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Deep Time Pour (For Lord Kelvin and Robert Smithson) 2001

Mark Dion (born 1961, New Bedford, Massachusetts, USA)

Mark Dion lives in Pennsylvania. He studied at Hartford CT. and New York. From the start of his career, Dion’s work has examined the boundaries between art and science, the preliminary and painstaking processes of research and investigation which lead to discovery and public engagement being a central part of his finished pieces. Deep Time Pour has its origins in a commission undertaken by Dion as part of the exhibition to mark the re-opening of the CCA in Glasgow in 2001. While working on the project, Dion visited the Hunterian and was struck by both the range and quality of the Museum’s collections and by the (then) somewhat antiquated, or un-modernised, manner of their display. The major piece Deep Time Closet produced by Dion for the exhibition at CCA was a substantial temporary structure which brought together a number of longstanding strands in the artist’s work; science and art, time and taxonomy. In a series of works made during the 1990s, Dion investigated ideas of taxonomy, represented through steps or ladders, and ideas of time; the relationship between what is happening now, second by second, and our uncovering of the events of the ‘deep’, geological and palaeontological past, represented through objects preserved and classified. These works, with titles such as Deep Time / Disney Time (1990) and Scala Naturae (1994) examined our constructed notions of progress, ascent, hierarchy – Man’s artificial ordering of Nature – seen almost as a struggle for supremacy against the reality of the day-to-day workings of the natural world. In choosing a title for the present piece, Deep Time Pour (for Lord Kelvin and Robert Smithson), Dion acknowledges two important elements which lie behind its creation. In common with a number of other of Dion’s contemporaries interested in the visual and intellectual possibilities found by artists in the study of geology, the work of the American Robert Smithson (1938 – 1973) has been an important influence; the use of stepped structures, and of a flow of pitch, are both direct references to works by Smithson such as the Alogon series (c. 1966) and Asphalt Rundown (1969). By the same token, one of the objects seen by Dion during his visits to the Hunterian in 2001 was a piece of apparatus devised c. 1887 by William Thomson, later Lord Kelvin (1824 – 1907), to show the dramatic effects of small forces on a substance such as pitch over a long period of time. Kelvin’s pitch ‘glacier’ relies on two seemingly mutually exclusive properties of pitch – when dropped onto a hard surface it will shatter like glass, demonstrating inelasticity. However, it will also flow like a viscous liquid under the influence of a persistent force such as gravity; as encountered by Dion, Kelvin’s experiment has been running for over 100 years. The present piece, Deep Time Pour (For Lord Kelvin and Robert Smithson), a smaller scale re-working of the CCA installation, was made shortly after the Glasgow exhibition in 2001. The relationships between Kelvin’s experimental apparatus and Dion’s work of art operate at many levels and exemplify perfectly his approach to science and art as mediated through museum culture. Within the context of the multi-faceted collection of the Hunterian, these relationships are even more powerful.

Acquisition Details

Acquired from Galerie in SITU Fabienne Leclerc , 2006
Purchased with funds from the National Collecting Scheme for Scotland which was originated and operated 2003-2006 by the Contemporary Art Society and supported by the National Lottery through the Scottish Arts Council.
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