wide view of 400 jars on rods with printed info in each jar - the completed 400 Parts installation

400 parts

Materials: Recycled glass jars, mild steel rods and plate, printed information.
Dimensions variable, site dependant. To 3.3 m tall.

400 parts is installed and exhibited for the 2016 Palmer Sculpture Biennial.

The title of the work refers to 400 parts per million CO2, what had been an important reference point in marking the rise of the Earth's atmospheric carbon dioxide. The title of the work also refers to the number of individual elements in the work.

In addition to my business experience and studies prior to setting-up my visual arts practice, I have a Diploma of Sustainability which formalised my concern and some learnings about Climate Change and the consequences to the world from it.

400 parts close-up

400 parts also refers to the number of elements in this work. There are about 400 glass jars mounted on steel poles driven into the hard ground of Palmer.

Each jar contains a brief printed message that falls within 3 separate categories: my personal feelings about Climate Change and the lack of action in remediating it (including anger, frustation, dismay); facts about Climate Change (with each documented showing the URL and a QR code for that URL); and lastly good news about addressing Climate Change where individuals, organisations, and governments (mainly local, state and regional rather than national/federal) are taking action to reduce or eliminate their CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate Change is such a complex issue that there are just too many facts about it for the average person to comprehend, which makes it easy for the doubt merchants to cherry-pick facts to support their rants against anthropogenic Climate Change. Likewise, visitors to the Palmer Sculpture Biennial who walk though this work simply can't take-in all the information - there's just too much and it becomes overwhelming.

When I proposed this work for the Palmer Biennial in mid-2015, the average global CO2 level was less than 400ppm. That level was surpassed in January 2016.

This work is my most ambitious art project ever and many times during the fabrication and installation of it I wondered why I had proposed it. Sometime soon I will separately document the arduous process for both the making and the installation but the project became very personal to me and I felt like it was 'one man making a difference'. It really became somewhat of a heroic struggle that I had to complete. Because I had committed to making and installing this work for the Palmer Sculpture Biennial, and also to show that one person, more or less on their own, can make a difference.

Each rod and jar assembly was installed by first drilling a 16mm ∅ hole using a rotary hammer drill, then banging a slide hammer piston into the hole to firm-up the shape (8 - 14 hits per hole, sometimes having to redo the hole from scratch), then inserting the rod/jar assembly into the hole, and finally banging the dirt around the embedded rod to better support it. Repeat x 400 times. And then there were issues to deal with like tools breaking, drill bits needing to be replaced, and there aren't hardware stores around the corner at Palmer.

It was exhausting working on site at Palmer in full sun when it was 35-39° doing very physical work. Installation took nearly a full week. I lost a lot of weight in the process. I appreciate the support provided by Jeff and Denni Ebert of the Palmer Hotel, donations of jars by many friends, conceptual advice and feedback from George, the physical assistance of good friends Tim and Geoff, and more support and encouragement than I deserved from my wonderful wife, Beth.

I'm happy how the work turned-out. I invite you to walk through it as that's the best way to experience it.

My quick pitch about anthropogenic Climate Change and its proof (very simplified):

  • The Earth is effectively a closed loop system. It naturally emits CO2 and absorbs CO2 and continues to do so.
  • CO2 in the atmosphere traps the effect of the sun's heat, preventing it from radiating away from Earth. That, like a greenhouse, makes the Earth hotter.
  • Human activity has greatly increased the rate of emitting CO2 and other greenhouse gases - that started with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and the burning of coal, oil and gas to power industry, heat and light homes and businesses.
  • Scientists verified the historic CO2 levels over time by sampling the atmospheric gases captured in ice cores that are up to 800,000 years old.
  • Human activity is putting more CO2 and other greenhouse gases (like methane, and refrigerants) into the atmosphere faster than the Earth's systems can absorb. So the average global temperature rise = Climate Change.

Some useful references include:

  • The 2010 book Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway documenting how a small group of disaffected scientists for hire in the U.S. set about confusing issues of national health and safety.
  • DeSmogBlog - clearing the PR pollution that clouds Climate Science.
  • Useful, timely facts, information and graphics from NASA.

400 parts

Don't give up - you can make a difference.