The Message

The Message is the first artwork in my Automata series of mixed media scupltures. Here there are 5 moving parts above the platform. By turning the handle on the right some parts rotate and others move vertically; all at differing speeds. The construction is made from wood, paper, and doll parts with a little paint and stands roughly 20cm by 8cm by 20cm. I’ll be accompanying these photographs soon with a video showing how The Message works.

There are so many interpretations you can take from this artwork as a viewer so what exactly is The Message? To me it is a response to a paragraph from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein . There are so many cliches in popular culture regarding Frankenstein since its writing in 1818, but here I am considering only the words created by Shelley herself. Later in this series I’ll be considering Freud’s ideas on the uncanny in bringing animation to the inanimate. There may be references to Hoffmann’s Der Sandmann somewhere along the line. In fact,  Automata is likely to be referencing a lot of literature of various kinds.

Incidentally, the fact that I’m using dolls is not a gender specific act and should not be interpreted as such. To me they’re just a way to complement the delicate nature of the working mechanism. I’ll be writing a more formal philosophy on this work as the series progresses and probably leave all my own reasonings out so that The Message for the viewer is more ambiguous. Meanwhile, here’s that paragraph from Shelley which inspired my methods:

“When I found so astonishing a power placed within my hands, I hesitated a long time concerning the manner in which I should employ it. Although I possessed the capacity of bestowing animation, yet to prepare a frame for the reception of it with all its intricacies… still remained a work of conceivable difficulty and labour. I doubted at first whether I should attempt the creation of a being like myself, or one of simpler organisation…”*

  • Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, Volume 1 Chapter 4
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7 thoughts on “The Message

  1. Thanks Rose. There’s more to come on this. A lot more. It’s a wonderful departure from two dimensional work and is firing my brain up in all sorts of new and interesting ways!

  2. Weird and wonderful.

    Weird: I am one of those people you mentioned who is not comfortable with the dismembered doll thing, but I don’t really enjoy portraiture even. So chopping up a humanoid form and making it move isn’t going to help me.

    Wonderful: Yet, it does make me wonder. You have your own thinking, obviously, but you also leave it open to interpretation. Here’s what your automaton made me think:

    Despite your comment about neutrality of gender choice, that was the first thing that stood out to me. A dismembered female, no more than the sum of her physical parts, with long blond hair. She is covered in words (of others?) and subject to external forces beyond her control.

    It’s an old theme, really, but no less true for that. ‘They’ (strangers/the media/policy makers even) decide who we are and what we are worth based on little more than our physical attributes. They then treat us accordingly, and many of us internalise the message as our truth. Particularly true of women, I think.

    This work also reminded me of how I used to have to.dissect flowers for A level biology. I understood the mechanism of the plant as a result, but had no greater concept of its beauty. In fact, in the act of dissection, that which rendered the flower beautiful was lost.

    As always, you make me think, sis. Thanks. Hope the feedback helps with the development of this series 🙂

  3. Pingback: The Video | melanie ezra

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