Category: Miniature Cities

Mix and Match City at Hazelhurst (dining room)

Tracey Clement, ‘Mix and Match City,’ 2020, laser cut recycled cardboard, tape, glue, dimensions variable. Installed in the dining room of the cottage at Hazelhurst, August 2020.

Another photo shoot of Mix and Match City in a domestic setting, this time in the dining room of the Hazelhurst ‘cottage.’

Mix and Match City can be seen in the group show THE HOME at the Hazelhurst Arts Centre until 8 November 2020.

There is something interesting happening here. Something to do with the model city – already a microcosm of the macrocosm – being brought into a domestic setting: another microcosm (the single dwelling, home of the nuclear family et al) within the macrocosm of society.

I haven’t quite figured out yet, and certainly haven’t properly articulated it yet….

Soon it would be too hot (work in progress)

‘Soon it would be too hot’ is a work in progress. Even Mr Spock isn’t quite sure what’s going on yet.

Soon it would be too hot is the first line of JG Ballard’s novel The Drowned World, which I’ve been obsessed with for ages. (See previous responses here)

Soon it would be too hot is also a work in progress. Even Mr Spock isn’t quite sure what’s going on yet.

Watch this space!

Mix and Match City at Hazelhurst (bathroom)

 

Tracey Clement, ‘Mix and Match City,’ 2020, laser cut recycled cardboard, tape, glue, dimensions variable. Installed in the bathroom of the cottage at Hazelhurst, August 2020.

In late August 2020 I undertook a short stint as artist in residence at the Hazelhurst Arts Centre, staying in the fabulous 1940s art deco ‘cottage.’

I couldn’t resist installing my Mix and Match City in the over-the-top original deco bathroom.

Mix and Match City can be seen in the group show THE HOME at the Hazelhurst Arts Centre until 8 November 2020.

 

Mix and Match City

Tracey Clement, ‘Mix and Match City’ (detail), 2020, laser-cut recycled cardboard, tape, glule, dimensions variable (40 units).

Mix and Match City can be seen in the group show THE HOME at the Hazelhurst Arts Centre until 8 November 2020.

Mix and Match City is a mini-metropolis that deliberately draws on the inherently aspirational symbolism of architectural models. All architectural models represent an idea, a vision for the future made manifest in miniature. They are real, but not fully realised. Infused with potential, they are liminal zones tinged with hope.

The multiple little buildings presented in Mix and Match City encompass an eclectic range of styles that were nonetheless all made from a selection of just six basic shapes. In this model city structures resembling classic art deco skyscrapers from New York or Chicago, Aztec pyramids, adobe masterpieces from Timbuktu, Persian towers, pan-Asian pagodas and suburban Aussie bungalows all coexist harmoniously. And if they can, maybe we can too?

At a time when the notion of home seems more important than ever, Mix and Match City is a mini utopia, a gesture towards a better future.

I constructed this iteration of while staying the the 1940s art deco ‘cottage’ as artist in residence at Hazelhurst in August 2020.

Looking back to the future: Futurama 2.0

Tracey Clement, ‘Futurama 2.0’ (instal detail), 26 October 2019 – 29 February 2020 at Fairfield City Museum and Gallery(FCMG).

Looking back to the future
by Tracey Clement
(A shorter version of this essay was published in October 2019 by FCMG in the exhibition catalogue)

Visitors to the Futurama exhibition at the 1939-1940 World’s Fair in New York left with a souvenir badge that declared, “I have seen the future.” What they had actually seen was an elaborate piece of propaganda; a massive model landscape in which modern metropolises were joined by what their creator Norman Bel Geddes liked to call “magic motorways,” all teeming with cars.(1)

The “Word of Tomorrow” presented in Futurama ranged from life-sized to miniature. It featured more than 500,000 buildings, one million trees, and 50,000 cars, trucks and buses (10,000 of which actually moved).(2) Automobiles, and the roads they zoomed along, were very much the stars of the show. Which comes as no real surprise since the primary purpose of this ambitious display was to sell cars and lobby US government officials to build more roads.(3)

Futurama was a giant advertisement for American automotive giant General Motors. And in many ways the more than five million people who visited had seen the future: a rather bleak future in which personal freedom was conflated with owning a car; a future in which whole neighbourhoods were razed to rubble to accommodate roads; a future of pollution, congestion, the rapacious consumption of fossil fuels and the wars waged to secure their supply; a future of anthropogenic climate change.

The future we are living in now.

I have seen the future

I first felt like I had seen the future when I read JG Ballard’s 1962 novel, The Drowned World. Reading this slim sci-fi story in the mid 1980s, when nuclear Armageddon loomed large, Ballard’s post-apocalyptic vision of a ruined semi-submerged metropolis – strangled by vines, patrolled by carnivorous reptiles and equally dangerous men – seemed both realistic and inevitable. Today The Drowned World reads like a prescient vision of our current climate emergency.

Since 2014 I have been using imagery of the ruined model city in sculptures which seek to draw attention to the dangers of an anthropocentric world view. As these mini cities disintegrate they can be read as warnings; a vision of the post-apocalyptic future we are wilfully creating through both action and inaction. But they, like The Drowned World, can also be seen as a glimmer of hope.

As I have argued elsewhere, Ballard’s post-apocalyptic story can be read as a utopian vision of the slate wiped clean. He pictures a fecund world in which humanity is on the wane while the rest of the natural world flourishes without us. It’s a vision of hope, but one tinged with a deep sense of loss: the loss of humanity in all our terrible brilliance.(4)

Tracey Clement, ‘Futurama 2.0’ (instal detail), 26 October 2019 – 29 February 2020 at Fairfield City Museum and Gallery (FCMG).

Futurama 2.0

A few years ago I heard an author say on the radio that the role of a sci-fi writer should be, not to describe impending disaster, but to imagine a positive future; to envisage utopia, to dare to hope. I can’t remember his name, and I’ve paraphrased him wildly, but it’s a valid point.

Today, as our political leaders put their heads in the metaphorical sand and refuse to address the realties of the climate crisis; as temperatures rise along with sea levels; as so many people suffer from despair in the face of ecological upheaval that Australian philosopher Glen Albrecht came up with a name for the condition – solastalgia, which, perhaps unsurprisingly, didn’t really catch on but eco-anxiety did; as we build yet more roads; as we continue to burn coal: catastrophe seems inexorable. Inevitable. Picturing it is just a little bit too much like stating the obvious.

Imagining a better world is much, much harder.

Tracey Clement, ‘Futurama 2.0’ (instal detail), 26 October 2019 – 29 February 2020 at Fairfield City Museum and Gallery (FCMG).

With Futurama 2.0 I’ve tried to rise to this challenge. It is a utopian vision of the city, albeit a modest and subtle one. Compared to its predecessor this model city is utterly lacking in sophistication. There are no bells, no whistles, no moving parts. Brightly coloured and literally held together with sticky tape, it looks like something kids might make.

There are clues to its utopian leanings scattered throughout Futurama 2.0, but this right here is key: children aged four to 12 years-old did contribute to the project, and so did local high school students, and adults from both the Fairfield and broader Sydney communities. More than 50 people answered my call to come make their mark on this model metropolis. We made the city together.

There are other elements in this artwork that point to its utopian leanings. For a start there aren’t any cars at all; Futurama 2.0 is a walk-able city, with (presumably) an efficient public transport system tucked neatly underground. And the trees are massive, old growth giants venerated for their carbon sequestering, shade-throwing and inherent wisdom. Corporate branding is subverted and re-purposed to suit other agendas. Futurama 2.0 is a conglomeration of classic Western skyscrapers, Aztec-esque pyramids, Middle Eastern style towers, pan-Asian pagodas and suburban bungalows all coexisting harmoniously; a kind of multicultural architecture made from just six basic shapes. But the collective nature of its construction remains its most potent symbol of hope.

For it is together that we have the power to shape the future.

Tracey Clement 2019

Notes

  1. Norman, Bel Geddes, Magic Motorways. New York: Random House, 1940.
  2. The theme of the fair was “Building the World of Tomorrow. Donald Albrecht, ed. Noman Bel Geddes Designs America, New York: Abrams, 2012, 290-294.
  3. It was very successful. See: Nathaniel Robert Walker, “American Crossroads: General Motors’ Midcentury Campaign to Promote Modernist Urban Design in Hometown USA,” Buildings & Landscapes: Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum 23, no. 2 (Fall 2016): 89-115.
  4. Tracey Clement, “Mapping the Drowned World.” University of Sydney, 2017, 190. http://hdl.handle.net/2123/17344

Tracey Clement: Futurama 2.0
Fairfield City Museum and Gallery (FCMG)
26 October – 29 February 2020

Banquet

Tracey Clement, ‘Banquet,’ installed in at the Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability as a finalist in the North Sydney Art Prize, 2-17 March 2019, sugar, glass, laundry soap, dimensions variable.

The word banquet implies abundance, but also gluttony and greed. Like much of my recent work, Banquet uses the symbol of the ruined city to highlight the impact of an anthropocentric worldview.

(Before) Tracey Clement, ‘Banquet,’ 27 February 2019, sugar, glass, laundry soap.

The brutalist towers of Banquet are made from sugar cubes. Perched on fancy cut crystal glassware, they are flooded with laundry soap. They tilt, crash and dissolve over time.

(After) Tracey Clement, ‘Banquet,’ 2 March 2019, sugar, glass, laundry soap.

Sugar is sweet, but it is also addictive – another white powder. The toxic legacy of the sugar industry (driven by our mass consumption) ranges from slavery to bleached coral on the Great Barrier Reef. And as the bright blue laundry detergent in this sculpture undermines the foundations of the city, it is a reminder that what goes down the drain ends up in our rivers and oceans. All of our actions have implications for an environment with which we are inexplicably entwined.

Banquet is the first artwork in my ongoing series of miniature cities.

Soft Science at Sheffer Gallery

Tracey Clement, ‘Soft Science Diagram’ (detail), 2018, vintage laboratory glass, knitted and wound acrylic yarn, MDF, pine.

Tracey Clement: Soft Science
Sheffer Gallery
38 Lander Street
Darlington
12 – 22 December 2018
Weds – Sat, 11am – 6pm

Closing event: 22 Dec, 3-6pm

Tracey Clement is known for creating artworks that meticulously utilise labour intensive techniques for their conceptual resonance. In Soft Science she turns her attention to knitting, a skill still largely regarded as women’s work.

In Soft Science, when the domestic feminine act of knitting is made an integral part of a laboratory experiment, we are asked to acknowledge two truths: that women have always made a significant contribution to the supposedly masculine domain of science, and that the hard facts of science are not the only way to make sense of the world.

Soft Science highlights the fact that there is more than one way to skin Schrödinger’s cat. In a secular society we tend to look to the quantifiable facts of science for meaning. But art too is a way of understanding the world; a knowledge generating system which is different, but no less valid.

In Soft Science, when cold rational laboratory glass meets soft warm knitting, fuzzy logic is made manifest. In other words, there is no right answer in an experiment calculated to prove, if it proves anything at all, that truth is a mutable concept and that much of the universe may be ultimately unknowable.

Winner: 65th Blake Prize Established Artist Residency

Tracey Clement, 'Metropolis Experiment,' 2017-2018, rusty steel, lab glass, salt, cotton. Installed at Casula Powerhouse for the 65th Blake Prize, 2018.

Tracey Clement, ‘Metropolis Experiment,’ 2017-2018, rusty steel, lab glass, salt, cotton. Installed at Casula Powerhouse for the 65th Blake Prize, 2018.

Thanks to Metropolis Experiment I’ve won the 65th Blake Prize Established Artist Residency!

This prize includes a 4 week residency and a solo show at the Casula Powerhouse in 2021!

Watch this space!

 

Soft Science: City

Tracey Clement, 'Soft Science City I,' 2018, laboratory glass and knitted acrylic, dimensions variable, max height 50cm.

Tracey Clement, ‘Soft Science City I,’ 2018, laboratory glass and knitted acrylic, dimensions variable, max height 50cm.

The first work in my Soft Science series, Soft Science: City, debuted in the group show Couplings in April 2018.

Curators Helen Hyatt-Johnston and Brad Buckley selected 30 artists (who are also couples) to exhibit together, including me and my partner Peter Burgess.

Read the Couplings e-catalogue here

Couplings 
Dominik Mersch Gallery
11 April – 12 May 2018
Opening: Tuesday 10 April, 6–8pm

 

PhD show: Mapping The Drowned World

Tracey Clement, ‘Mapping The Drowned World’ installed at SCA, 21-23 September 2017.

All three bodies of work which I made for my PhD (Post-Premonitionism 2, Metropolis Experiment, and my Drowned World Maps) came together in my show Mapping The Drowned World, for 3 days only. Both the sculptures and the maps were made in response to JG Ballard’s 1962 novel, The Drowned World.  You can watch me de-install the show in the video below.

Watch Tracey Clement de-install ‘Mapping The Drowned World.’ 3.5 years work, 6 day install, 7 hour de-install: compressed into 1.5 minutes!

 

Tracey Clement, ‘Mapping The Drowned World’ installed at SCA, 21-23 September 2017.

Tracey Clement, ‘Mapping The Drowned World’ installed at SCA, 21-23 September 2017.

Metropolis Experiment

Tracey Clement, ‘Metropolis Experiment,’ 2016-17, rusty steel, salt, laboratory glass, cotton, dimensions variable (max height 200cm). Photo T. Clement.

Metropolis Experiment, 2-17 June 2017 at AirSpace Projects, Marrickville.

Metropolis Experiment is part architectural model, part mad science: the whole city is a laboratory. But instead of shiny stainless and gleaming glassware in sterile white surrounds, we are presented with rusty tripods and salt crystals that creep up and over everything, corroding as they go. In Metropolis Experiment something has gone horribly wrong: it’s a ruined model city, a metaphor.

Metropolis Experiment is my third recent body of work which responds to the vivid prognostications of JG Ballard’s 1962 post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel, The Drowned World. View the first here and the second here.

What links these works is the image of the ruined city, an image Ballard conjured so evocatively in The Drowned World.

Tracey Clement, 'Metropolis Experiment,' 2016-17, rusty steel, salt, laboratory glass, cotton, dimensions variable (max height 200cm). Photo T. Clement.

Tracey Clement, ‘Metropolis Experiment,’ 2016-17, rusty steel, salt, laboratory glass, cotton, dimensions variable (max height 200cm). Photo T. Clement.

Thanks to its scale, Metropolis Experiment draws on the conceptual qualities of architectural models (as well as ruins) in order to make a point. As theorists are fond of pointing out, all ruins simultaneously embody both the present and the past.

Meanwhile, architectural models are inherently aspirational. They embody potential, physically manifested, but not quite realised. They represent the future. As a ruined model city (a combination of both) my artwork adds a third temporal stream: the future already devastated.

Metropolis Experiment is a premonition, a warning.

Metropolis Experiment II

Tracey Clement, ‘Metropolis Experiment II,’ 2016, laboratory glass, salt, rust, dimensions variable (max height 100cm).

Metropolis Experiment II is actually part of a larger work, Metropolis Experiment, which will be shown at AirSpace Projects 2-17 June 2017.

This sculpture is the unholy love child of an architectural model and a chemistry trial gone horribly wrong: it’s a ruined model city, a metaphor.

Metropolis Experiment is part of my third recent body of work in my Mapping The Drowned World project which responds to the vivid prognostications of JG Ballard’s 1962 post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel, The Drowned World.

It is also my third model city. The previous two are: Post-Premonitionism 2 and Plastic City.

 

Post-Premonitionism 2

Blue_post_prem_ Banner

Tracey Clement, Post-Premonitionism 2, 2014-15, salt, rusty steel, cotton, dimensions variable, max height 1.8m.

Post-Premonistionism 2 is a sequel. It is my second sculptural response to JG Ballard’s novel The Drowned World. This work was installed during the group exhibition I coordinated, Mapping The Drowned World.

READ the ‘Mapping The Drowned World’ catalogue on ISSUU.

Thanks to its scale, Post-Premonitionism 2 draws on the conceptual qualities of architectural models, as well as ruins, in order to make a point. Architectural models are inherently aspirational. They embody potential, physically manifested, but not quite realised. They represent the future, while ruins ellicit a temporal slippage between the past and the present. But as a model city, my artwork adds a third temporal stream: the future already devastated.

Model cities are conventionally displayed so that the viewer takes a ‘god’s eye view’ like a triumphant ruler surveying his domain. In my work, the ruined city is positioned at eye height, precariously balanced on salty peaks of vaguely anthropomorphic volume, emphasising our complicity in creating this ruined future. Like Ballard’s novel, my ruined city is a warning.

Plastic City Videos

Plastic City

Tracey Clement, concept drawing for 'Plastic City', 2010.

Tracey Clement, concept drawing for ‘Plastic City’, 2010.

Big isn’t always better

Plastic City represents the annual consumption of one individual. The miniature buildings are made from every plastic container I bought during 2010; they were stored instead of recycled.

Tracey Clement, 'Plastic City' (detail), 2012, plastic containers used in 12 months, dimensions variable.

Tracey Clement, ‘Plastic City’ (detail), 2012, plastic containers used in 12 months, dimensions variable.

The vaguely sci-fi style of the mini city’s ‘architecture’ is an invitation to think about the future. Plastic City embodies a number of timely questions about the types of cities we want to live in, sustainable practice in urban environments and personal responsibility.

Visitors should leave asking themselves, “How big would my Plastic City be?” In this case, bigger isn’t better.

Plastic City highlights the fact that recycling is not enough. We need to choose items that aren’t heavily packaged. We need to use less and re-use, not just recycle.

Tracey Clement
2012

Plastic City was constructed on site over a week at Articulate Project Space, June 19-24, 2012.

The public were invited to visit during the making process and helped to ‘recycle’ the work at the closing event.

Watch more ‘Plastic City’ videos here.