As the St George's Cathedral public artwork, Ascalon, neared completion, Marcus Canning answered some searching questions about the production experience.
As Ascalon approaches completion, do you feel that the dreamt artwork is becoming a reality, or has it evolved since the original design was submitted?
The artwork was more imagined than planned. Translating it into a feasible plan for production has been quite a journey. Our structural engineers Capital House have been our back-bone at every step of the way and change in direction.
We've shifted materials, fabrication techniques, and some of the fabricators we thought we would be working with along the way in order for it to happen, but it's happened, and is closer to the original design than we could have hoped.
This has only been possible through getting really adventurous with the industries, fabrication techniques and people we finally chose to work with.
The billow form is being sculpted by CNC router robots in a boat builder's factory and fabricated using hybrid composite methodologies. It will be a grand formal statement in monumental lightness of being, which will resonate dynamically with the hard edged concrete presence of the faceted black mass forms around its base. These are now being fabricated in steel by the same firm that is doing most of the steel work on the new Perth Arena. They are currently assembled throughout their workshop and have the appearance of war machines.
In what ways has the process challenged you artistically, spiritually, intellectually?
All the major artistic decisions were made before we were awarded the commission. Since then, it's been all about finding ways to make an unbuildable design a reality. This has been a bit of a brain-bender for all involved, but however mundane, delivering a large project on time, on budget, to brief is a challenge faced daily by anyone involved in building anything, and a work like this is no different.
Unlike an arena, railway, or new performing arts centre, this was always a project on a fixed budget with no options for blow-out. Most of the hurdles have been about this. We operate in a world primarily defined by a base material reality. Moments of true artistic and spiritual liberation are rare, and certainly need to be put on the back-burner once you're dealing with the make-it-happen phase of a work like this.
I am certainly saving my spiritual reflections for post-project wrap when I get to spend quality time with Ascalon along with the rest of Perth.
How have you managed Christian’s long-distance involvement in the project?
Once the designs were wrapped with Christian and Eldad in NYC, the project has been managed entirely on the ground in Perth. This was always how it was going to roll, and overseeing the fabrication of the different elements to the work across five different factories scattered along the coast form Perth to Mandurah has been part of the adventure.
I get to see the actual work at every stage of it's build, Christian will get the surreal experience of seeing it fully formed when when it gets installed on site.
Given what you know of public response to the original concept, how would you expect the realized artwork to impact upon the public consciousness?
I'm not even sure what the impact will be on my consciousness at this stage! Having a design that you have only ever seen in virtual space, and as a 30cm high model translated directly into an 18m high work is a truly bizarre experience. The scale of the work keeps surprising me as it is coming together. I think its presence is going to be truly awesome and will hopefully generate some real buzz and wonder.
With Ascalon on one side of the terrace and the new psychedelic light show running nightly across the facade of Council House on the other, I think we might have a new epicentre of energy in Perth by the end of 2010. It might just draw people to it like moths to a bright light!