Multimedia installation by Russell Mills and Ian Walton
Hayward Gallery, London, for Sonic Boom: The Art of Sound
Silver cylindrical tower, circular steel hanging grid, X-rays of human skulls, sheep fleeces, rotating mosaic lighting device, asynchronous 6 CDs 12 speakers surround sound system
Soundwork recorded and produced by Russell Mills, Ian Walton, Mike Fearon and Tom Smyth at September Sound Studio, Twickenham, London

Mantle 2000
Hayward Gallery, London

Multimedia installation by Russell Mills and Ian Walton
Commissioned by David Toop for Sonic Boom: The Art of Sound

Silver painted wooden cylindrical tower, Sheep fleeces, circular steel hanging grid, X-Rays, custom made rotating random mosaic lighting device, six CDs x 12 speaker sound system
Mantle consisted of a circular chamber, its internal wall clad in sheep fleeces, within a cylinder of X-Rays suspended around and over a floor of sheep fleeces, all these elements referencing our place in nature, and our role as spectator and worker within it.
Accepting that history and memory feed continuity and change, giving shape to living things and substance to our speculations of possible futures, Mantle explored the idea of land as force and as metaphor for transformation, while also seeking to articulate a sense of the immense global influence of the human impact on the landscape over time. Mantle evolved out of and was a reflection on, a multitude of inter-related ideas born out of our awareness of the aesthetic of the natural world as being profoundly and inextricably political and economic. It dwelt on the uneasy and currently unbalanced symbiosis between land as fundamental matter, and how we shape it and in turn are shaped by it. The hidden laws of nature’s ceaseless flux have primarily dictated all occupations, habitations, trade routes and the subsequent exchange of cross-cultural ideas. In all instances, it is the land, the climate and the cyclical, relentless processes of the phenomenal world, which ultimately determines our actions.

Mantle’s large outer cylinder, a zone of separation, clad in sheep fleeces was as muted as an anechoic chamber, suggesting a shelter, temporary, ephemeral, at one remove from the shepherd’s cloak, the minimum required for shelter. The inner cylinder of X-Rays of human skulls, represented the bothy of the charcoal-burner, the resin gatherer, the bodger or the willow worker, the leaf-hut of the Amazonian jungle and the shantytowns of the world’s ‘cardboard cities’.
The sonic elements of Mantle arose out of the contextual roots, which anchored and bound the installation. The sound was conceived so as to create a magnified sense of place, time and emotion, while emulating the experience of listening in a landscape, whether rural or urban, where we are enveloped in a wide sonic backdrop of indeterminate sounds. Sonic elements used included the human (blood flow frequencies and breathing), the mechanical (rock drilling and stone cutting), the natural (rivers, winds, birds and animals) and the found and manipulated (glass and metal spinning, struck stones and beaten wood). Each element had been extensively treated so as to collectively evoke an invented, previously unimagined place.
Each CD carried a unique palette of these audio elements, each of different durations and all looped at varying intervals, thereby creating a series of endlessly changing mixes in real-time.



"During the prolonged period of enforced Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, I suspect like many others, I spent some time in reflective mode. I found myself returning to the set of 30 works I’d made towards possible uses on the Nine Inch Nails’ Hesitation Marks release of 2013. All of these works were subsequently published in the Cargo In The Blood limited edition multiple that was released following the album’s release. I’ve had and continue to receive enquiries about the possibility of some of these pieces being made into limited edition prints, so decided to go through them with this in mind, selecting those that I think will make good prints.

As well as considering the original works, I was also intrigued as to how a set of prints could be made using some of the pieces from the second half of the book, which is titled The Reverse Is Also True. This section features all the artworks subjected to various negative treatments and printed using the four-colour process over a fifth base printing of metallic silver ink. I chose to explore this five-colour process because I was intrigued to see how the unpredictability of this process would affect and work with the overprinted full-colour images. It also mirrored how my work evolves out of experiments with prepared chance, combining chemicals, solutions, man-made and organic materials. The results from such experimentation are always unpredictable, and while there are the occasional disappointments and failures, for the most part, they are surprising and often revelatory. Working in this way ensures that control is surrendered to the unpredictable nature of the materials, thereby avoiding the known and removing any ego from the work.

Having started life as mixed media works, they were photographed, then converted into the digital, after which they became the source of potential new works in their own right, works that could only have been achieved in the computer, the ultimate collage tool.

I’ve chosen a few of my favourites, which, instead of using the five-colour lithographic printing process as used in the production of the Cargo In The Blood book, are to be printed using the digital eight-colour process, onto a very beautiful iridescent PhotoRag Metallic paper produced by Hahnemuhle, the paper manufacturer whose paper is used for all of the Limited Edition Prints.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to emulate metallic inks on a computer so it’s impossible to show what the finished prints actually look like. You’ll just have to take it on trust that they look wonderful; if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be being offered for sale.

Both sets of these new series, in signed limited editions of 150

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Russell Mills

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