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– Autumn/Winter 2000

Edgeless, Modeless

Paul Shepheard

Simon Starling, Blue Boat Black, 1997. Courtesy of the artist and The Modern Institute, Glascow.

Simon Starling, Blue Boat Black, 1997. Courtesy of the artist and The Modern Institute, Glascow.

2 dorade, 2 red mullet, 1 saddles bream, 1 European porgy and 3 rock fish caught using a replica of a Marseille ‘barque’, built with the wood from a Museum disply case from the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh and then cooked using charcoal produced from the boat. (Triangle, Marseille) 1997.

What is Simon Starling up to? Is it something reactive or something novel? Something ironic or something epic? When I recently explained Starling's piece Work, made-ready, Kunsthalle Bern, to a group of Australian architects they sighed.

This is the work where Starling recast the metal from a bicycle frame and made a chair frame, and recast the metal from a chair frame and made a bicycle. The architects were worried about specifications. They were concerned that a Marin Sausalito is made from a seven-thousand series alloy and an Eames chair from a six. And as they are not the same metals would this not make Starling's work a performance? When I explained to them that though there was a performative element to the work, it was more about the recasting process, about the hand made in relation to the machine made, the architects responded by claiming that Starling was a Luddite. Did he wear sandals, they wondered. There is no point discussing art with people like that. It's like negotiating fish prices with a bunch of sea lions. But, oh my god, I reflected as I flew back from Australia over Delhi and the Hindu Kush at thirty-nine thousand feet, could they be right?

The Luddites were terrorist groups who were dedicated to smashing industrial machinery. It was clear to them that being lashed to the pace of a machine loom was slavery, not work: their answer was to smash the machines themselves. It was the first politics of industrial technology. If you travel to their stamping grounds of Derbyshire, where the first water-powered industrialisation occurred, you will find the Cromford Mills: big, pink stone structures inserted