Tuesday 10 October 2017

Jabberwock Pt.29: Installing

Pretty much everyone who has seen the monster under construction in the cellar for the last nine months has made comments -with varying degrees of sarcasm- about how I’d never get it out of the bloody cellar.  However I had planned this to the last detail, and with only a few cuts and bruises, an agonisingly painful back, and a litany of cursing in both English and Polish I was able to get the whole lot upstairs out of the cellar, into the yard, and out to the car in a mere hour or so.  Apparently option two, of rebuilding the house so the Jabberwock could rise, Terrahawks-fashion, out of the hinged-open house, wasn’t practical or within budget for my In-Laws.

As a slight nod to the fact that this is also a lease-scheme car and we didn't want to wreck the interior, a tarpaulin was put down...

By 11pm both cars for the convoy were loaded up with the Jabberwock, the Rocking Horse Fly pieces, the Cheshire Cat, and Amy's Card Arch, Pig sculpture, Crockery sculpture, two toolboxes, 12 prints, cards, changes of clothes, snackage, stepladders, and other misc supplies.  And so it was off to bed for a few hours sleep before a drive out to the Lakes.

As the pics show, pretty much every spare inch in the car was filled with the Jabberwock.

Bright was the day and warm the song in our hearts when we sprang out of bed on Saturday, cheerful and ready for putting the work on display.

Not really. We dragged our complaining carcasses out of bed and groaned our way to the cars for the trip to the Lakes at Stupid-O’Clock in the morning.  Deciding, with a car full of wooden sculpture, to forego my usual reckless and cavalier attitude to driving, we took a slightly leisurely trip to Ambleside, still managing to encounter annoyingly slow drivers, dangerously fast drivers, lethal overtaking manoeuvres, speed-traps, and tractors.  Arrival was just after 8am.

Because we are suckers for pain, we'd also taken on an exhibition commission for some of our photography prints elsewhere in the grounds of Rydal Hall, which was the first priority.  Putting the photography show up in the Tearoom occupied much of the first hour, and was a nostalgic jaunt back to the days of showing work at Vicars CafĂ©-Bistro in Saltaire, in that not one wall was completely flat or straight which makes hanging framed work utterly hilarious.

Whilst I was assisting with that (the main job of drilling holes into the stone walls of what was probably a listed building being wisely left to one of the site staff, as I didn’t want to be responsible for an ancient building dropping around my ears) Amy was busily installing her sculpture work out in the formal gardens, then hanging rocking horse flies around the grounds alongside Clare, our friend who had organised the show.

With the tearoom sorted, and with enough caffeine in my system to make my already jangling nerves sing under tension, it was time to move the Jabberwock into position.  And I realised two things:
I really should have argued more about having the Jabberwock near a gate, rather than in the corner furthest from the nearest road access with two flights of steps to negotiate, and, once again,
I really should have made the damned thing lighter.  Or bought a trolley to move it with.  Or a Chinook.

The original location planned for the Jabberwock had been a flowerbed, but to my distress (though it has to be said, not my surprise given the way things were spiralling out of control) it had been heavily cut back and was a bit too open and exposed, somewhat ruining the whole ‘monster in the woods’ angle I’d been hoping for.

The newer location we hastily found nearby though was actually somewhat better, consisting as it did of a plateau the far side of some decorative stone walling.  I hoped anyway it might make things slightly more obvious that this was a sculpture and not a climbing frame as it is an area which the public are not allowed into, and it also had lots of tree cover around it.

Shifting the stuff into position, somewhat laboriously.

As for the weight of the monster, even with two (later four) of us shifting it I realised the downside of having built the thing from reclaimed 15-18 mil ply, and building it to battleship-levels of construction with so much reinforcing and extra bolts to hold it all together.  OK, so that dismantled furniture was a good source of free wood, but by heavens it was heavy, and my back was in quite a lot of pain by the time it was all dumped in a heap.

Putting it together was even more intricate, as there is a hell of a difference between building something in a workshop (well, cellar) on a table raised up 3ft off the ground, and having to scrabble around in brambles and nettles on the floor to try and tighten bolts and screws.

Some hours later though it was assembled, and then an hour or so was spent fitting the details to it (whilst Clare, Amy and her dad went about finding a good spot to put the Cheshire Cat sculpture, and generally trying to hide their boredom and annoyance with my poor planning for the timescale of assembly).  A last dusting with spray paint and a slight sense of anti-climax later, it was installed. 

The anti-climax was largely a result of a failure of one last crucial stage of the project…

Back in the earliest stages of the planning, I'd decided that the Jabberwock would make sense in the context of a machine which had fallen into Wonderland, and had been discovered by, and was under the control of, a group of small (and somewhat oppressed) creatures who were using it for a light spot of revenge and intimidation.

They needed to be anthropomorphic and small, so I decided to revisit something from the earlier Britannia, Steampunk, and an aborted-project based on the story of the Cottingley Faeries.  The above sculpture from those shoots representing one of these figures, which had passed into the imaginary folklore of Britannia.

I decided that it would be a nice juxtaposition for this build, having a race of 'cute' Faerie-type creatures piloting this monster, but with the build overrunning with the bad weather, the plan to make a series of figures went by the wayside.  In the end I laser-cut some figures after work one night, modifying a design I'd done for a student on their Story-Chair project.

Hastily assembled and painted, they were unboxed on site, only to find...

...they were broken or coming unstuck.  There was no safe way to secure them on the monster, and it all felt like a rush as I wasn't happy with the design.  The figures were more fragile than I’d hoped, and with time running out on location, mending them to then find a way of gluing them in place didn’t seem to be an option, particularly with three other people who were tired and hungry waiting for me to wrap-up. 

So regrettably the idea was ditched, which did mean certain aspects of the sculpture wouldn’t make sense.  But after 4 hours sleep in 48, and the day of dragging it all into place, I decided to abandon the idea of a crew, and maybe go have an exhausted little cry somewhere.  In context (and in hindsight) it makes slightly more sense to have it abandoned, and the idea of it being a 'dead' thing which has been left there to scare people.

It was there, in place, anyway, now left to survive the unpredictable ravages of weather and vandalism.  The Steampunk Jabberwock...

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