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Cathedra 900: Beginnings and perspective / 27 June 2012

photo of stone pillars in Exeter cathedral

PImage taken in Exeter Cathedral. Photo © Mark Ware

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Mark Ware blogs about the influence of Alexander Rodchenko on his arts project in Exeter Cathedral

Beginnings are strange things, aren’t they? Cathedra 900 began with thoughts about sea waves and the work of the Russian artist, Alexander Rodchenko.

Several months ago I saw a T.V. programme about sea waves. It explained that out at sea, waves don’t move. Rather, it is energy that moves. Proof can be seen when a floating object bobs up and down on water as energy passes under it.

This led me to think about other forms of energy, including the potential energy within the structure of a Cathedral building. I’d read that the weight of each of the World Trade Centre (Center) has been estimated to have been 500,000 tonnes. Someone told me last year that the vault ceiling in Exeter Cathedral weighs over 70,000 tonnes. These are staggering figures. And yet buildings do not visibly reveal this type of information.

It struck me that if we could speed up time and witness 900 years of the life of Exeter Cathedral building within a few minutes, we would be able to see evidence of its energy.

Ian Edwards, a friend, commented: "I always remember an old Physics teacher defining potential energy as something that has the potential to do useful work because of its position." The example he gave was of a brick (or bricks) pulling a bucket up a well. 70,000 tonnes of stone could pull a great many buckets up wells!

To me, the interesting thing when you stop and think about it, is that the men and animals that sweated to raise those Cathedral blocks of stone above the ground are all long gone, but the energy they expended to get the stones into position, is still there.’

At the beginning of Cathedra 900, Rodchenko was also in my thoughts because of books about his work I’d recently bought.  Since being an art student, Alexander Rodchenko’s work has influenced my own art. I’m particularly drawn to his poster designs and drawings. The first I saw of his posters were those designed for the film, ‘Battleship Potemkin’.

I’m fascinated by the wonderfully dynamic, direct and expressive work of the Russian avante-garde artists of the early 20th century.  Under the guise of nationalistic propaganda they managed to subversively explore and extend the boundaries of contemporary art of that time.

Although the 3D banner artwork for Exeter Cathedral does not directly mirror the style of Rodchenko’s work, it does echo the way in which his work often offered more than one layer of interpretation.  The 3D banners reveal different meanings depending on how close people stand to view them.