— Tim Hawkinson, Art:21
California-based artist Tim Hawkinson is known for taking everyday materials and altering them in imaginative ways, creating works that address broad issues about the intersection of human consciousness, nature and technology. Here, he employed a mix of found objects and common household materials—including twist ties, craft wood, staples, and packing material—which he transformed almost alchemically into a complex and awe-inspiring sculpture.
Echoing the working methods of ship-in-a-bottle hobbyists, Hawkinson created a painstakingly detailed model ship that twists in upon itself, presenting the viewer with a thought-provoking visual conundrum. The title is a witty play on Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick, which famously relates the tale of a ship captain’s all-consuming obsession with an elusive white whale. The ambitious and imaginative structure of Hawkinson’s sculpture offers an uncanny visual metaphor for Melville’s epic tale, which is often considered the ultimate American novel.
Möbius Ship also humorously refers to the mathematical concept of the Möbius Strip. Named after a nineteenth-century astronomer and mathematician, the Möbius Strip is a surface that has only one side, and exists as a continuous curve. Its simple yet complex spatial configuration presents a visual puzzle that parallels Hawkinson’s transformation of the mundane materials into something unexpected."
— Indianapolis Museum of Art Gallery Label of Tim Hawkinson’s Mobius Ship
Emotor falls into the category of body depiction—references to the body—like the bathtub-generated piece and balloon self-portraits that I’ve done. But it’s much more about mechanics and probably closer to a piece I did that synthesized voice using really primitive methods. Emotor uses the expressions of the face that are so cued into reading the face. I took a picture of myself and cut the features up into little pieces, like a puzzle, and rearranged the features. And each time I did it, I created a different emotion, and that’s just something I read into it. Anybody looking at it would read into this, would reinterpret it, as I think we all pretty much interpret the same basic emotions—frowning, smiling—but I was interested in seeing how much inflection and emotion I could get out of the face using a random input of signals.
I was interested in using random signals, in this case generated by a television screen. And the screen had lights instead of switches. So, if there was a dark area on the screen, it would turn the signal on, and a light signal would shut it off. Just on and off, nineteen different on and off signals. There are nineteen wires for the nineteen switches and the nineteen motors in the face, all connected with Velcro. The initial idea was just taking random input and converting it into something. Originally I was thinking of making a three-dimensional realization, this kind of instant bas-relief sculpture. That was sort of interesting but still too abstract. Then I started thinking about imagery and the face and how any kind of input into the face—no matter how irrational or un-patterned—would still create something we can decipher, look at, and read and get some sort of message from. I’m using my face, but I don’t really consider it a psychological self-portrait or anything like that. I can’t make most of these faces myself."
— Tim Hawkinson, speaking about his piece Emoter to Art:21
— Tim Hawkinson, speaking about his piece Drip to Art:21