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Location: Currently on residency in Basel Switzerland, South Africa

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Back from Basel 
My Show Schwebend is up and running

So the show I made for the new temporary exhibition space  at the Museum der Kulturen in Basel (in Switzerland) went up on the 26th April 2012. It took 18 months in total of which 6 months were full-time construction and the last 8 weeks were particularly intense installation. We got there in the end and I was very pleased with the results ..... in the end ...... the night before. The show is still up runs till 15 July 2012 and being very well received. I hope you get to see the real thing before it comes down, but if you're not passing through Europe, then this little video documentation made by the Museum's very capable photographer Derek Li Wan Po. It's a rough cut and watching these works on a laptop is a pale ghost of the real experience in "The Space", but it's the best I can do for you:


Brad Shaffer made it over to see the show and also film some amazing documentation for me which you can find here on the Museum site:

Thursday, March 25, 2010


So I made a speech and an art commission for the annual open day at Graduate School of Business. It was wildly pressured for timed, which put me up at 02h00 this morning trying to nail it. But it came out sweet. Thanks to you all... These are some grubby pics of the work and below is the text of the speach as promised... it the working draft and I'll update the post and add the speech as I gave it when I see the recording.

Thanks to all involved... particularly, Elaine, Jenny, Garreth, Sammy, Justin, Bill (for right at the beginning... which is where it all starts) , Pauly, Danielle (?), Nathan
...& here's how she moves:

Hey, next post will have a picture of my new  baby! Jeez.... my most ambitious collaboration to date.

working draft of speech text below to be updated.

What is Curiosity? There’s a good question.

Thankyou Elaine. Hello everybody, it’s nice to see you all sitting there…. I’m Justin. I’m a fine artist amongst other things…. Or rather I should say I have been many thing but for the last couple of years I have been focusing fulltime on my fine art process.


My work deals with mathematical things almost engineering and scientific enquiry, but it is fine art, so it is presented in the realm of the poetic. So I am partly a scientist and partly a poet and perhaps in a slightly more obvious way to the general populus but I would maintain that we all have to do this. Whenever we use metaphore and when we distinguish between denotation and connotation which all of us do all the time, hopefully, we all have to tell the difference between meaning and reference to meaning. There are times when we need to call a spade a spade, and there are times when dry equivilancy doesn’t quite cut the mustard, so….. you refer to the word “truth” with the word “spade” and you refer to experience of adequacy with the act of cutting the mustard….

Now, what the hell am I talking about? There’s a good question.

I’m talking about the mechanics of how we understand things, and choose meaning in how we experience and  communicate. Where does that leave the concept of agreement or common understanding? These would be important questions to understanding the strange language of fine art and to learning in general. & here we all sit in an institute of learning…..

I’m starting to sound like a lecturer and I’m not that I can assure  you, In fact I have a string of unfinished degrees, which I’ll come back to. So let’s have a look at what I do, which is make kinetic sculpture. The best way to do this would be to show some films. There’s an irony attached to that…. Which I’ll come back to

Play Head Wrap short (3min) & Suspension short (1min). Continue talking over Trans-show (2min).

Ok so there is my work. Or more accurately there are some parts of some documentaries about my work. You will see a real work of mine shortly, which will be a different kind of experience. It is precisely this difference that is a central theme if not the root of my artistic process to date. It’s also what makes my showing you these real works, that exist at various  locations around the world, in the virtual, so “ironical”. But this is how we live. I think of these strange little machines as experience machines… viewer makes a simple input, machine converts it to a complex output, machine and mechanics are visible, so there is an obvious question: How did it do that? And that, is the great classical enquiry, and to my mind that is the actual work. For many viewers there is a moment of non-comprehension to which it seems there is a prevalent human response, which is  enquiry. These works encourage if not force a classical enquiry onto us because we live in a time which makes it so difficult to interrogate our experience. I should also say that they are primarily a residue of my classical enquiry. I obviously have to ask the question, “how does it work?” before I make these things. I also ask other things like, “Is it beautiful? “, “Is the solution as simple and ingenious as it can be?”, and critical to my experience of expressive arts,“Is it mine?”, or “Does it belong to me?”

All that aside, within the realm of an audience, these works are about one thing, a question: How does it work?

So. What use is a fine artist who’s repeatedly fallen shy of the textbook version of a “diligent student” talking semantics, linguistics & philosophy to an audience of highly educated professionals (I assume…) at a tertiary institution? There’s another good question. I don’t suppose I have too many answers for that, But I can tell you I have learnt some things in my time and I have had the most privileged and spectacularly satisfying if unconventional education, so far. So let me tell you abit about that.

It seems to me that education is about learning and central to that is curiosity  and enquiry and central to that is the question.

The notion of the Guru/teacher in Indian mysticism is of interest to me, not that I’ve ever met one. It often comes with the convention that you only approach the teacher when you have a question as a starting point. Maybe that’s to do with being in the mode of the learner, and starting from the humility of: “Here is something I don’t know…… yet”?)

So allow me some tangents, some anecdotes that flesh out this topic of “the question” and illustrate some of the diversity of the learning experiences or sources that I’ve constructed my rather rickety world view on.:

Benjamin Jack as the 4 year old guru teacher(the question and the mode in which he asked it)

The big Fat Texan Cosmologist at Wits University (the power of the discovery and choking on his own metaphor)

The Amazing Mr Feynman… (the fearless interrogator)

Joseph Campbell and comparative Mythology. (The universal enquiry)

Parcifal and the question…(The question as the cure. Parcifal as the traveler. Interesting to me that parcifal  has the wisdom after his travels)

Zen and the art of Motor cycle maintanance.   (the refuge of abstraction)


The world will present itself to you for its unmasking,

it can do no other,

in ecstasy it will writhe at your feet. 

But unmasking implies questions. So, how do you learn something without asking questions?

Let’s agree, within a specific enquiry, with out the right questions, only with great difficulty. How do you find the right questions?

How do you know what it means? How do you look past the abstraction and denotation and find the essence of what that thing means to you. I’m not a terribly good businessman…. Yet.

Apparently there’s a course here for fine artists. I would say that money is the ultimate manifestation of our powers of abstraction.

What did we achieve? So much profit. Yes but what did we achieve?! What did it cost us? So much running costs. Yes, but what were the realities of the cost?! Money at the level of the note assigns a finite value; not memory of past not intentions for future. There’s an inadequate definition that shows an inscrutable face to curious interrogation.

How do you find the right questions?

Maybe that depends on how good you are at that subject? So, how do you find a subject at which you will be good?

My experience has been that you have to really want to learn that subject. How do you learn what you want?

Jeez, now there’s a good question!!!

What do I want to learn?  That seems to come back to the central existential question

What do I want?

 …Who does the grail serve?  Whatever that means , and I can’t help you with that.. That’s an intensely personal question, which we all ask and answer with varying degrees of curiosity and to varying degrees of success in our personal processes…

Once that question is answered or even just formed properly, you are on a path of fascination and  curiosity …. It is the nature of human enquiry.

Now I’d like to wrap up now, and leave you with all these strange thoughts. I don’t know how cogent or useful they were for you, but one of the possible functions of  a fine artist is to speak from a position of inspiration and authenticity, that is to express something that  they feel belongs to them personally and originally. And that can be used as a lens by others to provide a new and hopefully further reaching perspective….

This address is published on my website on the blog, if you want to follow up on any of the references I made. You can also direct any questions there, that you have on what I’ve said or made, and do my best to answer those.

In the movie Man on a Wire, A crazy abrasive French aerialist pulls of a death defying act of artistic expression between the tops of the former World trade Centres… It’s a poetic gesture of self-actualization that even on film gives one access to some of the sublime elements of the human experience. Now under arrest and on his way down the stairs, a reporter shoves a microphone in his face and asks, “Why did you do it?”

And he gives an extraordinary answer.

If you are curious I invite you to seek that movie out and find out what he said.

Thankyou for your time.

I invite you to go and inspect the work that I made for the Business school that is down in the foyer….