A CONVERSATION BETWEEN
BAYNE PETERSON AND KEVIN FRANCES
ON THE OCCASION OF FRUITS OF OUR LABOR; CHEW, SCREW, GLUE
Kevin Frances: Will you tell me a bit about your working process? How do you choose your materials/subject matter? Are you working towards a goal?
Bayne Peterson: My process is usually about transforming an image, object, or idea through multiple materials and modes of working. My goal is to push the work beyond its original source toward something more mysterious, to the point where the initial steps end up being obscured by successive layers of process. Sometimes the material quality is unreadable, entering a place of total mystery.
KF: Mysterious for the viewer, or for yourself?
BP: For both, but in different ways. I'm more motivated to make something when the result is mysterious for me, when I'm curious to see what it will end up looking like. Even when I'm starting from a 3d model or have a pretty good idea what it will look like, there's still a sense that I'm approaching the unknown, which makes the process exciting.
KF:What is the source of the IV-X-6236 series pieces?
BP: The series is based on a small sculpture called the Primus Stove that I studied in Canada, a 2.5" tall representation of a late 19th-century Swedish kerosene-burning camping stove. It was carved in walrus ivory by an unidentified Inuit artist in the early 20th-century on Baffin Island, in what is now the Canadian territory of Nunavut, an area that straddles the Arctic circle. The title IV-X-6236is taken from the Primus Stove's documentation number in the special collections at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, where I was able to see it and draw it.
I was interested in the layering of approaches and material; the idea of taking something manufactured in an industrial material and representing it by hand in a natural material related to ideas that I was thinking about of combining disparate forms of craft. Although the artist is unknown, the actions of his or her hand are recorded in the slightly undulating surface. I was also interested in the social dynamic of the piece, and saw it as an artifact of early globalization. The 19th-century saw increased contact between the Inuit and outsiders, such as whalers and traders, who brought manufactured goods such as tools, cookware, guns, and stoves to trade for furs, ivory, and art. The tiny sculpture seemed to encapsulate this history.
KF: The first in the series is directly based on the Inuit carving, while the subsequent pieces are based on a 3D scan of that piece. How does the technological translation come into your thinking of the work?
BP: I see it as a reflection of the translation that occurred in the walrus ivory Primus Stove, from a manufactured to a hand-carved object. I like to think about craft through the terminology of David Pye, who wrote that all types of craft fall somewhere on a spectrum between risk and certainty. For example, drawing a straight line by hand is on the risk side, and drawing it with a ruler is on the certainty side. The Primus Stove is a sculpture that overlays risk onto certainty, and this risk manifests as a somewhat softer, more fluid form.
In my first piece in the series, IV-X-6236a, I wanted to recreate the form of the Primus Stove as faithfully as possible with a process of risk, so I carved it by hand in wood. It was a way of trying to understand the the Primus Stove through taking a similar path as its sculptor. Then, I realized that I actually hadn't taken the same path because I hadn't shifted between the disparate worlds of risk and certainty: I had sourced something that was made with risk, and recreated it with risk.
So as a way to make a more dramatic shift between these worlds, I decided to do the inverse of the Primus Stove sculptor, and go from risk to certainty. At the time, I associated digital tools with certainty. Most digital tools that artists use trickle down from manufacturing, and there's a perception that they eliminate risk in all processes. So I 3D scanned IV-X-6236a with 123D Catch, a 3D scanning app that uses photogrammetry to translate a set of photographs of an object into a 3D model. When I saw the model that had been produced of my carving, I was amazed at how amorphous it was, due to slight misunderstandings within the app caused by lighting and finish. It looked like someone had tried to build the Primus Stove out of silly putty.
This seemed like an appropriate step, actually, in that it was in line with the translation within the Primus Stove, from a rigid form to a more fluid form. So I decided to go with this amorphous model, and used it as a starting point for a 3D print, a series of images from screenshots in 3D modeling, and IV-X-6236b, which I made by virtually slicing the model in a 3D modeling program into topographical layers that I could laser cut in plywood and glue back together in the studio. This process in itself was a strange mixture of disparate worlds of craft, in that you start from a virtual object made with a laser, and then you find yourself in the studio simply gluing and nailing boards together.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Bayne Peterson received his MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2013. He received the S.L.Y. Herman Scholarship in 2013, when he was also the Recipient of the Graduate Studies Grant for In Search of the Primus Stove Carver.