Re-Entry Vehicle; Natural Science in the Spirit World


Spectro Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, U.K. 1982.


Section 1.
Circle: Pigmented sand; carbonised wood; pit fired earthenware vessels (x8) (35cm dia); carbonised grain; seabird skulls/bones; metal blades; Polaroid photograph.Section 2. Canoe: Steel and Weldmesh framework; clay; straw; steel wire; glass and mirror fragments (x8); Polaroids and associated negative waste; strip lights 40w. (x8).

Section 3
Tents: Wood; bitumen paper; bitumen paint; steel wire; tin cans (clean and carbonised); carbonised books; steel rods; copper wire; audio equipment with tape loops (x3).

Section 1. 3m diameter.
Section 2. 6m x 1.5m.
Section 3. 3.6m x 1.8m.
Total Installation 12m x 3.6m.

A sculptural installation in which a ceramic ‘canoe’ links a ritual circle of pottery shards with a series of tar and bitumen covered shelters surrounded by carbonised detritus. The canoe as vehicle, rests in this metaphorical landscape through which humankind must progress.


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The installation as a whole has available literal reading(s), utilising the directional nature of the vehicle as a pointer in time and by recognising the references to cultural and ideological processes.

However, any such initial reading operates as a “lowest common denominator” in the generation of meaning; my ultimate aim being to deny any single interpretation; (this being achieved, in part, by baulking at the representational or symbolic mode in construction and presentation).

My personal term for such a construction is a “Meta-Landscape” and this characterises the way in which I intend the work to operate as a series of associated and interdependent metaphors, which ideally begin to form a matrix or field of meaning; (a process which I feel is similar to the gradual building up and assimilation of material experienced whilst reading a novel).

In a metaphorical landscape rests the vehicle; for thousands of year’s humankind has travelled with it over this material surface. Between peak and valley floor; shoreline to shoreline; whilst in sleep or in trance it has voyaged to dream worlds, spanning Heaven and Earth; cage to Utopia; it is our means out of; our means back to.

© Nigel Helyer 1982

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