Monday, February 14, 2011

It's Okay To Bleed

IT'S OKAY TO BLEED IF IT GETS ON YOUR FINGERS was one of my more technically challenging pieces, and it evolved quite a bit from the original design due to material behavior in initial tests. I've got a ton of in-progress pics.

When I was first envisioning this pice, I saw it as a 9' square platform, with clear letters serving as open containers. They would be filled with fake blood, and the viscosity of the corn syrup (principle ingredient in many fake-blood recipes) would create a surface-tension bubble above the container's surface. The rendering below shows the first conceptual draft.
An early rendering. The initial idea was that the piece would lay on the floor.
I wanted to explore the resonance between the cognitive (textual language) and the visceral (fake blood). The fact that fake blood is a human-constructed analog for real blood specifically for entertainment purposes bridges the gap between the two. It's visceral in that it is "blood," and yet the fakeness of it means we created a convention when there was none preexisting to have a culturally-accepted form for communication (in this case, communicating that it's supposed to be real blood), similar to language.

Sketchbook pages showing original explorations on left,
to the final fabrication layout on right.

So to build this thing, I needed to find a suitable way to affordably fabricate clear dimensional letterforms at five inches deep. I decided to experiment with the traditional method of letter fabrication, vacuum-formed plastic. That meant I had to build a vacu-form table. I spoke with someone who had made their own table for advice on different construction methods and thermoplastics. I eventually modified a few different plans I found on the internet and added my own twist to some parts here and there.

Notes working out dimensions of laminated MDF for letter patterns.
The first thing I did was to make the letters. I laminated printed templates onto a board of MDF, and then laminated several MDF boards together to get the thickness I wanted.
I only made as many letters as I needed to spell
the phrase. Now I wish I had made all 26 letters
of the alphabet for future projects.
The laminated letter blanks, ready to be hand-cut on the bandsaw.
And final letterforms. Chamfered at 3 degrees to suit the orientation of the original plans,
where the opening would be up-facing, right reading. This ended up causing problems when
I reversed the orientation of the letters to hang from above.
The final table is pretty simple.

In my workroom, with the shop-vac table and the heating
element to soften the plastic.
Underneath the table simple plumbing fittings and a ball valve control the suction.

Determining spacing and orientation of the letter patterns.
The heating element I had from my table-top silkscreen station.

Another view of the vacuum-forming setup.
New and improved frames. Made from window-screen frames cut to size
and riveted to brackets, with document clamps holding the plastic.
The first tests I did were of the apostrophe. It was proving too difficult to not get
"darts" in the corners with my makeshift setup. This is what prompted me
to reconsider the orientation of the project. Eventually I settled
on hanging the letters at a more shallow depth from an aluminum frame.
These adjustable frame sets sit on top of the table
and allow for flexibility in sizing and vent placement.
This board sits between the table and frame and
allows for selective hole placement without
permanently altering the table itself.
Letters were traced on the platforms, then holes drilled selectively.
Holes could be blocked off with tape if I didn't want to use them
on different letters.
Simple shelf brackets were used as registration guides.

The original frames were made from aluminum C-Bar, which proved to be
cumbersome and inefficient.
The darting is visible here. Not the clean-edged look I wanted.

Note the Elvis cozy I got at Graceland when my band went on tour.
A letter after being vacuum formed, still on the table.

Early lighting tests using the fake blood.

Seeing how the fake blood flowed on the plastic.

The entire sentence spelled out in vacuum-formed plastic.

Detail of the letter G.
The final (partial) install of the word OKAY.

After finishing the aluminum frames (welding aluminum is no easy task), due to space limitations in the ACA Gallery, I chose to select one word to show, "OKAY." Future installations will include the full sentence.

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