Dance With The Past

The brief for this project was to consider and explore the use of found objects in art and generate ideas.

I found some old ceiling tiles in the builders skip at college, and there was an old pianola roll in the items our tutor had that we could use.

My big confession is that I have absolutely failed on researching artists that have appropriated items in art. I could go and look at artwork that fits my final piece, but it really wouldn’t be right to do that and reference them.

With this project I followed my heart and instincts on where this piece took me. I love music, I’m learning to play the piano and I use to ballroom dance. The music on the pianola roll is “Smoke gets in your eyes” by Jerome Kern. It was described as a foxtrot.

I had this idea that I wanted to cut the plywood into shapes to represent dancers, somehow incorporating the music roll. Then I researched pianolas. The early pianola’s were grand pianos. That was when I had the vision of a grand piano with the pianola music roll dancing it’s way up through the centre.

Our work had to be an exploration of one or all of the following three categories

  • Collections and multiples
  • Deconstruct/Reconstruct
  • Assemblage – a work of art made by grouping together found or unrelated objects.

I started looking into music boxes and found a DIY one on ebay that had the mechanism, sheets of paper to punch holes in of the treble clef and a hole puncher.

Starting from the very bottom I used the fibreglass soundproof part of the tile as a base and lay a piece of plywood on top. Using image transfer I covered the plywoodbwith images of a wooden piano lid.

For the next layers I drew the shape of a grand piano on the plywood and cut using a bansaw, and also used a piece of old kitchen cupboard door for the bottom layer as it was thicker. I had to use a jig saw to cut out the circle in the middle. The legs for the piano were cut from polystyrene and stuck on with wood glue.

I purchased a piano hinge which I cut down to size but due to the ply being so thin the only way I could attach was by using rivets.

I had to make stands to support the middle layer of the piano design on the bottom layer and also a prop for the piano lid. We had a spot welding workshop as part of this project and I made a treble clef out of aluminium strips and used rollers to bend into shape, I also made quavers to use as support stands.

I spent a little of time in the workshop working out solutions of the best way to attach the pieces together, the supports were they better on the side or on the front and back? It felt at times like a game of jenga, one wrong move and it would tumbledown.

Once I started to assemble it all together, it became apparent that it would look better with a holder for the pianola roll. With hindsight, I should have made this so that you could turn the roll but I was feeling time pressured so it was fixed.

I also needed some way of holding the paper up but it looking as though it was floating, after trying wire and cardboard neither of which worked well, my tutor found a piece of perspex that we bent using a hot wire.

I attached the music box to the side and fed the roll of music I had painstakingly punched. Again, I should have used the vocal treble clef rather than the piano treble clef as unfortunately on the piano some of the notes on that clef were below middle C and my paper only went as low as middle C.

I didn’t widen the diameter of the holes in the wood, but again had I measure the paper and thought about how fragile it is, I should have increased the diameter slightly.

I stained the plywood and I’m really pleased with the way the grain came out. I lived using my new found metal and wood working skills and will consider using then again in future projects.

I love the final simplicity of this piece and feel that it not only pays homage to the history of the pianola but is also respectful.

“Dance with the past”

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