MAstars 2012: David Henckel, MA Fine Art

MAstars 2012: David Henckel, MA Fine Art David Henckel, Golden Gum, 2012. Chewing gum, Gold leaf, Passive Infra Red Sensors, Quadrophonic audio, Arduino, Macbook Pro - running Max Msp

Lindsay Taylor selects David Henckel from the University of Central Lancashire for MAstars

Golden Gum: interactive audio visual installation
The inherent difficulty of displaying the result of two years' hard work on the MA Fine Art: Site and Archive Interventions course is that for the most part the artist has worked and responded to different and specific contexts away from the art school environment. Presenting the artwork to an audience, when it is divorced from its original context and in the equivalent of a white cube gallery space, can often be a conundrum. Despite these challenges the graduates successfully presented a real sense of the places and spaces that they had worked in. The MA graduate show for this course was combined with the MA Fine Art: Studio Practice course, and on this occasion the Site and Archive Intervention graduates stole the show. In particular David Henckel’s installation documenting 'Golden Gum' evidenced a most original, and both thoughtful and thought-provoking body of work.

The two prints were interesting yet hard to fathom in isolation, but through the accompanying video their purpose started to make sense. To begin with the camera zooms in on one of the prints, identifying random pink crosses and circles on some sort of grid or matrix. This is followed by stills of a number of strange golden splodges, and then moving imagery of someone painting more of them.

It slowly becomes evident that the artist is painting abandoned pieces of used chewing gum. I‘ve never really examined chewing gum splats in detail before. After all they are pretty repellent: spat out by lazy people with little regard for hygiene or thought for others' footwear.

Painted gold, however, they become something completely different and are most seductive. Henckel has in effect created an archive of images of discarded gum. There are a surprising number of abstract imprints made by the tread marks of various shoes, along with the feathered edges of slowly disintegrating older and weathered gum, and smooth, elegant globules of the most recent contributions. Painted gold collectively they have the appearance of gemstones scattered like confetti on to the grey concrete flags.

David Henckel, Golden Gum, 2012. Video. 3 mins 8 secs

Then there is a sound, and feet appear, standing, then walking slowly across this jewelled carpet. The sounds are strange, almost like the track to a sci-fi or horror movie; the viewer isn’t really sure where the sound is coming from, or why. Then there are kids running around in circles, and the music somehow seems more melodic and charming. As more and more people appear the sound track ramps up, and slowly the connection is revealed – the sounds are being generated (or performed) by the people entering and leaving the building. The kids are having fun – in the way that kids do interacting and making random noises. The adults, however, are bemused, intrigued, frustrated and more self- conscious. How does it work, what is it about, am I allowed to have fun too?

Of course it isn’t necessary to know or understand the technology behind the work to enjoy it – but, briefly, David has plotted the random chewing gum splodges on a map, then translated the coordinates into musical notes, which in turn are triggered as visitors pass a grid of infrared sensors.

As a documentary film it has an easy-to-follow narrative and visitors to the show, like the participants in the film, left smiling.

Henckel has worked with a mundane site on his doorstep. The installation actually took place at the entrance to one of the main art and design school buildings (though not the same building as the degree show). He has successfully transformed the entrance to the building into an interactive installation or a performance space, using the detritus left by the occupants of the building as both inspiration and material. Revealing the unseen, or playing with the sense of a place is surely the very point of the MA Fine Art: Site and Archive Intervention.

'Golden Gum' was recently recreated as part of the Digital Aesthetic 2012 exhibition. Experiencing the work first-hand clinched his selection as my MAstar. 

Selected by Lindsay Taylor
Published January, 2013

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About Lindsay Taylor

Lindsay Taylor has led the contemporary art programme at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery since 2004. She has successfully initiated and delivered a number of innovative and complex exhibitions and projects including: Paradise by Kultug Ataman (2008), an international co-commission and solo show; Plastic Culture: Legacies of Pop (2009), an artist curated touring exhibition with major international loans; Recent Findings: Simon Faithfull (2010) a solo show and site specific public realm performance with the AND Festival; and A Private Affair: Personal Collections of Contemporary Art in collaboration with the Contemporary Art Society in 2012.

Lindsay has been instrumental in all three manifestations of the Digital Aesthetic Project 2001-2012 and has developed an expertise in commissioning and collecting digital art. Related curatorial projects include: Passages (2009), the first British solo show and two acquisitions by pioneering French video artist Robert Cahen; Current: An Experiment in Collecting Digital Art (2011) an open call, exhibition, debate and acquisition of a networked gallery installation by Thomson and Craighead; and the Piercing Brightness exhibition by Shezad Dawood (2011) with the acquisition of the co-commissioned video 'Trailer'. Lindsay is currently writing a chapter for a new book edited by Beryl Graham about collecting new media art and audience relationships to these collections.

From 2009 – 2012 Lindsay chaired North by NorthWest Contemporary Visual Art Network, successfully delivering an impact study on the social, cultural and economic benefits of the contemporary visual arts in Lancashire and Cumbria, and a bespoke leadership development programme for members. She is currently developing further projects with the Contemporary Art Society and UCLan and is leading research about how the Harris can best support artists in the region.

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