Re-Make/Re-Model: Modular Sculptures by Ben Long is an essay to coincide with the solo exhibition Re-Make/Re-Model at 201 Bishopsgate, London.

 

Ben Long Level Structure SL250C111 Graphic

 

Re-Make/Re-Model is an exhibition that brings together work from two ongoing sculpture series by British artist Ben Long; Level Structures which was begun in 2010 and Scaffolding Sculptures which commenced in 2003. Since their inception the works from these two series have been exhibited internationally in the public realm at diverse locations such as London's Economist Plaza in 2009, Banksy's Dismaland in 2015, 30 St Mary Axe for Sculpture in the City 2014 and at Bruce Castle for the Olympic torch relay in 2012.

 

Level Structures and Scaffolding Sculptures are derived from multiple-component kit-of-parts composed of materials commonly associated with building construction. Level Structures utilise interlocking spirit levels to generate rectilinear constructions while Scaffolding Sculptures are assembled from metal tube and their connecting couplers to create figurative monuments.

 

The two projects incorporate the 'MESR' design principle, originally an engineering term and acronym for the attributes Modular, Extendible, Scalable and Reconfigurable. Both series of artworks utilise MESR to achieve flexibility in assembly and the capacity for component reuse as a practical means of working within the field of large-scale sculptural production. Each artwork is erected following a comprehensive set of instructions that have been derived from an initial scale model. Long has described how working at small-scale aids the construction of the full scale works:

 

"The most creative part of my practice is in the conception of ideas and the initial period where I build models until I have a satisfactory miniature. The stage where I physically erect the artwork at full scale is more a practical than a creative act, a case of closely referencing the model and following instructions, albeit ones that I have devised myself in the studio."

 

Re-Make/Re-Model comprises maquettes, photographic documentation and newly commissioned sculpture that demonstrate the distinct stages of Long's practice towards completion of a project.

 

Work Scaffolding Sculpture, shown in Re-Make/Re-Model at 1:12 scale and accompanied by a set of photographic prints, was conceived as a direct response to Robert Indiana's iconic Love sculpture which Long had seen exhibited in Sculpture in the City 2013. Work Scaffolding Sculpture was realised full-scale the following year at the entrance of 30 St Mary Axe in the heart of London's financial district. Examining the value of hard graft associated with manual employment, the sculpture describes the process of work as a methodical, cumulative endeavour. With its reference to Indiana's Love, Work Scaffolding Sculpture reassesses the idealistic spirit of the 1960s and invites comparison between the two concepts, Love and Work, and their role in our daily existence and our survival.

 

Horse Scaffolding Sculpture, presented also in scale model form with accompanying photographic print, is an equine sculpture that recalls Stubbs' famous rearing horse Whistlejacket. Initially modelled in 2005, Long's sculpture has subsequently been built for exhibition on three occasions, and each time adapted and refined. Comparing Horse Scaffolding Sculpture to civic equestrian monuments, Long comments: "What you see is something less permanent and more skeletal. In a way it could be read as a spectre of imperialism, the bare bones of something that once seemed insurmountably grand."

 

Level Structure (SL250C111) is a full scale artwork on display in the main lobby space of 201 Bishopsgate, accompanied by a 1:10 miniature scale version at the entrance of the building. Informed by the work of Sol LeWitt and his cubic sculptures, Level Structures fuse the high ideals of Minimalism with the democratic principles of Do-It-Yourself culture. Each spirit level, clicked horizontally or vertically into position, is aligned to display a perfect state of equilibrium. Assembled much like a game or puzzle, this tectonic system accumulates towards pure geometric abstraction.

 

Long has devised the form of this sculpture using a simple mathematical progression; an arrangement of cubes spiral upward, ascending in steps from one outer corner towards the pinnacle at the centre. This configuration has been chosen as a response to the architecture of 201 Bishopsgate and to the skyscraper phenomenon where vertically orientated buildings convey aspiration, wealth and power, just as the spires of churches and cathedrals had once tried to bridge the gap between the earthly and the spiritual.

 

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Re-Make/Re-Model: Modular Sculptures by Ben Long was originally an accompanying essay in printed leaflet form to coincide with the exhibition Re-Make/Re-Model at 201 Bishopsgate, London, EC2M 3BN (5 September — 11 November 2016).