Friday, 25 June 2010

Press Article for Oil-Of-Course in the Jewish Chronicle

The article is by Jessica Elgot from the JC which came out today!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

...towards a proposal for Oil-Of-Course

In these drawings/sketches I started to incorporate the fact that it would be housed on the roof of the Byam Shaw main site building. I started to plan the separate pools on each side giving me a rough idea of how it could look in my head. These preliminary doodles were submitted a long with the proposal for the space that still needed to be compiled and sent to the principal of Byam Shaw school of Art - Alistair Warman. These pages are taken from my sketchbooks/diaries in which other bits will be recognised such as my thorough research into sourcing materials or components of the installation. The different companies I have rung up and the different quotes for things etc. (a very important aspect when putting together a proposal if requesting money for the budget).In this image I have tested the concept for building pools using just a frame and a tarpaulin. it failed in keeping the water contained (since the tarpaulin had holes in the mesh fabric) however the concept was a success, and meant that come installing, I could lay them down pretty quickly and efficiently (using the right sourced material that was more durable and less likely to leak).
This next image is a (not to scale) overview of the pools. The Damp-proof membrane roll that was sourced and the cuts I could get out of it. Would this be enough? In this diagram I also needed to think about health and safety, how the viewer/visitor would navigate through the installation. Since the rooftop is also a fire-escape, people cannot congregate on the steps or in the walk way so in a sense it is supposed to be seen as an extension to the rest of the show whereby people walk from exits A - B and vice versa as if passing through. This was essential to be put in the proposal under the detailed risk assessment analysis.
For a while now I have felt that a progression in my work would be to make certain elements of my installations kinetic. For this piece I took a brave new step which was to bring to life a shower pump for one of the pools. this kinetic addition would also add sound to the whole rooftop as well. But this last minute addition was also costly in materials eating away at the contingency of my budget! Nevertheless it proved successful in building and adds a whole new dimension to the interdisciplinary elements which comprise my work. Here are some of the sketches and working out drawings for this shower, pump and external battery.
Finally I must add a thank you contribution to my brother Av who is a qualified mechatronic (mechanical and electronic) engineer who currently works for BAE Systems. His advice in the construction and in the shower development has been crucial to the success of this project, so much so that perhaps one could call this additional element - the work of the "Cohen brothers!". From difficult calculations for finding the weight of each pool needed for inclusion in the risk assessment analysis, to overseeing other aspects I could not have done it as successfully without him. Thanks bro!

So it all starts round about here...

...when I was philosophising about good and evil, oppositions, transitions in my head. Light versus Dark. It was a strange way in which I came to stumble upon the background information that this piece is based upon. I happened to watch a couple of the Zeitgeist documentaries which are very much in gear with socialist utopian concepts, educating the world about the money scams and the ever increasing dollars that get pumped into the world. But apart from exposing how fake money really is and how inflation keeps increasing as a result, it mentioned how U.S standard oil was responsible for funding the Nazis and WWII. I was a little shocked at first and thought I'd do a little more research into this fact to find out where this accusation had come from.A little further on into the pages I could find and the articles/essays I could dig up... I began to become a little bit ill, disgusted and angry in which a series of drawings came out of me initially. Being half American, and Jewish, I felt outraged at the nasty work the American Capitalists had done in this particularly dark part of history in the last century. I felt betrayed. The drawing/collage which came out of this here is called: "On realising my nation sold out my people 2/2"
U.S Standard Oil it seems were responsible for a number of things through I.G Farben (A Nazi industry). Zyklon B was a product researched and invented from oil investments, supported by Standard Oil but was actually used to gas and kill many in the concentration camps. My initial installation idea was to build an internal pool filled with bodies and motor oil with a shower system to pump the viscous oil. Here are some preliminary sketches:Certain problems arose with this idea. If I was to use old motor-oil it would have to be ventilated extremely well being in a contained space and indoors. It would also pose a lot of fire hazard, health and safety issues. Another problem with this is that oil is viscous and cannot be pumped so easily. It would require an extremely powerful and expensive pump in order to do this, and in doing so would create a loud noise disturbing the whole gallery for the duration of the show.
I had spoken to a number of different people regarding the ideas and I got a lot of feedback saying that it was too depressing, too heavy, no optimism! No light Leo! So I started to think about what could oppose this, negate the black oil. My head began to think, (funny enough I do most of my thinking under the power shower!) I thought about the object of beauty that has been the subject of many artist's paintings over the centuries: Flowers. Nature. It is the natural source of beauty. When we are sad we look at flowers, objects that make us happy. A happy suggestion for all occasions. But also given for funerals and other more depressing occasions to lighten up the soul and make things beautiful. I then thought that to oppose the black oil I would have the flowers in motor oil. I knew that motor oil refracted and created rainbow like patterns in the sun. Perhaps this would be the perfect positive of the oil to oppose the negative, heavier and darker side.

It was then that I came across an article by Dr Margaret Brearley in the Muswell Hill Shul Magazine which talked about Nazism and Nature and how in fact the Nazis would artificially plant flowers into the cities, towns and villages during the war to make everything look beautiful for the people. Somehow it all seemed to tie in. This was my initial sketch which came later (the size is more like something for the Tate Modern ha! but it represents an important change to the installation's development and progression:

On top of one side you had the black showers of oil over bodies and on the other side you had strong lights over the flowers refracting motor oil. Too much oil though and health and safety NOs written all over it. I needed to come up with a new way of containing it as well. Although my initial idea was to reinvent the space to be completely liquid or water-like floors, it would be very difficult and expensive to have a pre-cut bit of damp-proof-membrane to make a custom sized pool. Plus I did not know what my eventual floor space would be. Still I wanted to create something that looked a little more sculpture like. By now I had a number of points I was wanting to make about things and how it all needed to be connected. The other concepts of Nietzsche and Darwinism in relation to socialist Utopian ideas was all very related but my problem was how to do this visually, putting the points across without trying to be too conceptual in expecting the viewer to have to work it out for themselves.

Certain ideas are presented in your face, you know what they are! that's how I wanted them. I was tired of seeing piles of clothes or shoes that are conceptual - representing the lack of the bodies, and the number of bodies that are missing only to be traced through an item of clothing. To reminiscent of the rooms in Auschwitz where belongings are still left in piles. I wanted the bodies to be present. For these I focused on the notions of otherness. Essays I had read in "A Jew in the Text" about vichy and anti-Semitic portrayals of the Jew.

Other parts are a little more ambiguous, to make the connection is hard initially. It was strange for me to see connections here initially as well. A lot of things contradicting themselves, for example my passion towards socialist utopian theory which speaks about unity but for that to work one needs to eliminate differences of culture, ethnicity and creed. Enlightenment thinkers had these ideas too, and that possibly lead to the death of many Jews in the attempt to eradicate culture. Nature and Nazism how these beautiful concepts actually became used in such vial ways.
I felt that although there were a number of different points to make perhaps I should separate them off and allow the ambiguities to be in the spaces between the containers. how the viewer jumps between one and the other and what links is there between them all. Or should the press release do the job of explaining that...

Here is another preliminary sketch for the contained pools:

This splitting up of the pools also overcame certain health and safety issues about the spread out weight of the water. Over the course of time this idea would later be developed for the rooftop installation. Although preferred to be indoors, the curator felt that the work would be difficultly placed amongst the themes of other people in the show and so as a compromise I was placed on the rooftop. I started to incorporate this new space and the relational aesthetics of its neighbouring buildings.


Hello all and welcome to my blog, I have finally joined up here so I can fill you all in with my recent developments, projects, work in progress, travels and other bits n bobs as it comes. Please stay tuned for more images to come of the development for my latest Holocaust themed installation entitled Oil-Of-Course which is now finished and exhibits to the public from the 29th of June to the 3rd of July 2010 at Byam Shaw School of Art in Archway.

What I wish to do actually, is to show you all the work in progress prior to the finished outcome which I will attempt to do over the next few days.

When I used to paint, I was always interested in seeing the stages and the build-up of the paint. Often I found that certain preliminary stages were far more exciting, more suggestive than the finished outcome, and to see the process was sometimes more fulfilling than the finished product itself which although can be spectacular, also failed to show me the stages in getting to that and the struggles behind it all or the journey it had taken in getting to that final destination.

I hope you will find it exciting to see the work build up, from its preliminary sketchbook stages, through the rigorous tests, to the eventual construction process and development.

To find out more about Oil-Of-Course, visit