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Generator was created as part of Everyone some of the time – an exhibition of work by fourth year Sculpture and Environmental Art students at the Glasgow School of Art. The exhibition took place at Platform – the arts centre of Easterhouse, Glasgow – which is part of The Bridge. The Bridge is an overarching name for the four facilities within: Glasgow Kelvin College, a swimming pool, a library, and Platform. The works were made in response to and collaboration with this exciting and vibrant hub.
Upon my first visit to The Bridge, I was immediately struck by its rich community, as well as the wonderfully contrasting sense of leisure and industry. This became the seed from which Generator developed. Generator is first and foremost a celebration of the role of the individual within a community. A successful community operates as an organism or machine – like an organ or cog, the individual is an integral part of a larger whole, with the power and importance to initiate real change.
As the piece developed, it also came to encompass other concepts. Generator considers man’s cultivation of natural resources, and argues that the ‘man-made’ is not so much an antonym of the ‘natural’, but rather a part of the ‘natural’. These seemingly converse juxtapositions really exist in a complicated relationship alongside and within each other. ‘Generator’ is synonymous with words associated both with the industrial and organic worlds – it is the ‘Seed’, the ‘Mother’, and the ‘Sun’, but simultaneously the ‘Motor’, the ‘Engine’, and the ‘Turbine’.
Generator is a water and man powered television. It is simultaneously a digital and an analogue machine. Suitable only for one operator at a time, the participant pours water into a bowl which has a hole in the bottom. As the water runs through, it completes a circuit between two pieces of copper and activates a film. The film shows collaged footage – machinery from Ardalanish Weavers on the Isle of Mull, and various scenery from Assynt in the North West of Scotland, combining the notion of industrial generation with organic generation in the landscape.
The bowl is modelled on a ‘Clepsydra’, or water clock, which is an ancient way of measuring time and was usually used in agriculture. In this way, the piece also becomes about differing notions of time – ancient time, geological time, time dictated by labour, and time punctuated by play.
In addition to the opening, participatory sessions were also held in the following weeks for adult’s and children’s art classes, and for frequenters of the cafe and library.