James Capper : AERO CAB 24.06.18 – 23.06.19

James Capper: AERO CAB

24.06.18 – 23.06.19

The Verbier 3-D Foundation presents AERO CAB, a new sculptural work by British artist James Capper. The artistic engineer was invited to Verbier, Switzerland to become immersed in the local glacial environment to develop new work responding to the 200th year anniversary of the Giétro Glacier and its catastrophe of 1818.

Birthing from the ‘Year Without Summer’, which belongs to a three-year period of severe climate deterioration of global scale starting in 1815, unforeseen chaotic and chilling weather caused many glaciers in Switzerland to increase in mass. The Giétro Glacier therefore advanced and loomed over the valley. This caused alarm of the threat of falling ice, avalanches and the possibility of the ice dam that had formed, bursting.

Ignaz Venetz (1788 — 1859), who was the Swiss governmental engineer for Valais, was asked to develop a solution. This was the first time, historically, that help was asked from an engineer to prevent a natural disaster. With failed attempts by Venetz to alleviate the pressure behind the ice dam, this climatic event led to an outburst flood sweeping the Val de Bagnes in its path until Lake Geneva.

The Giétro Catastrophe is one of the most famous and most disastrous historical events in the Swiss Alps related to climate change. Its folklore is embedded in the local history of the surrounding areas and recently resurrected due to this year’s anniversary fused with current debates on effects of the present-day period of amplified global warming – the Anthropocene.

Capper’s work AERO CAB creates a modern platform for visitors to consider the role of the engineer in relation to creating solutions in fragile natural environments in places such as Verbier, and to the possibilities of broadening the scope from the technical aspects of engineering to those aspects that directly affect communities and the environment.

This year is a continuation of a 5-year initiative launched in 2016 by the Verbier 3-D Foundation that unites artists, locals and scientists to chronicle the impact of the surrounding glacial environment in Bagnes, Switzerland. Their insights are captured in photography, sculpture and multi-media residencies, alongside research, exhibitions and public education programmes.

The residency and education programme have been developed with curators Paul Goodwin and Alexa Jeanne Kusber.

AERO CAB was realized thanks to the support of the Commune de Bagnes, Musée de Bagnes, Téléverbier, Jean-Edouard van Praet & Tappan Heher, Chalet Ker Praet, Au Vieux Verbier, Office de Tourisme de Verbier, Madeleine Paternot, Les Elfes International, Vie Montagne, STA, Valérie Felix, Nicolas Combes, Patrick Michellod, Stephen Hadik, Bruce Weber, Charles Corthay, Lionel Michaud, Motos Joris, Hilaire Besse, Guido Perrini, Lionel May, Faction Skis et Hannah Barry Gallery.

2018 artist-in-residence: James Capper

Following his studies at Chelsea College of Art and the Royal College of Art in London, James Capper’s work has been widely exhibited around the world in museums, not for profit institutions and galleries.

Notable solo presentations of his work include RIPPER TEETH IN ACTION at Modern Art Oxford (2011), DIVISIONS at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2013), SIX STEP at Rio dell’Orso with Alma Zevi for the Venice Biennale (2015), PROTOTYPES at CGP London (2016), ATLAS A SPOLETO! / TELESTEP A SPOLETO! , Anna Mahler Association project for the Mahler & LeWitt Studios & Festival dei Due Mondi, Spoleto, Italy (2016), SCULPTURE & HYDRAULICS at The Edge Institute of Contemporary Interdisciplinary Arts, University of Bath (2017).

The youngest ever artist to be awarded the prestigious Jack Goldhill Prize for Sculpture from the Royal Academy of Arts, London, his work is the subject of critical debate and dialogue about positions in sculpture in the 21st Century and continues to challenge varied audiences everywhere it is shown.

He lives and works in Bermondsey, South London and has exhibitions forthcoming this year in Oaxaca, Mexico, Frieze, London.

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James Capper makes mobile sculpture to be used in action in varied terrains and with a wide range of materials. His works are sculpture and sculptural tools in – or ready for – action. He adopts the techniques, materials and complex problem-solving processes of engineering and invention to develop his work.

Capper’s way of making mobile sculpture consists of three distinct but interrelated processes – drawing, making sculpture and experimenting with the capacities and application of the sculpture in action. The sculpture in action is understood and developed through field testing and topographic demonstrations, recorded on film.

Whether in his pincered excavators or Tetrapod walk-machines, the works situate themselves in a long dialogue between human craft and biomechanics: in the 19th century we had looked to model transport mechanisms on the body of a cow; in 2016, we have now designed soft-robotic pneumatic systems with the exact anatomy of a living octopus.

However, by removing himself from the utilitarian lexicon of professional engineering and the deterministic narratives of evolutionary biology, Capper’s sculptures stand as their own aesthetic representations. Despondent with the deluge of ‘artificial intelligences’, each sculpture finds a simplicity yet radical form in a mutual co-operation between human and machine.

Drawing is an important part of his practice, developing large numbers of drawings of all kinds – from concept drawings (defining, developing and outlining new ideas and concepts for sculpture), technical drawings (line or filled-in drawings used to work out how the sculpture moves) to presentation drawings (spectacular, often large-scale, coloured drawings showing the sculpture in its complete form) and in-action drawings (complex drawings showing the sculpture in movement across space and time). In this method, for every realised sculpture there are a large number of drawings accumulated from conception to after completion; it is characteristic of James to draw his sculptures well beyond the fabrication period and even to return to specific sculptures through drawings years after they are made.

To consider his vision in short: traditional frames of sculptural reference are radically revisited, and if real-time technological advances in heavy industry fall behind or advance ahead, Capper’s own arrangement of ergonomics, hydraulics and aesthetics allows his work to exist autonomously.