Artist's Statment: Tom Dale on outdoor installation piece Banquet of Sound

Tom Dale interviewed by Mark Sheerin | 24 July 2012
Colour photo of an artist standing infront of an inflatable sculpture
© Courtesy Tom Dale/ Poppy Sebire, London. All rights reserved
Artist's Statement: In his own words...Tom Dale talks about installing a pile up of faux concrete lecterns in the garden of Ham House in Richmond.

“What we’re looking at right now is a group of 12 lecterns, as you would see a politician standing behind, or at a press conference. Or in a corporate setting, for someone to stand behind and give a speech of dynamic power.

I’ve made these lecterns, cast them out of what looks like concrete. So they look like they’re industrially produced. They’re made from two moulds, but each one is different so there’s a suggestion of mass production. There’s a suggestion of difference, but also they are very similar.

They all look like they are heavy duty concrete and they are very big. The other way I’ve been describing them is they look like a bunch of concrete on a motorway. You could just crash into them because they’re so durable, so immovable. I think that’s another way of putting them.

So there’s an arrangement of 12. Some of them are on their sides, some of them are pointing in different directions and in the middle is a classical sculpture of Bacchus, the god of excess.

In the middle of this chaos stands this figure, leading everyone on a merry dance. But the weight of these objects around him and their slightly brutal production suggests the merry dance may be coming to an end.

What we did was made up two large moulds out of plywood. Then what we would do was paint them with a special material called jesmonite, which is an acrylic based concrete.

We would paint it inside, then we would stick one of the forms to the other. So in effect it was like putting together two halves to make the whole. So they look incredibly solid but they are in fact hollow.

I think a lot of pieces I’ve made recently have been trying to work out what are the identifiable faces of power. There are holders of power who direct things. Everyone talks about living in a very media age and being media savvy. But I’m just curious as to where the decisions get made.

If you take someone like Julian Assange, his assets were frozen by the banks. It wasn’t by a process of actual law, but in a way he’s been processed, actually, by the banks. So this piece is pushing that to ask: where does the power lie? Because I think that’s one of the problems in a way.

We’ve had massive student protests for the last couple of years, but where’s that gone to? We’ve had outrage, an outcry if you like, but no-one’s quite sure against whom or to what ends. So I think my role at the moment is to try and identify what are these facets of power or what are their faces if you like.

Well, mainly there are logistical or practical challenges to working at a stately home. So you’ve got a very old sculpture here. And this is the first time a project like this has been undertaken at Ham House.

So we were very lucky to be able to use this site in the garden and then, in a way, to recharge the location. I think that’s what art does. It re-evaluates what you’re looking at and why you’re looking at it.

That’s the gift, as it were, to the artist: you’re able to take something that has maybe a reading of some description and you can relocate it, redirect it.”

  • Banquet of Sound by Tom Dale can be seen in Garden of Reason at Ham House until September 23 2012. See the project website for more details.

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