Sculpture: Forgettable Face in Decay
by Beauchamp Art
Plasma Cut, Oxidized Steel [Aprox. 50x50cm]
Rust portrait of an individual pulling a face in the background of a photograph [and outtake from the ‘Public Exposure‘ series with Bryony Goose – the man to the right of the center figure, satirized thus]
Created by applying layers of salt, water, vinegar, onto the plasma cut steel [quartered ‘Food For a Week‘ ].
This piece is not fixed, the rust will continue to spread, expand, and transform the surface of the metal, abstracting the image further. However, the source image is deliberately as transient as the piece itself, as the face was a passing moment of humor from an uninvolved individual [colloquially know as ‘Photo-bombing’]. It was an unnoticed event at the time, and only gain significance in retrospect when re-examining the photographs; an easily forgettable moment, concrete in photography creating serendipitous humor, which through this piece becomes uncanny, and somewhat sinister. The human element; the ‘portrait’; is relatively forgettable, and the texture of the surface of the metal is more a source of visual stimulation than the image itself.
This was done over the course of a number of days, with each layer being left to eat into the surface over night, before another one was applied, the progress of which is documented, though the final form is unfixed.
The layered decay of the surface has resulted in a similar aesthetic to the faces of Otto Dix’s scenes from the trenches of WWI, with bodies ripped apart by warfare and corroded by mustard gas, dehumanizing the people into nothing but tattered forms, that Dix recalled from his first hand experience, which he then burned into metal plates using a complex and detailed acid etching process; where the degradation of the figures is poetically paralleled in his media and the prints that result from the plate. A poignant example being his ‘Corpse in Barbed Wire‘ – showing the horrible psychological reality of the conflict.
Here, Oxygen, that which we breath to live, destroys the human form.
The face-swap meme format is, by its very nature, a product of ‘viral’ popularization of an image [often seen more by a specific sub-culture of internet users, slowly saturated into other media, and decaying rapidly thereafter]. One could see another parallel between this ‘viral’ expansion and extension of an image beyond its original means and intention and the virus, infection-like expansion of the rusted areas of the sheet-steel that has form the image as it is in this piece – or even more explicitly; the patterns form in the rusted surface [especially around the ‘cheek’ of the face, left of center] are similar to the grows of bacteria or fungi on agar plates; where a single bacterium may explode and multiply rapidly, spreading their toxic content further; much as the grains of salt, so small and meager when compared to the hard and heavy steel, erode it so easily.
The product of unexpected consequences, or deliberate actions that may appear accidental, is an ambiguous area of philosophical thought – it is the lingering ‘what ifs’ of history; whether that be the rusting of metal taking on a familiar form, or the potential alternative outcomes of the last century as a result of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that set in motion a whole series of events that were incomprehensible at the time; not only the horrors of trench warfare that affected Otto Dix thus, but the shaping of Europe, and ultimately the world of today.
Chaos theory denotes that no action, however small, is ever without consequence. Chaos is everything, and in its unpredictable ubiquity, it is nothingness.