Michael Speechley (b. 1962)
Progress, 2013-Ongoing
Ice blocks, CCTV camera, video projection
Duration: variable

Development

With the installation Progress I have explored the process of replaying the piece multiple times. Each time the core component has remained the same but the narrative has been adapted to work with the theme or environment.

Progress I, 2013
Albert Meanwhile Project, London NW6
Ice block, vessel, microphone and amplified sound, light source
Output: Durational film (as long as the ice lasts)

Created in response to the irresponsible removal of a buildings thermal insulation for athletic reasons. Resulting in a situation where the artists studio and community performance space could not be heated. Three suspended ice blocks were installed to demonstrate that the building was so cold inside the ice would not melt. The installation proved the point but after running for ten hours the light faded and the installation morphed into a sinister looking scene with an AV (audio visual) feedback loop using microphones, amplified sound, CCTV cameras and projection.

Progress II, 2014
Architecture
BAR Gallery, London NW10
Ice block, vessel, microphone and amplified sound, light source

An adaption of the original theme to express the idea of recycling. A single ice block was suspended and the melted water was collected and recycled back into a new ice block. The idea was to show how even the simplest of materials could be endlessly recycled. In the case of the ice block the process could have continued until the liquid had evaporated.

Progress III, 2014
Opposite Fields Group Show
BAR Gallery, London NW10
Ice block, vessel, microphone and amplified sound, light source

Progress III, 2014, BAR Gallery, London

The exhibition was a collaboration between multiple artists presenting AV (audio visual) work and kinetic sculptures. Alongside my video work I adapted the installation to drive a mechanical shutter as the ice melted. The shutter interrupted a beam of light to produce shadow pattern as the drips of water hit a collection plate which activated the mechanism.

Progress IV, 2015
Dissenters’ Gallery
Kensal Green Cemetery, London W10
Ice block, vessel, microphone and amplified sound, light source

Progress IV, 2015, Kensal Green Cemetery, London

During my residency at the Dissenters’ I had the opportunity to present work in the catacombs below the chapel. This allowed me to develop the work further and introduce a narrative based on loss and regeneration.

Again the installation featured a single ice block but on a larger scale and suspended at head height by rope tethered to the ground 12m away. Below the ice block was a collection plate which directed the melted water into a vessel for reuse. Attached to the collection plate were pickup microphones which reacted to the vibrations of the drips from the melting ice. The sound vibrations were amplified and played back into the space creating gun shot sounds echoing around the catacombs. At the same time the sound vibrations triggered white light to flood the space creating a flash effect with every drop.

What I’ve described above is a technical view of the installation and as viewed with this basic knowledge the installation worked as an experience within an architecturally interesting and historical space.

The narrative which I will describe next moved the piece into a much more personal and emotional space.

The rope represents the length of time my mother suffered with vascular dementia, from the time she was diagnosed to her death. The melting ice block represents my mothers gradual fading as the disease takes hold. The drips of water represent the tens of thousands of unseen mini strokes she must have suffered. The gun shot sounds represent the relentless damage wreaked by the disease. The flashes of light the moments when a deep memory came to the surface, sometimes shared when she was still able. The vessel represents my grieving and regeneration. Once one persons path has ended the water can be refrozen for the process to start again.

Progress V, 2021 (WIP)
Ice block, vessel, microphone and amplified sound, light source, data logging
Output: Durational film and printed documentation

Progress has now reached the point where the piece can be encapsulated in film returning it to the original output of the first installation.