Posts Tagged ‘plaster’

Plaster Neumann: Cursed Object

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

This is the sculpture formerly known as Plaster Neumann now retitled as Plaster Neumann: Cursed Object. I have been interested in making a cursed or haunted object for quite some time, but I could never figure it out. I thought I had a chair that would right itself late at night each time I violently kicked it over, but it failed to reset more often than not, so there must have been some normal explanation, unfortunately.

Ater the chair was debunked, and the proposal for an exhibition of haunted objects stalled, I added the concept to that very long list in my head where I keep this kind of stuff. Maybe now it is time to revisit this idea, who knows.

The Plaster Neumann has a pretty strange history, so here goes. The first detail is that the core of the object is an artifact from the Neumann Leather factory in Hoboken. The object was then fixed to a jigger machine/mold to create the cylinder that encases it. The casing is mostly hydrocal with a float layer of plaster on the face. It is pretty tough and can be rolled around. The sculpture was present for the unfortunate event that you can read about in Epic Fail when somebody killed himself about 10 feet away from the Plaster Neumann. After that, the Neumann was packed up and moved to storage on the ground floor in another studio that I was renting for about a year. Almost as soon as it was moved down there, the space flooded from a cracked water main. After that the object got moved back up to my 3rd floor space and sat quietly until last month. I needed better documentation of Plaster Neumann, so I got it back into the shop to seal it and patch up the cracks and manage the water damage. I left town for the holidays, and upon my return, water again, this time a few hundred gallons poured directly on the sculpture the Wednesday before New Years Day. Nobody was in the building and the water destroyed artwork and antiques on 4 floors of the building. Once again, the Plaster Neumann looks like hell, which at this point I have decided must be the default state. Yesterday, once I had it set up for new photos, water started leaking from above right onto my camera bag.

The solution I am attempting is to use a sort of counter curse to quell the uneasy sculpture. I figure that if I can name the sculpture’s curse, I can contain the curse. If the object is dry or draws water to it, I can provide water with the hieroglyph for water and hopefully reduce the damage to the studio.

Taurobolium: De Pirro + Williams

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Taurobolium from Nick De Pirro on Vimeo.

As promised, albeit rather late, here is the mostly edited two-camera video sequence from Taurobolium. Thanks to freelance videographer Brian McGinn, and Mark Remollino of Ambush for the camera work; editing by Project Studios. The original audio composition was created Brian Beard. This is documentation footage. The artwork is the performance, this is not intended to be a replacement for it.

Taurobolium was performed for the Hoboken Studio Tour event October 19. 2008. I just recently got my paws on the second DV tape, so the delay is now over. We created a small-scale poster campaign for the show using my big Xerox Phaser. The first poster uses the infamous Neumann emblem and the second poster usurps a Frederick Remington image of a steer being roped for branding. The Phaser can print wax right to heavy printmaking paper, so the posters had a good weight to them and looked like they came from a silkscreen shop.

 

 

Taurobolium Poster with Neumann Emblem

Taurobolium Poster with Remington Image

 

I might as well describe a bit of what this performance was about. At the time, the Neumann Leathers factory complex was the center of a development and zoning dispute in Hoboken. From the start, I was always skeptical and am still convinced that the developers will get their hands on the property very soon.Taurobolium was representative of the face offs that were very literally happening once a month at Hoboken City Hall. Ian and I wanted to create a face off of our own, borrowing loosely from the Agamemnon battle scene from Time Bandits. The minotaur is a anthropomorphized factory, and the gladiator is progress, development, etc. Taurobolium is a historical term describing a Roman practice of bull sacrifice, and in this case, the tragic figure of the Minotaur, with the unfortunate circumstances of his conception, is a perfect representation of the factory. Dirty, toxic, neglected, and exploited, the factory stands to loose. Progress wears him down like a matador wears down his opponent through tricks and choreography. The bull only knows the basic rules for fighting and can’t see what is really happening to him.

Visually, the piece consists of two performers, a twelve-foot clay powder circle ringed by a plaster powder stripe. The space is a derelict room in the Neumann Leathers factory on the ground floor. The space is unused and thick with dust. It also contains a massive tumbler used in the tanning process. The tumbler room is lit from the inside, so spectators can get a good look at its details. The Neumann Leathers logo crest is outlined in white plaster in the center of the clay ring. The bovine character’s body is coated in wet clay slip. Additional wet clay leeches out of a yoke around his neck built of bundled leather strips made in the former factory itself. The bovine mask is a modified and exaggerated bull skull with a maine and a tail that drags at his feet.

The opponent wears the clothing of a factory worker, including a leather apron, work gloves, boots, and coveralls. He is dusted with clay powder, and wears an elaborate Roman centurion’s helmet. He is a hybrid figure having the features of both destroyer of the minotaur and the maker of leather goods.

This battle, for me, is the perfect model for the labyrinthine machinations of a development project as it engages the target and destroys it. Every word and every maneuver is dubious. The old factory that served a purpose becomes an anathema and must be destroyed so that the future can take its path and forget its mistakes.

I suppose the factory itself is a labyrinth as well, with the Taurobolium at the center of the maze, but this is perhaps the first read of the piece. The factory is a maze in a very practical sense, an unknown black spot for most of the residents of Hoboken. If for some viewers, this is the maximum depth of meaning for the performance, we would be satisfied. The battle itself is intended to carry the underlying narrative of the battle between the future and past, or in the site specific context, development versus the past. Whether or not the viewer sees the link between themselves and the matador is another question altogether.

As the performance progresses, the audio track becomes more energetic and the face off of the performers gets a little more aggressive. It is all posturing and compensating; a chase. The clay and plaster drawing becomes destroyed by charging feet, and the bull eventually crashes into the center of the ring, wiping out the emblem.

A few links to other images and stories from the event are below. There was not much press, mostly because Hoboken’s art scene is pretty weak no matter what they tell you.

NJ.com’s Jersey Journal

Photo of one of the posters

Studio Tour Map