David Chalmers Alesworth

“The Age of Wonder” Lahore Literature Festival, February 2015

Art, Contemporary Art, Environment, Uncategorized

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The Age of Wonder LLF, Canon Powershot - 060

The Age of Wonder LLF, Canon Powershot - 137

The Age of Wonder, iPhone - 35



The Age of Wonder LLF, Canon Powershot - 161

The Age of Wonder LLF, Canon Powershot - 141


The Age of Wonder, iPhone - 29


The Age of Wonder LLF, Canon Powershot - 156

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David Alesworth has a long history of working in public spaces and collaborative practices. These began in the late 1980’s and throughout the 1990’s. Resulting in works such as “The Promised Lands” Frere Hall 1997, “Heart Mahal” 1996 and “Very Very Sweeet Madina” in 2000. For the Lahore Literature festival-2015 Alesworth will be facilitating a project based around the microscopic, inviting members of the public to view aspects of the everyday environment that are normally invisible to the unaided eye. These will be viewed and shared through both the optical microscope and video projections, moving from the infinitesimally small to the large format of the public display. Here musing upon the relationship between the individual and society and reflecting upon the Age of Wonder that has been a long standing feature of the artist’s research interests.
(text from LLF catalogue)

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NCA Show references.


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The idea that CP-1 was built in a university squash court has always appealed to me.

(Chicago Pile-1) This appears to be a stack of graphite blocks from the core prior to assembly.


Artists impression of the view across the squash courts.



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Context for the current work, Jan. 2009.


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“Tower” 1974

An early sculpture from my foundation year at Epsom. 1974. I had spent the previous summer working on a motorway, the A3. We used to construct road markers out of waste materials to warn of hazards, to the trucks and other users of the as yet unopened road. I think something of my attitude to positioning work in the public space, and then the gallery space originated here.


“Two Bombs Kiss”, Neem wood carving, 1990.
A prayer to avert nuclear war in the sub-c0ntitnet. It’s based on a story I’d read of Brancusi, his ambition to place a version of “The Kiss” between the trenches of the Germans and the allies in the first world war.


“Heart Mahal” 1996,
Collaborative work. Iftikhar and Elizabeth Dadi, Durriya Kazi and David Alesworth.


“Fukuoka 2000”
A residency undertaken with Durriya Kazi and Pakistani truck decorators. Intended to interface with Japanese truck decorators. (Image right.)


Collaborative works with Durriya Kazi, 1997-2000


“Chamak Patti disks David Alesworth, 2001. Icons of modernity such as washing powder adverts, emblems of arab culture, early nuclear weapons and mushroom clouds. The “Chammak Patti” is glass impregnated tape (3M reflector tape) used to decorate trucks in Pakistan.


“Event Horizon” 2002.
six-foot satellite Dish, chamak patti, enamel paint, steel stand. An anti-globalization, ad-busting work. It’s first incarnation was on a thela (hand-cart). David Alesworth, 2002.


“War Against Terror” 2002
Aluminum trays, nan roti’s, toy American soldiers, chamak Patti tape.


“Teddy Bear Rug” 2002.

Second hand soft toys on sale at Itwaar Bazaar, Karachi. A rug made of Teddy Bear skins.


The first of the “Teddy’s Bear’s”. Toys for the war child. 2003.


“Probes” 2003, Karachi, out in the city of Karachi.


“Probes” in Karachi, the phalwala, murgheewala and doodhwala. 2003.


“Trays” 2003.
International brands, hacked, based upon fake items found in Karachi’s markets. Stensil cut aluminium.

“Record Room”
Series, 2008-2009. Monochrome photographs. These will be shown in combination with “Fermi’s Pile”. The photographs will also be framed in grey, passivated zinc-plated steel. I will probably use a phosphate passivation on all the metal items.


“Record Room” series monochrome.
Probably around 20 x 30 inch, full-bleed images, in grey metal frames. 2008-2009.



Part-progress to Fermi’s Pile, to be shown with the monochrome, “Record Room” images.
This will be constructed from 180 units, around 30 are present here. I’m now looking at a dark grey phosphate finish, same on the photographic frames. The work will probably be titled “12.2.42” the American date for when this first went critical and so beginning the atomic era.

Chicago Pile-1, a massive “atomic pile” of graphite bricks and uranium fuel, which went critical on December 2, 1942, built in a hard racquets court under Stagg Field, the football stadium at the University of Chicago. Due to a mistranslation, Soviet reports on Enrico Fermi claimed that his work was performed in a converted “pumpkin field” instead of a “squash court”.


The NCA gallery space where the works will be shown, Jan. 2009.


NCA Gallery, Jan. 2009. This is probably the space I will be using. There are three potential rooms.


“Botanical Garden” or perhaps, “Role Call” or “All the Names”, “Looking for Eden”?
2008-2009 currrent work.

I may also show a few of the botanical label works, these are in progress. They began in Linz, in the summer of 2008, at the Transart residency. I’m thinking of God telling man all the names (to settle the argument with the angels). I’m thinking of Eden and a taxonomy for Eden. I’m gradually working my way towards that, reseraching Quaranic and Biblical texts and refernces.

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Work on “Fermi’s Pile”, 17 Jan. 2009


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Working amongst the small metal workshops of Lahore’s Lakshmi Chawk area.

Stack of 30 units, from a total of 180 units.

The units are identical but also quite distorted from the heat of the welding. The proportions, 14 x 14 x 28 inches somehow work interestingly with the scale of ones body, why? I investigated other sizes and ratios to arrive at this. Is it the scale of a pet? child? what one can hope to pick-up unaided, something to do with one’s span? I realize these are very much the concerns of early minimalists, like Caro, who was once Henry Moore’s protege. The idea of span and of being body-scaled are terms that could be right out of Moore’s own mouth. Though such concerns are readily discernible in ancient Egyptian sculpture, canonical works.

Is it not possible to make a perfect, quiet cube in Lahore? I think I welcome the “wobble” that sign or life. It’s the imperfection that makes the energy flow.

I’m facing problems with the zinc plating process. I want the zinc plate not only as protection from rust or as an aesthetic surface, though I want both of those qualities too. I chose it for the link to the last two bodies of work I’ve made (objects), the “Probes” and the “Trays”. These deliberately turned away from the aesthetic of “Truck Art” and other high visibility urban craft items in Pakistan. That strategy well played out by now, though I might well re-visit it. I want the link to a more domestic space, the kitchen. The zinc plate is the language of milk-churns, baking trays, funnels and jugs. There is a strong reference to the making, but they are also somehow, proto-industrial. Retro-tech, almost industrial.

Much of my reading over the last decade has been about the origins of nuclear technology and weaponry. I’ve made work that addresses the bulbous, toy like proportions of early nuclear weapons. (Two Bombs Kiss).

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Work the in progress for NCA Show, Jan. 2009.


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Reference Boxes, for “Fermi’s Pile”


Sample cubes, distortion and weld issues under consideration. I’m settling on 22 gauge MS sheet and argon shielded welds. These are cleaner welds for later electroplating.




“Column of Stewardship”sample, trying plant motifs for scale. The idea is four of these guard “Fermi’s Pile” like the guardian figures around Tutankhamen’s outer sarcophagi, in the Cairo Museum.

More stacking, exploring stability.


MS stamped floral motifs, I’m considering them for the “Column’s of Stewardship”, they’re a bit “Truck Art”, crude, heavy and undifferentiated.
I’m still gathering the range of samples for these.


The first zinc plated cube on top. The black areas are around weld holes, which is a problem. The lower cube has been Ducco sprayed, it’s not the look I want. I’m looking for a kind of failed minimalism, referencing Karl Andre and others in the 1970’s.


A prototype MS, Zinc plated frame. This one’s got a hot-dip surface. This has a thicker Zinc deposit which is good, for oxidizing, but also heavily crystalline, which isn’t what I’m looking for. The second frame sample is currently in progress.


A zinc plated surface prior to oxidation, I’m still deciding how and when I’m going to fix the Zinc. I may go with an iridescent metallic finish

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National College of Art, two person show, Febuary 16th-1st March 2009


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Work in progress January 10th, 2009

Columns of Stewardship


Samples of boxes, for Fermi’s Pile.

Construction of CP-1, or Chicago Pile Number One, was done under the football stadium in an abandoned squash court. On December 2, 1942, mankind first harnessed the energy of the atom. Fermi’s pile produced only 1/2 watts of power. But that was all the power the United States needed to start the next phase of the bomb’s development. The pile contained 771,000 pounds of graphite, 80,590 pounds of uranium oxide and 12,400 pounds of uranium metal when it went “critical.” It cost about $1 million to produce and build. The pile took the form of a flattened ellipsoid which measured 25 feet wide and 20 feet high.


Light Box sample, for “Trees of Lahore”


Column sample, for “Columns of Stewardship”.

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Notes on “The Frankfurt School” Collaborative Video, 2008.


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The “Frankfurt School
Video installation. David Alesworth and Adnan Madani. 2008.

(Short low res clip)

This collaborative video installation produced by David Alesworth and Adnan Madani originated in certain discussions between the two some years ago. Here the idea was posited of coercing members of “the public” to read critical theory, out loud, to the camera. The idea arose from the artists experience as teachers and the difficulties of getting students to read texts. Prompted to revisit the idea by a mutual friend, the project was begun in 2008 with a series of experimental shoots of art students, often tied or kneeling reading from Theodor Adorno’s book “The Culture Industry” Routledge, 2nd edition, 2001. After further interviews and video shoots the artists settled upon filming a group of law students reading from the text in an academic environment. This being a small lecture theatre. The artists intervened in the readings, often stopping the readers and requesting them to start again from the beginning. The readers were also asked some simple questions in the course of each two minute reading from the same piece of text. The subsequent video revealed a study in power and something of the politics of the classroom. “The Ignorant Schoolmaster” by, Jacques Ranciere is a text that both artists had been recently considering. Subsequently it was decided that the video required a second, disparate element that would run parallel to the video portraits. In the end this became the accompanying footage of a bookbinder dismantling the same text, Adorno’s “The Culture Industry” and producing from it a pile of folded and glued paper bags. These are common items in contemporary Pakistani street culture. The revered canonical text was ultimately reduced to a common disposable item that might be used for the sale of low value items. The two videos were streamed alongside each other in one fourteen minute loop initially. Upon first exhibiting the work, it was decided to set it up in the form of a video installation. This comprised of a large mounted plasma screen with audio, playing looped footage of the video portraits of the readers and the interruptions from the artists. On a table in front of this, not aligned to the main screen was a small LCD screen playing the silent dismantling of Adorno’s book. Next to this on the table was a neat stack of paper-bags, weighted down by a smooth white pebble, the bags having been produced from the pages of the book. The accompanying text:

The Frankfurt School

David Alesworth Adnan Madani

“We asked students from the Law Department of the Lahore University of Management Sciences to read aloud an essay written by the German critical theorist Theodor Adorno. We filmed them reading in the lecture auditorium, while asking them a variety of questions to test their grasp of the text. The individual sessions collectively form a series of portraits, or studies in power; the text itself was subsequently converted into an object of (first) use and then (later) fetish value.

– was presented as a museum label on the adjacent wall. The whole ensemble was encountered as a puzzle to be investigated and pieced together through the examination of the elements.

Autobiographical connotations and relevance to my current projec
(The creation of autobiographical works through video and other means.)

For myself (David Alesworth) the whole work has a strong autobiographical resonance. I have taught in art-schools in Pakistan for some twenty years, and struggled unsuccessfully to integrate some theory alongside studio practice, at a variety of schools in the country. In my art practice of twenty years of living in Pakistan, the transformation of material (and often content) through interaction with Pakistan’s urban crafts, of all forms has taken the central position. The production of the bags from the “western” text particularly resonates with this enduring concern.

This is the first major work that I have edited on a Mac and in Final Cut Pro. Adnan and I lite
rally googled our way through a number of the editing steps, Adnan seeking the tutorials on a laptop and interpreting them to me, whilst I attempted to follow these instructions on the editing i-mac.

Johnk(60 Seconds) was commissioned by Motiroti UK.
Produced and directed by David Alesworth. Lahore. 2008.

(Low res. complete video, one minute)

The video was filmed in my residence earlier this year. Through the use of a split screen the passage of Jahangir (my housekeeper) and myself towards the vegetable garden is documented. We travel over very different surfaces. Jahangir leaves his quarters and walks around the rear of the house where he lives with his wife and three children, largely outside. I travel from the hall, over plush rugs, through the carpeted lounge, dinning-room and kitchen to meet with him in the vegetable garden. Here we discuss in my poor Urdu and his limited English issues of vegetable growing and other topical subjects. Like the split screen footage, we are arranged either side of an improvised irrigation support. Both devices serve to underline the formal intimacy of our domestic lives. We are either side of the class divide. Having been plagued by slugs (Johnk) the conversation ends with their mention. We withdraw to our respective quarters, Jahangir’s door opens into his single room, amidst the chatter of his young family. I enter through my front door and toss my keys down. The video ends with a shot of my book on sustainable slug management practices. The video is about economic disparity in Pakistan today, post-colonial ghosts and eccentric English obsessions. I intend to make more work about slugs in the near future.

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Jan 10th 2009: Current work overview:


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“The Record Room” Series, Dec. 2008

How I’m now thinking of (all) the work:
To create a non-linear, non-chronological autobiographical narrative.
When I reminisce (it’s always about me, as I’m always there) it is in fragments. I can navigate around the fragment but there is always a sense of place at the core of this experience. When I write these fragments down they become a sequence and already a sense of chronology imposed. Even if I make it achronological, it will still have it’s own fixed chronology. That of the sequence of the text itself. This is inauthentic for me.

What if I hyper-link the fragments? What if the writing and video, images, sound, other fragments exist in a sort of pool, cloud, or solar system of inter-linked information? Closer to the way my mind recalls.

I wish to collapse the research and the studio practice into one activity as far as possible (as far as I consider relevant, useful and possible even.)

Then the research essay and the autobiographical video work can all somehow be together, as one work. It’s ultimate form will also depend on the enquiry of the next few months.

How might I produce all this? Presently I believe, ideally as a web-site. I have been intending to learn Dreamweaver towards the development of my own artist site, this might be a further incentive to do so now.

I do wish to challenge the accepted form of an essay or dissertation. I believe the form of the text dictates in part it’s subsequent reading.

Researcher’s write and artists produce visual works, I wish to begin to creatively confuse this distinction.

The work of the last six months
September 2008 to January 2009

September 2008. Setting up i-Mac for editing. A major work as all existing data had to be incorporated into the new system and reformatted several times over the first few months, till a large stable, backed up resource was created. Still an issue as large quantities of visual data have to be re-organized and cataloged before it is usable. Completely moved to Mac platform, including laptop by October 2008.September to October 2008. Researching and ordering books for autobiographical studies, (slow delivery to Pakistan, no relevant libraries here.)
November,December, January 2009 ongoing. Readings beginning in late November. (Books mostly arrived by mid-December 2008, ABE and Amazon, up to 3 months for delivery to Pakistan.)Frankfurt School Video, collaboration. With Adnan Madani, completed first edit and shown for the first time, 21st Nov. 2009.
September-January 2009. Gathering resources for an autobiographical video. These comprise of the file store images (see image at top of page, two further shoots undertaken in December 2008, including some video footage). Incidental video footage and stills of bus journey’s, to and from work.
October-November 2008. As part of a larger public presentation of my practice of some thirty-five years, along with access to a high-resolution film scanner, I came to reconsider a number of earlier works in the light of my current position. This will be leading to a series of photographic works that juxtapose scanned old transparencies of sculptures made decades ago. The images look new, the tools that created them are decayed (although the works have actually decayed and been destroyed for the most part). I consider this project to be autobiographical in nature.
August 2008 to January 2009. At work (BNU, SVA, University, Lahore) I have been conducting interviews, August 2008. Coordinating the foundation department, September to late December 2008. Teaching two courses, foundation studio and Fine Art Seminar.
September-December 2008. I was involved in the VASL international residency in November 2008. In addition I have been working on several large, complex landscape projects throughout this period. I consider all of this to be relevantl to my art practice impacting it both positively and negatively.November to Febuary 2009. I have committed to a two person show (with Huma Mulji) at the National College of Art, Gallery, in mid Febuary 2009. Here I will be showing some of the “Record Room” series for the first time, alongside a large sculptural installation. I consider both the sculpture and images as part of one installation. I consider the work to have considerable autobiographical relevance. I will be writing about the work in subsequent pages.

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“The Frankfurt School” Video Installation.


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David Alesworth and Adnan Madani, Nov. 2008.

(details of the installation….)




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“Frankfurt School” Collaborative, Video and Sculpture Installation.


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Friday 21st November 2008.

Alhamra Art gallery, The Mall, lahore, Pakistan.

VASL, Lahore International Artists Residency.


“The Frankfurt School”

David Alesworth and Adnan Madani

We asked students from the Law Department of the Lahore University of Management Sciences to read aloud an essay written by the German critical theorist Theodor Adorno. We filmed them reading in the lecture auditorium, while asking them a variety of questions to test their grasp of the text. The individual sessions collectively form a series of portraits, or studies in power; the text itself was subsequently converted into an object of (first) use and then (later) fetish value.
November: 2008

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