Great Expectations (2015)
Single screen video with sound
9 mins 30 seconds
Oak fragments, salvaged from the top newel post of an antique staircase from Whitstable, Kent
110cm x 70cm x 45cm
Great Expectations : low res on Vimeo
Great Expectations continues Adam Chodzko’s exploration of the extraordinary reasoning that is at play within our relationships and behaviours, carried by the objects that surround us, and how this creativity – this act of making. – can be made to extend across time and space. Taking the forms of a video and sculpture Great Expectations is speculative narrative based on historical facts relating to a collection of tools, a tool chest and the actions surrounding these objects enacted between a father and son. Developed from historical material evidence that, understood collectively, appears to suggest the operations of the fantastic and mysterious, Chodzko follows its peculiar logic in order to evolve its potential meaning.
In 1796, a set of 200 cabinet making tools were given as a gift from a father, Joseph Seaton, to his son, Benjamin, in Chatham, Kent. Benjamin responded to his father’s generosity by using the tools to make a beautiful cabinet in order to store them in. He then put the tools inside this chest and never used them again. For Chodzko the performance of this act becomes the perfect symbol of acceptance and rejection between child and parent, allowing transformation and growth and a propulsion into the future. The son, simultaneously honouring and subverting the father’s gift (and the expectations carried with it), transforms his chest into a spaceship or time machine. In Great Expectations, the tools, within Seaton’s tool chest, (now housed in the Guildhall Museum, Rochester, Kent), finally emerge to speak and wonder about their story and their revolutionary plans for the human race.
Chodzko speculates as to how we might be able to break with historical continuity (the expectation that continuity is automatically the best path to take) through becoming embodied and suspended within an object, in order to break from family tradition to allow us to be carried forward in time, concealed, until the time is right for us to reappear, changed. Great Expectations is a proposition about perception and how a series of apparently strange, nonsensical actions can combine as ritual, to mesmerise and hypnotise others, in order to attain this higher state of vision.
Part historical document, part science fiction and part autobiographical experience, Chodzko investigates the surreal exchanges between tools and art objects, museums and homes, parents and children, the digital and tangible, in a video work, that has, also, apparently, accidentally produced an object, Ark-Eye, a byproduct of its ‘screen’ materiality. A body which exists somewhere or other, just out of reach of the video. A wooden ‘sculpture’ that has crash‐landed from the tools’ digital universe into ours.
The voices: Leanne Henlon, Marie Dumoulin and Ellis Eyres
The boy: Seth Barnard Chodzko
The children: Bradfields Academy Special School, Chatham, Kent
Animation: John Joe Brophy
Additional sound mix: Tim Barker
With thanks to the Guildhall Museum, Rochester, Kent, Suzie Plumb and Polly Harknett
“An Eye if placed at five Feet above the Surface of the Earth or Sea, sees two Miles & a Quarter every way: but if it be at twenty feet high, it can see 5 3/4 miles.”
(writing found on the reverse of the Seaton Tool Chest inventory, written by Benjamin Seaton; a quotation from An Introduction to the Use of the Globes, and the Orrery: As Also the Application of Astronomy to Chronology, by David Jennings, 1766)