Saturday, October 26, 2013

Futurism - Muse - A Ramble on music and a moment in art

A while back I received an unusual commission from fellow-jeweller, Poppy Porter, to make a piece using some titanium components from an F1 racing car. The pieces are beautifully-engineered and milled from solid blocks of metal.

Futurism - WIP - 1

This is the elements laid out after some consideration of the commission.

In conversation, it came out that she is a huge fan of the band Muse, a band in whom I was no more than mildly interested. I remember hearing their first album "Showbiz" and enjoying it enough but finding it somewhat derivative of Radiohead. I even found the overblown hysteria of the title track "Showbiz" and the pseudo-tango neuroses of "Uno" laugh-out-loud funny and never much bothered with them after that until I heard the recent track "Uprising" and the album from which it came, "The Resistance". Solidly in the tradition of the British prog rock of the likes of Pink Floyd, gloriously thieving wholesale from Ron Grainer/Delia Darbyshire's "Dr Who" theme, from Black Sabbath, Bowie and Chopin... (And the laugh-out-loud funny quality is still there, this time in the form of the brilliant Queen-inspired "Unnatural Selection".)

Poppy knew that she wanted me to make some sort of neck-piece or collar and we decided that it would be based on a Muse song, so I set out to listen to their entire recorded output over the period of a month or so and I decided on a rather obscure track - "Futurism" - from the Japanese release of the second album, "Origin of Symmetry", as the source.
(You can hear the song here. I can only link to it due to copyright restrictions.)

Further conversation with Poppy revealed that she is synaesthetic and that when she heard the song, she could hear orange and green, thus the pallete for the piece was defined.

For many years, I've had the ideas of Marinetti and the Futurists in mind and have tackled the fascinating nonsense spouted by the Futurists before in "La Bellezza Della Lotta". (Which translates as "the beauty of the struggle" and is taken from a speech by Luigi Einaudi, a prominent anti-fascist. I selected this phrase as it seemed to be something which the proto-Fascist Marinetti would have uttered.)

La Bellezza Della Lotta (Professional Photograph)

To me, Futurism seems to be not only a celebration of modernity and speed but of power and warfare and is something essentially masculine; it seems to encapsulate so many seemingly disparate elements and it denies both humanity and the possibility of god. Futurism was instantly dated and was never going to survive a real war - World War I - which swept away the bombast and glory in a muddy bloodbath but in many ways, it defined "The Shape of Things to Come", especially in the arts.

The first verse of the song reads:

Ignorance pulls
Apostasy and apathy still rules

Yeah you know it's cool
Just suck and see
A future turn us into silent gods
And I won't miss you at all

Which gave me the core "narrative" for the piece. Initially, I was drawn to work on a very abstracted anti-crucifix, as can be seen from the drawings I started to make:

Furturism Workbook - 2

Poppy was determined that I shouldn't have any reference to cruciforms!
My original drawings to had taken inspiration from another Futurist masterwork, Fritz Lang's 1927 "Metropolis" and it was this which allowed me to make the transition from the religious imagery to the more abstract.

'Metropolis' Poster

One of the legion of unfinished pieces which I am determined to finish also uses "Metropolis" imagery, the Chanel-inspired sautoir which I started last year:

Coco's Cogs - WIP - 3

(There will be more on this sautoir soon, as I intend to return to it before the end of the year.)
The use of the ideas from "Metropolis" about the role of religion in human society allowed me to bridge the gap between Poppy's request to avoid religious imagery in any form and the implied religious ideas in the song lyrics.

One aspect of the commission which I have found personally interesting has been the acknowlegment that I must thank the Futurists for paving the way for me to make fine jewellery from bits of machinery.

The piece is starting to shape up:

Futurism - WIP - 12

Technically, this is a very challenging piece as not only can I not solder the titanium at all but I am also unable to solder near it due to the way in which it changes colour on heating. The F1 car parts are very subtly coloured from the heat of having been in the car and preserving the finely-milled surface texture and the heat-colour is part of the concept.

The central section is partially CAD/CAM and partially fabricated - for me, CAD/CAM will only ever be an adjunct to my main practice of fabrication - and was drawn up in Rhino before being milled out in wax:

Futurism - 7

Futurism - WIP - 7

The waxes were then assembled into quarter-sections and cast in silver. The milling was done on a Revo-B milling machine, the operation of which can be seen briefly here:

More on this piece soon!