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Test Flights: A review of David Rickard's site specific installation

Test Flights: A review of David Rickard's site specific installation

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Published by Victoria Hunt

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Published by: Victoria Hunt on Feb 27, 2012
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03/02/2015

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1
David Rickard- Test Flights A Short Review
David Rickard's work satisfies as being unpredictable both to himself and the viewer, although hisexperiments are explained by the laws of physics; but does science have a place in the art world?On their 100
th
year the Contemporary Art Society saw a place for artists that would represent their success and ideals, confirming in 2008 that New Zealand born David Rickard should display hiswork at the Economist Plaza in central London starting 2010 off with a splat. In his usual manner Rickard lay to sleep the expected routines for creating sculpture and installation art,
Test Flights
 consciously shows the viewer the process and performance involved in creating this site- specificwork. The remnants of three 400kg spheres of clay dropped from the subsequent heights of theEconomist Buildings in St James' Street show Rickard's intentions for the viewer to perceive the materials and structures that surround them, as well as to induce a feeling of vertigoand unease.Rickard has both destroyed and constructed within one piece,
Test Flights
undergoes three stages of development; the making of these perfect clay spheres, the raising of them to 4, 8 and 16 storieswhere potential energy is stored within them, and finally the release of the spheres when they become subject to a surface and space predetermined by its construction. Of course these sphereslook considerably different in the aftermath, one sits flattened at the base, another has noticeablecracks and has begun to lose its shape, while the last is almost completely shattered.
Test Flights
issite specific both artistically and historically; which is inarguably why Rickard was chosen to produce thus work. Alison and Peter Smithson dedicated their careers to developing a new approachto modern architecture which would exploit the low cost of mass man-made products, and produce buildings specific to their site and purpose. In the early 60s the Smithsons would mimic the narrowstreets of old London and the elegance of the Piccadilly area to design the Economist Plaza whereRickard's work resides in keeping with its creators' intentions.
 
2Rickard chooses to demonstrate how gravity has a large influence on our relationship to space andour inhabitation of it is a defining factor. By using it as a tool for producing the work Rickard can play with the laws of science he is familiar with and which are fundamental to our experience of space and construction. The product of which 'looks at (the) location, an identity composed of aunique combination of elements: length, depth, height, texture, scale and proportion of (the) plaza buildings using existing conditions of lighting' ( Kwon, M. 2004 p.11) which are specific to thisarea. His work does not seem to examine speed or the effect of weight, instead it seems to capture'the relationship between sculpture and performance' (Robecchi, 2009, p.7) as the final aestheticsare the consequence of movement due to gravitational pull therefore 'reducing the nature of (his)artistic activities down to their elemental physical actions' (Buchloch, 2007 p.51). Rickardsuccessfully draws our attention to elements which 'are seldom given a second thought' (Rickard toHunt 2010) like his performance
 Ex
haust 19-06-09
which consisted of Rickard's exhaled air slowlyfilling a number of foil balloons over 24 hours. This grew through a four story stairway and led theviewers attention not only to the performance and diligence of the artist but also to the physicalspace and scale of the arena.Some may be mistaken in thinking that Rickard's work in
Test Flight 
s purposefully represents thefall of the economy; the unstable symbols of wealth shattering under the weight of politicalinstability in both the UK and parts of the western world; similarly to Giulio Romano's fresco
Collapse of the Giants Hall 1534
which shows the structure of the government building whichcould no longer stand the political and social super ego's of the
 giants.
Due to his background inarchitecture Rickard was able to transform his taught conventions and create a piece of installationthat makes us acknowledge our surrounding structures and use them for an arena of thought; onethat dismisses politics and wealth and focuses purely on aesthetics and experience.
Test Flights
wasagreed by the Contemporary Arts Society in June 2008 and proposed previously to that.
 
3
 There seems to be an ambiguity in the interpretation of the work as the connection between theeconomic crash and the installation was coincidental, but surely the contemplation of the viewer is atriumph for Rickard and the artist is
usually
suspicious of rational analysis of his work and oftenwith good reason, yet art invites analysis by its ambiguity. The authorship is unclear to the passer- by as there is only one small plaque which acknowledges Rickard as the artist. Althoughcharacteristic of Rickard's work the uninformed could easily be forgiven for fearing the stabilityof the surrounding architecture. The theists among us may analyse the work as an act of God; a punishment for the wicked and of those who concern themselves with wealth instead of good. Thisis similar to Maurizio Cattelan's work 
The Ninth Hour 1999
an installation which shows the popehit by a meteorite, it represents the fear that God will smite us. Interpreting the work in a religiousor scientific manner is irrelevant as neither are intrinsic or compulsory as it seems to be the act of scrutiny which is desired by Rickard and a 'demand for the physical presence of the viewer for thework's completion' ( Kwon, M 2004, p.12), and without it 'the specificity of the site is not thesubject of the work, but- in its articulation of the movement of the viewer's body in destination'(Krauss, 2007 p.121).Some may see this invitation for subjective interpretation as a hindrance to Rickard as it may causea lack of strong identity in a world where the character of the artist is arguably as important as theart itself. Granted many thrive off a strong self of self; producing successful works that are areflection of personal experience, however the audience can easily be left feeling somewhatexcluded psychologically. David Rickard's
Test Flights
however, seems to encompass all the rightcomponents. Rickard seems to embrace the thinking of French phenomenological philosopher Maurice Merleau- Ponty by demonstrating that consciousness, and the human body as a perceivingentity are intricately and mutually engaged and that our physical and emotional selves are in aconstant state of experience. We cannot suppose that the interpretation of 
Test Flights
would beuniversal as it is subjective to our knowledge of architecture and conceptual intention, we can

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