The varied objects and sounds that make up “Terra Nullius”, Willard Tucker’s mixed-media installation at Seed Space, create a thematic puzzle. As you meander through a sensorial experience of moving sculptures, color lithographs, twisted copper, and the sound of passing trains and clicking motors, you try to put the pieces together.
First noticeable are the moving sculptures: a motor and hubcap hung on the walls slowly spin. On the floor are four colored lithographs of melted pennies with real pennies on top. Two wooden shelves display bundles of copper wire twisted by a passing train. A plastic watercolor palette rests in front of painted rainbow streaks on the wall and above that open niches hold an old computer fan and a dried sunflower. A giant transparent lens from an old television twists off one wall. A clamp light shining light through it reflects a glowing orb on the opposite wall. Above the lens hangs a 1980s-style tape recorder playing sounds from a local train yard.
Trains. Copper. Old technology. The sun. How does it all fit together?
It all started when Will Tucker and some friends decided to take apart an old television set they found on the side of the road. Curious about its contents, they found a giant projection lens inside. Considering it might function like a large magnifying glass, they angled it so that sunlight shined through it towards some nearby grass. The grass burned. Next, they experimented with pennies from their pockets. The pennies melted. And so began an affair with melting and manipulating copper, among other materials, for Tucker.
When Tucker melts pennies with the sun, or twists copper wire from the friction of a passing train, he harnesses energy from these unforeseen sources to manipulate objects. He powers the light, sound and moving parts of his installation through a solar-charged car battery. He considers his show to be over when the battery runs out–or at least until he is able to recharge it, which may take a few days as it is dependent on solar power.
Tucker’s rejection of more commonplace energy sources alludes to our culture’s dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil versus more renewable energy sources such as solar power. The installation’s title, “Terra Nullius,” is a term used in international law to describe land that is owned by no one. In a time where everything under the sun seems to be “owned,” the sun itself, is not. No one owns the sun, the air and the sea, but they do own land and the oil underneath it.
As Tucker demonstrates, it doesn’t take advanced technology to efficiently utilize these sources. The dried sunflower, which once followed the sun’s rays to absorb maximum energy before closing up each night to preserve it, is the most efficient technology in the installation. We have smart computers but still produce plastic fans to cool their excess energy (heat). We make televisions and tape recorders that quickly become obsolete. Perhaps allowing a little more idle curiosity (“take a television apart just to see what’s inside? Why not! “) would help us better solve the puzzle.
“Terra Nullius” is on display at Seed Space through October 31st.