Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Meet Your Maker: Cameron Robbins

Your work has been described as kinetic sculpture. Can you explain that term?

It’s always hard to describe art. ‘Kinetic’ is a word used to describe scultpures that move - which does describe some of the works I do. Unfortunately, it’s a little dated and does limit the understanding of work such as drawing machines and dynamic mechanical systems connected to elemental forces – such things aren’t only about movement. The drawing machines are more like instruments and can even be thought of as prosthetic - an extension of the mind and body. They are not automatic, but must be played and practiced in order to perform.

Does nature equate to limitless inspiration?


One thing I am attracted to about wind and weather is that the scale is pretty much “nought to infinity”: from barely noticeable to extreme destruction. So using this to motivate artwork lends a beautiful dynamic – although it’s very challenging to work with elements such as the ocean, where the engineering becomes quite onerous and much work has to be done to make the work responsive but resilient.

However, I now realize that ‘nature’ is a troubled term. Thinking about nature as a concept leads quickly to questioning what it represents and where the idea came from. Humans are as much a part of nature as wind or ants or comets, and the more our technology can act like the beneficial living things (such as most plants), the likelier is our comfortable survival. Also, nature is not all good –asteroid impact, volcanoes, viruses…

What has been your proudest art moment?

My son getting A+ for Art in VCE. It’s all his work of course, but hopefully his parents provided some support along the way. Second was probably playing improvised music with Brian Ritchie (bass player from the Violent Femmes, now curator for MONA FOMA in Hobart) alongside my ocean wave-powered pipe-organ installation, at the end of a Hobart pier in front of a crowd for MONA FOMA 2009 - followed by table tennis and astronomy discussions with David Walsh.

You make science beautiful, graceful. Is this intentional?

Thank you, yes I do like to make nice drawings and captivating objects if I can. But I have come to understand that my attraction to the science world is about the accidents, some of the appartatus, and the visual outcomes. I am not so interested in proving anything or creating repeatable experiments to back up theories, which is the driving force of science. I’m happier getting wrapped up in the mysteries and what is generally beyond knowledge.

Also a jazz musician on clarinet and tenor sax - is music essential while creating your artworks?

Hopefully the title ‘Working with Atmosphere’ alludes to creating a nice work environment including music, and also to the playing of wind instruments. Some works such as the wave-powered pipe-organ incorporate music.

In times of studio production I can work with music, it is great to be in the zone. However I really enjoy quiet for thinking about what to do next – I find it quite a challenge with the creative and technical decisions of sculptural machines and instruments. Music is great for drawing and painting. Sometimes in group studios, other people’s music can become irritating, so quiet is a happy compromise.

What did you want to explore in your new show "Working with Atmosphere"?

I am hoping to generate intrigue with some new shapes derived from wind drawings, and to work with the massive old chimney in the space to create a work about interior/exterior airflow.

Why did you choose to exhibit at Stockroom?

The directors Jason and Magali are very good to work with, and creating a great gallery and scene at Stockroom. The fact that they thought of me when they saw the huge old chimney was enough to make me feel excited to take on the show, as a continuation of my exploration of site-specific work connected to the outdoor elements.

What's on the cards for Cameron Robbins?

After the ‘Working with Atmosphere’ opens, I am showing at the Korean International Art Fair with Sydney gallery GBK. I’ll be in Seoul for 5 days, then on to explore Japan by shinkansen – bullet train - while researching a project there. Back in Australia, I am organising an on-site project at a weird magnetic mountain - a 4 hour hike between Falls Creek and Mt Hotham - to try to create some work about that.


"Working with Atmosphere" will exhibit from September 17 - October 9, at Stockroom.