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David Wilkinson


The Scarecrow
Averoff-Tossizza Museum
Metsovo, Greece

July 1 - September 17, 2006

work: one piece - Heliotrope

The Scarecrow - private view invitation

Wherever alternative energy or any of the myriad topics within the periphery of that particular discourse is on the table, the name Tesla is never far away. The physicist and inventor Nikola Tesla (1856 - 1943), originally from Croatia, who settled in the United States (firstly working for Edison), certainly made a significant contribution to the science of energy production and distribution, unfortunately his legacy has mostly fuelled the conspiracy theorists who will expound at length about missing papers, death rays and suchlike, that serves mostly to cast Tesla in the role of a sort of Promethean figure almost like Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s gothic fantasy of re-animation. Perhaps then it is not unusual that film adaptations of the novel invariably equip Victor’s laboratory with a plethora of Tesla inspired devices. For example, the cover illustration for Christopher Frayling’s 2005 book Mad Bad and Dangerous, the scientist and the cinema shows a still from the 1931 film Frankenstein by James Whale, although in this instance the subject is Dr Frankenstein's assistant, Fritz, the mis-en-scene is clearly Tesla inspired.

Heliotrope, 2006, an installation for the exhibition The Scarecrow, adopts a similar mis-en-scene through the use of a collection of Tesla lamps, a solar power supply and a geodesic dome covered with highly reflective foil.

Sited in Metsovo, Northern Greece, the location is geographically close to Tesla’s birthplace of Smiljan, Croatia and also just at the tail end of the Balkans. The work proposes a process to convert energy from the Sun (plasma) into a lighting display (plasma lamps) in a way that should produce a degree of self-sustainability. Of course, the search for perpetual motion always leads back to the laws of thermodynamics and this work is no exception. It soon became clear during the build period for the show, that the weather was unusually wet for mid-June and things didn’t improve much for the rest of that summer, however despite the low levels of sunlight, the continual rain and low temperatures, the installation continued to function for the duration, powered by sunlight.

The Scarecrow was initiated by The Averoff Foundation and was conceived as an international collaboration between artists, writers and curators in the form of a major exhibition of work in several locations around the village of Metsovo, accompanied by a weekend symposium. Funding bodies for the project include the Greek Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Culture, Sony Hellas SA and the Averoff Foundation.

Production of the work required the sourcing of materials from Europe and the USA, arranging shipments from USA to London and London to Greece, installation of the work in advance of the exhibition for the production of catalogue photographs, within a specified budgetary allowance.

The exhibition extended from July to September during which time the work was available to the public everyday and so needed to function without any maintenance during the three month period of the show, after which the work was dismantled and shipped back to London. All of these aims were achieved.

A photograph of the work as installed is included in the catalogue along with a brief artist’s statement. The total budget for the work, including travel was approximately £3,000.

The Scarecrow - selected catalogue pages

Please also refer to hardcopy items for this output.

related outcomes:
Nicolas de Oliveira: The Scarecrow
Nicola Oxley: The Scarecrow
Rosemarie McGoldrick: Techniques of the Bird Observer II

back to David Wilkinson home page

London Metropolitan University