0 was a highly desired part of the project. This would be both cheap, and solve the engineering problem, since bamboo is self-supporting.
However, the response was that it wasn’t “metal” enough, and that the design was being kept very literal to the script, the tree being specifically referred to as made of metal.
Coincidentally, at this time, I was working on a Virtual Reality project at the Cooroy Library makerspace, and so I was able to use this new VR toolset to actually design the work at life-size:
The choice of materials was dictated by budget – we couldn’t afford the stainless steel braided pipe used for the other BØN541 series works, but I realised there was something I had worked with previously – agricultural water pipe, which I had used when creating my 2011 sculpture This?
Sprayed silver, it would have a metallic appearance (in a Dr. Who sort of way), and the corrugations provide a way to secure the hanging points so that they can’t slip along its length.
So, with a decision on materials, and a clear vision on the form of the work, I was ready to begin production.
Building the base.
Strengthening the truss.
Creating the trunk.
Packing everything away for bumpin.
I did this project for free, and loaned some rather expensive equipment to the production, because I wanted to see it succeed.
I wish the show well, and hope that my contribution is acknowledged.
Special thanks to the QPAC people I worked with – a brilliant, professional rigging team who got my work hoisted and in place at the Cremorne Theatre.