One of my favorite aesthetics in the mixed medium sculptures and installations I make is fluids. Fluids suggest life, change, evolution. They can signify tears, blood, flow, gradual or rapid ripples, possibly something uncontrollable and inexorable, joyous and fertile, especially if bubbling is involved (yum!). However, working with them can be pretty tricky in several ways. One is evaporation. One isn’t keen on having to top-up fluids in an artwork often. It occurred to me years ago at my Silicon Valley studio, as I was making a mad scientist wall sculpture, that the most appropriate fluid might be some kind of oil. I wanted my mad scientist helium-neon red laser tube to cast its beam into a fluid that would glow. 30 weight motor oil seemed to work at first, and had a gorgeous honey amber, gooey sense to it, primordial. Unfortunately it didn’t refract enough light throughout.
In the background I hear “…slings and arrows of outrageous skeletons…” from an engineer/artist friend Paul B. (a.k.a. Dr. Zrint in our mad scientist club).
Brake fluid worked for a while till it clouded up from exposure to air.
“ha Ha Hunh!” from behind a big black box marked I wouldn’t If I Were You. Zrint again.
Giggling, I went over to see what in hell was going on. Paul was motorizing a small plastic skeleton to dip in and out of a little vat of fluid in a sculpture he was working on. He wanted a fluid that was clear but wouldn’t evaporate or become cloudy over time. He had struck on the idea of mineral oil for use in his installation piece.
Brilliant! I replaced the brake oil with mineral oil and added a bit of yellow food coloring until it had the tint I wanted, and would refract the most laser glow. Thanks Dr. Zrint!
The reply was “veni, vedi, zzzzzt!”
Liquids are a basic theme to KARF:JT (Kanobis Amplifier Research Facility; Joshua Tree) Research Station 2 that will reside eventually in the shed I have built in Joshua Tree. One of the fluid circulating systems uses oil and I have used water in a couple of other systems, however it is in nearly sealed vessels and I don’t think it will evaporate for quite a few years. Various trips out to make additions and modifications to the installation over the years will allow plenty of topping-up opportunities.
Oh, yeah, and the fluids variously bubble.
Research Station 2 detail of glass vessel with clouded liquid among tubes, clamps, displays, cables and wires.