Presented by Berman Contemporary
ART AFRICA conducted various interviews with some of the artist that will be exhibiting at Investec Cape Town Art Fair 2018!
Ingrid Bolton has a relationship to objects otherwise discarded. Represented by Berman Contemporary, Bolton deconstructs copper and cables in order to analyse society’s reliance on systems of connectivity, while challenging classical art-making practices.
Ingrid Bolton, Layered Landscape, 2017. Metal box, various cables, 15x15x variable. Courtesy of the artist & Berman Contemporary.
ART AFRICA: You’re exhibiting Reconnect at the 2018 ICTAF – tell us how you came to work with technology in the form of cables?
Ingrid Bolton: My first exposure to the demand for copper was when our copper irrigation pipes were stolen from the fields of a farm we lived on. Radio reports of train stoppages due to cable theft started occurring more often. This was all driven by the rise in the copper price, which was fuelled by China electrifying itself. Copper today has an inherent value and as the copper price increases, so the demand is driven to steal it. Making the connection – that the needs of a land far away could have implications in my own local space, was the first time I started to look at how connections are made globally. It was through both farming and these experiences that I came to realise that all things are connected – I also work in the area of climate and the long-term implications of climate change.
Technology is seen to both advance and destroy – what is your opinion of how artists navigate this space between traditional art practice and the more progressive digital mode of art-making?
My sense is that there is a place for everyone in the diverse space that art occupies. Artists have the ability to view society with a different lens. What is traditional art practice – today anyway, and whose tradition specifically? We live in a time when there are so many different traditions and cultures mixed with so many contentious issues to discuss and bring into the public space. As an artist in this contemporary time, I am fuelled by the challenges that society finds itself in, and find that through art, I can contribute to these challenges in a creative way. If my work is only aesthetically pleasing but not a stimulating discussion, then I feel that I have not taken full advantage of where art is today.
Because this is the way that I enjoy being challenged to make art, it does not mean that it is the only way or the more progressive method that you describe. Artists are fuelled by so many causes, needs or personal goals and I respect any artists who are willing to open themselves up to public scrutiny.
Ingrid Bolton, Copper cubed I, 2017. Metal box, various cables. Courtesy of the artist & Berman Contemporary.
This series of works has required you to visit waste sites in order to create art – will you continue to recycle objects in the effort of critiquing traditional, aesthetic art mediums?
I use recycled material to comment on waste. I am conscious of how much is produced by humans and how little is re-used. I’m not pointing fingers, as I am equally implicated, but attempting to encourage thought around this. My task as an artist is not to critique aesthetic or traditional art practices, I leave that to the art critics. My challenge is to engage with society in such a way that people are aroused to ask questions. The recycled cable that I use carries meaning. If I can prod society to ask why and create discussion through art, then I am half way there.
These organised cables are reminiscent of micro-organisms. Has your academic history of microbiology influenced how you think about and create art?
I like to think that the art I make is specific to me; my life is an accumulation of past experiences that all come together to contribute and inform how I think. So yes, my background in microbiology does inform my art making, as does my short stint in farming. I came to understand that climate change globally, affects me locally. For example, understanding the importance of microbial rich compost and that the quality of the earth in which the trees or vegetables grow will affect the taste and quality of the fruit.
Finding the connection between microorganisms in the soil and in the oceans and the vital contribution they make to the future of our planet, all combine to find the links between the micro and the macro spaces in which we live. Sterile soils or ocean acidification due to too much carbon being emitted in the atmosphere caused by burning fossil fuels, are unhealthy spaces. An unhealthy gut in humans is an example of how our bodies are also very much reliant on microorganisms, to digest food effectively, as our planet is. Visually my cable work often references the microscopic worlds that I am interested in.
Ingrid Bolton, Flow, 2017. Metal box, various cables, 15x15x15cm. Courtesy of the artist & Berman Contemporary.
Your artworks exhibit an organised assembly of what would otherwise be discarded waste – what is the process of organising such chaotic and rough materials?
So it may be discarded but will ultimately be recycled. I have help with the cutting and finishing of the pieces, which is a time consuming and labour intensive process. How I assemble the pieces together varies. Sometimes I have an overall plan of the piece, like when it may reference layers of skin, cellular microscopy or a pattern. Other times I work with what I have available and in quite an abstract manner.
I assemble these boxes in two different ways. In some of the boxes I want the finished surfaces to be flat, so I assemble them upside down to achieve this. Only one side of the cut cable is polished, so whilst I have an idea of how it will look, it is in no way a finished surface. I always enjoy the surprise that occurs when I turn the finished work over to reveal the clean surface.