back to geoff sansbury glass bead game

Bridging the Void.
Jonathan Austen

Collaboration within the Electronic Community.
In his sculptural works Geoff Sansbury places himself firmly at the leading edge of post modern research. Whereas in his painting we see post modern notions of simulation couched in more traditional visual and technical terminology, his sculptures are uncompromisingly new in their cultural formats. The simulation has become a ‘simulacrum’. A common definition of the simulacrum is a ‘copy of a copy whose relation to the model has become so attenuated that it can no longer be said to be a copy. It stands on its own as a copy without a model’.
“The simulacrum bears only an external and deceptive resemblance to the putative model. The process of its production, its inner dynamism, is entirely different from that of its supposed model; its resemblance to it is merely a surface effect, an illusion.”
In the sculptures we see a genesis rather than a being. Whilst in ‘Serenity’ Sansbury talks of the nouns ‘subject’ and ‘object’, in ‘The glass bead game’ and ‘Almost the last brushstroke’ he is describing a verb of transition from one point to another. For early Greek philosophers 'being' was both verb and noun. Sansbury is aware of this; footnotes from the ‘Glass Bead game’ confirm it. I would go as far to say that notional concepts from Heraclitus rank highly in his source material and that Sansbury makes a radical parallel between pre Socratic philosophy and post modern preoccupations with unpredictability, ‘change’ and the self.
Robert Delamar makes the suggestion that post modern consciousness has been replaced by “electronic consciousness” and that new cultural forms developing around the birth of information technology have usurped post modern thinking, giving rise to a new cultural paradigm.
“Electronic consciousness”, he writes “ though characterised by post modern solitariness, finds its meaning in community… Meaning and fulfilment can be found on the Internet. It is the technology that supports the identity. However, the electronic community at the heart of electronic consciousness is illusory and temporal. When the self is removed from the technology, the self loses its identity.”
In this case we see the removal of technology as the ‘void’. Sansburys’ interests remain the same as in his paintings but he begins to embrace the electronic age in order to research the nature of ‘identity’.
The work ‘The Glass bead game’ is a huge endeavour on the part of the artist. He describes it as “an ongoing product of electronic collaboration and anarchy” It was initially conceived as a virtual expedition into the ideas set out by Hermann Hesse in his novel of the same name with the scope to realise the events in a physical sculpture. ” The most significant aspect of the work”, states the artist “has been the challenge it has made to my sense of ‘authorship’. The events on the Internet have not always been creative or productive. Given that there is a free global participation, it is not surprising that there have been silly and even hostile interventions. Nonetheless”, he adds “I use, as my motivation, Hesses’ call to ‘serious and conscientious people’.”
“…for although in a certain sense and for light- minded persons non existent things can be more easily and irresponsibly represented in words than existing things, for the serious and conscientious historian it is just the reverse. Nothing is harder, yet nothing is more necessary, than to speak of certain things whose existence is neither demonstrable nor probable. The very fact that serious and conscientious men treat them as existing things brings them a step closer to existence and to the possibility of being born.”
Whilst the ‘Glass bead game’ represents a cultural format that encompasses both new technology and a new sense of collaborative authorship where the participants may be ‘invented’ identities, ‘Almost the last brush stroke’ is a visual metaphor for the change over from traditional painting to digitally based work. The squeezed out paint mark is a potent and nostalgic symbol for the artist; its method of production through digital simulation and mechanical rapid prototyping remove the romance. The dynamic is changed and a simulacrum created.
When comparing the two-dimensional and three-dimensional work of Geoff Sansbury we see markedly differing worlds. Although the former embraces a poetic and tragic aesthetic and the latter describes a discourse rather than a conclusion, they are joined by an elusive thread.
“If our real thoughts”, he says “lead us to terrifying conclusions about the nature of solitude, do we run and opt for arbitrary projects which occupy our minds and time?
It would be so much easier”, he adds “having once reached the void, that we do so or simply play chess . But nothing is harder, yet more necessary, than to confront serious things . What is remarkable”, concludes Sansbury “is that, as artists, we feel compelled to revisit our terrifying angels”