Firstsite | Lilah Fowler: Code Clay, Data Dirt

Firstsite | Lilah Fowler: Code Clay, Data Dirt


So, Lilah thank you for making such a
really beautiful show it’s really incredible it’s full of colour and it’s
full of extraordinary objects and sculptures that you’ve made and what I
particularly love about it is that you really got to grips with this idea of
super contemporary technology and super ancient technology and that’s something
that we talk a lot about in Colchester because we are the UK’s oldest recorded
town and we’ve got this incredible brand new contemporary building, right in the middle of it all. So, I wondered if you could just say a little
bit about some of those objects and the way some of those things that you’ve made have come about. So we have some pots on loan from Colchester and Ipswich Museums, which are displayed amongst the installation alongside replica pots that I’ve also made – and alongside weavings that are made by hand but are also part digital looms, sort of a
range of different processes from analogue to digital sort of happening. Can you say how this one is made in particular? It’s made on a TC2 loom, which is sort of operated digitally, but also um, the making process is very physical and manual So is it half digital and half physical would you say? Yeah in some ways that’s a good way of explaining it. Because it’s a kind of a cross over between an old process a very old process – and then computer technology coming in. The weaving link, sort of – comes back to thinking about the foundation of computing and a lot of these patterns are made from a computer program that I developed with a programmer – that makes thousands of patterns so there’s sort of pulling it from something digital into something analogue there’s sort of a layering process that happens throughout the show. I’ve also got algae growing in petri dishes… Why have you got algae growing in petri dishes?! I was looking at different forms of – a lot of the work is thinking about landscapes and infrastructure – and future technologies, past technologies – how we see our landscape what layer of state it’s in. Sort of thinking about technology being a part of it, something that’s sort of inherently grown into it and I began looking at different types of um future, sort of – fuels and came across bio-fuel, bio-algae and… What’s that? Yeah, it’s basically um Sounds horrible! It’s a form of fuel – well it’s not what’s actually in the show but
it’s a form of fuel that uses algae but it led into conversations with a
biochemist Brenda Parker at UCL. We were just exchanging stories on our
research I was really interested by this use of a particular – well use algae
to, sort of – clean a particular dye out of waste water and we started setting up these experiments to see if the algae would decolourize and the dye in the fabric. So there’s little live experiments within the space alongside these collected objects and things that
I find along the way on trips and parts of research You told me a story the other
day about – so you’ve got you’ve got original Roman pots in the show from the museums and you’ve got remade pots you’ve been working
with artisans to remake and then you got one of them smashed, is that right?! Yeah, yeah So tell me why you smashed it up! Well I wanted to create a replica of these pots I’m sort of I was interested in this
sort of I guess like a retroactive process of thinking through what these
things are and what value they have um and sort of the real and the copy We encounter things like this
online perhaps only not… The idea of fake? Yeah Authentic and fake. Yeah and I um, they were they were remade from photographs I took
when I was going to the archive collection and by, by a guesstimate of size
and this particular pot was completely smashed and built together in, what I found out recently is a sort of old archaeological technique of using plaster to, rather than glue, to kind of seams, create the seams so… So it’s kind of like a hybrid – so the original is kind of a hybrid in its own right so it was previously a whole pot and then it’s been reconstructed by
archaeologists a few years ago and then you’ve made a copy of that. Yep – and had it thrown to the specific size which has a very narrow base which is sort of typical of Roman times, quite wide – and then we smashed it… How did they feel about smashing it?! Yeah, quite odd!

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