New York-based visual artist Roxy Paine has achieved the mind-boggling feat of recreating an entire airport security checkpoint out of wood. This follows on from the mysteriously named Machine of Indeterminacy and Scrutiny and takes his maple masterpieces to a new degree of complexity. Sadly, he declined to tell me just how many trees went into the making of Checkpoint, which is part of his solo exhibition Denuded Lens at the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York, but he has answered a few more sensible questions about just how he creates his crazily intricate works which explore “the discourse of the diorama.”
How did you start creating things in wood?
The interplay between the natural world and the built environment is very interesting to me. That paired with the human desire to control nature and nature’s indifference to that desire. Using wood as a medium exemplifies nature contained and contrived.
Why do you find machines in particular so intriguing?
Machines act as industrial agents, but also as a physical manifestation of a mechanism of control. My machines utilise and contradict rules and norms of the factory and mass production. All of them seek to locate the moment in time and the place where control becomes non-control and where control becomes randomness. They also seek to find the place where sameness and uniqueness blur and become indistinct. Establishing a systematic language composed of certain fixed absolutes and certain variable entities.
How long did it take to make Machine of Indeterminacy?
Machine of Indeterminacy took a total of 30 days to make.
Can you explain how you make your artworks?
For me, the ideas are the catalyst. One of the things that has characterised the work from early on is the primacy of the idea; the idea is the propellant, the jet fuel, the combustion chamber. The idea comes first, then pushes me forward into fields of research and knowledge, whether that is biology, epistemology, philosophy or robotics.
"the idea is the propellant, the jet fuel, the combustion chamber"
Have you ever made a machine from wood which actually worked? Or is that missing the point?
I think it is missing the point. Take for example, Machine of Indeterminacy. Here is a machine exerting an enormous amount of energy, mimicking a laborious sequence of operations, but upon close inspection, is a machine of no purpose or function. Thus it becomes a machine of questions. A purely philosophical machine. First of all, because of course it is in wood, but also because it is composed of conglomerate elements, some fictional, some not fictional, which could not possibly work together. As a functional process it is filled with shifts in scale and operation that logically short circuit one another.
What’s your next big project?
The work is a continual process of experimentation, an exploration into what I do not know.