Alex Chinneck’s ‘A Pound of Flesh for 50p’ is a temporary life size building made from wax that will melt to the ground during the Merge Festival as part of Bankside Transformed in Southwark, London. The construction is a full-sized two-storey house built from 8,000 wax bricks that melts over 30 days. The installation will mirror the scale, design and scenery of a domestic neo-Georgian house before the bricks begin to drip and the building starts to warp, leaving just the roof on the floor in a pile of melted wax. With surrealism and spectacle the experience delivers an illusion of architectural scale that transforms each day.
The project celebrates the history of an old candle making factory which was based in Bankside a couple of centuries ago. For the last twelve months the artist has collaborated with chemists, wax manufacturers and engineers to develop visually convincing wax bricks that transform in the most sculpturally effective way. The house will be melted manually with handheld heating apparatus commonly used in roofing applications. This method provides control over the artwork’s appearance, duration and changing figure, inspired by the classic process of sculpting material to shape form in a contemporary and unique way. The bricks will be cast in paraffin wax in beds of terracotta sand. This method makes each unique but collectively they mimic the colour, coarse surface and irregularity of a real wall.
Chinneck has a history of making large scale public works, including From the Knees of My Nose to the Belly of My Toes, in Margate and Miner on the Moon, an upside down house in Blackfriars, London in 2013 and Telling the truth through false teeth in Hackney, London.
“Chinneck takes sculpturally complex routes to arrive at playful visual moments. Exploring the space between art, theatre and architecture he is inspired by the landscapes of London’s industrial peripheries. He reworks their powerful aesthetics and aims to find new and ambitious applications for everyday construction materials. The unrefined materials of basic construction are given a second life. Removed from their utilitarian context they are reshaped and enlivened with new purpose and appearance. Stones, metals and woods are manipulated beyond their apparent capacity to transcend their material nature and often move with illusory effect.”
Organised as part of the Merge Festival, an annual festival curated by Illuminate Productions to performances, events and happenings concerned with the heritage and contemporary culture of Bankside, London.
Alex Chinneck, A Pound of Flesh for 50p. 26th September – 26th October, 2014
Location: 40 Southwark Street, London SE1 9HP
Images: Photographs by Angie Dixon.