Last Monday I sent off my crate. It’s heading to the South Pole ahead of me. I hope it arrives (like me) in one piece and ready to get to work.
What’s inside the box?
Well first, there’s the box itself. It not only contains, but is a part of the work that I’m shipping South and which will chase me around the globe for the next few years. I’m looking forward to seeing the patina and signage that it accrues.
I’ve always wanted to make a work where the crate was intrinsic rather than just a transportation device. Richard Artschwager’s crate sculptures have always been a big favorite.
I’ve been thinking of the crate and its contents as an analog of the Mars Rover. Once it lands it must open and deploy its varied instruments. The big difference is that I’ll be providing the CPU and servos and that its primary instrument is constructed more like a mandolin than a mass spectrometer.
Everything inside the crate will be reassembled and deployed at South Pole Station.
There are several instruments onboard. But the major one is titled simply the “Instrument”. This has three components - the platform, the shroud and the mast.
The crate unfolds and bolts together to create the platform - painted white, with various anchor systems in place and marked with lines and diagrams indicating how it assembles as well as permitting accurate orientation of the Instrument in the field.
The contents of the crate come apart like a polish doll and the major parts telescope together to form the Mast. When deployed, the Instrument can be operated with just the bare mast in place, secured to the platform.
The aluminum machined propeller at the tip (10ft off the ground) is driven by the wind and rotates a drive shaft running down the center of the 12-sided, coopered mast. The shaft drives a handmade, mahogany, 3:1 reduction gearing mechanism. And the gears drive a mahogany bowing wheel which emerges from the conical, coopered mast and bows a set of piano wire strings which run the full length of the mast. The strings are tuned with piano tuners set into the base and the aluminum bridge is adjustable to finely tune each string or to move it out of play.
The mast is made from Celery Top Pine (Phyllocladus aspleniifolius) and Tasmanian Myrtle (Lophozonia cunninghamii) - two Australian native timbers with strong links to the temperate forests once distributed across Gondwanaland. Australia separated from Antarctica 80-40 million years ago setting both continents onto the climatic paths that have resulted in extreme aridity for both but permitted remnant rainforest habitats in Australia where these species continued to evolve.
A set of 6 aeolian strings balance the tension from the bowed strings and are tuned with moveable bridges. They sympathetically resonate with the bowed drone strings and also with wind passing across them. They essentially transduce the small scale variations in atmospheric pressure (breezes) into string vibrations and these vibrate our eardrums sympathetically though another set of varying air pressure waves (sound).
The mast provides various attachment points for accelerometers, and contact mics.
In sailing, the shrouds are the rigging which hold up the mast. But shrouds are also garments, cloth or nebulous objects which obscure vision (‘shrouded in cloud’) or enwrap the dead (‘shroud of Turin’). A poetic juxtaposition of meanings, don’t you think?
In the Instrument, the mast can be shrouded to provide a warmer sheltered spot for the operator and his recording devices. The shroud also creates interesting lighting effects - both at the Pole and on return where it can be used as a projection screen for video recorded in the field.