February 22, 2020

Origins of Balance

Details about the making of the interactive installation Balance (2020).Frequent moving over the last ten years made me relate to the topic of the challenge of navigating through life. Then, one of my hobbies is slacklining (tightrope-walking-like sport). Combining these factors and following up the language play and literal sense of my previous artwork, such as Burnout (2016), and Bikes Make Dresden (2018), the idea for this project started to emerge: Create an environment that would allow people to find balance literally. While the initial plan looked simple, it took a lot of refinement to materialize it. Some early sketches involved chains, mirrors, and video-mapped projections.

Drawing of one of the early versions.

The main challenge of the development stage was to enhance the user-friendliness of the work while keeping the production costs at a sustainable level. I replaced the chains with a solid beam and opted to drop any electronics by representing the topics by sculptures, rather than projections. Once the rough form of the project was clear, it still required addressing plenty of details. Due to the interactive nature of the installation, the main concern was to make it safe, welcoming, yet challenging — If the walking beam were too narrow and/or too high, nobody would want to participate. On the other hand, if it would be too wide and/or too low, it would deny the idea, which is crucial to the concept. Besides the width and height, I had to find a suitable material for both the walking platforms and the sculptures. Material-wise, I went with steel, to make the platforms as sturdy as possible.

After cutting, welding, and grinding the steel, I had three pieces for the balancing: two ramps and one central beam. All contact points with the ground are treated with anti-slip rubber to prevent any sliding and vibrations.

With the balancing platforms finished, I moved to the sculptures. My initial thoughts about the material were concrete or wood, but these were quickly scrapped after going through the risk assessment. Imagining scenarios of potential injury caused by a sculpture representing health, for instance, wasn’t desirable, so I set off to make them low-profile, soft, and round. “Sand could do,” I thought. But that was a no-go as well — sand can hold moisture, and could, therefore, ruin the gallery’s wooden floors. Polystyrene would work great, but it is surprisingly expensive. After making the steel platforms, my budget needed to be in balance, too. I recalled the days I worked in construction and had a solution: Polyurethane foam. Weeks of carving later, the pieces started to take shape.

To smoothen their surface, I used a filler, and on larger areas, I fitted arts newspapers with wallpaper glue. However, I also left parts of the sculptures untreated, admitting their material and exposing its rough surface, to reflect that some areas can have imperfections even when balanced. The last thing was to paint the sculptures to match the colour of the steel platforms: three coats of matt black.

The work was exhibited in the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA), in the Scottish capital city.

"Balance" in RSA, Edinburgh.

I also made a Balance-themed poster to accompany the work, which ended up being featured on ArtMag.co.uk as a cover for the RSA show. Happy days!

Published by: Jakub Stepanovic in Projects


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