Clay, plaster, plywood, steel, digital print


Claude Smith: Are there instances where material boundaries limited what you were able to accomplish?

Nina Dubois: What I am attempting to accomplish is intrinsically linked to materials and their possibilities, and usually, I am pretty good at being able to anticipate the result somewhat and to explore the edges and push the material beyond what it is supposed to do. But in some cases, I fall short. For example, when I came back from participating in the Land Arts of the American West program, I made a portable, two-part, press-mold, a toolkit designed for producing individual clay bricks. The idea was to allow myself and other users to fashion interlocking, standardized building blocks out of locally sourced clay. The stylized geometric form of the brick module was an abstracted representation of the various forms we encountered in the field - from mountain ranges to the fantastical architecture of Biosphere II to Arcosanti, the experimental settlement envisioned by Paoli Soleri. So while the brick form ended up being pretty satisfying visually, the whole kit and getting the clay to release from the mold proved to be quite difficult and not ideal for public participation. I made only about a half-dozen bricks with the kit before I gave up. It operated in a different way than I had intended. But in a way, the failure of the kit resonates with some of the problems and failures that have plagued a lot of utopian projects like Arcosanti. The commitment to a radically different aesthetic and to alternative, idiosyncratic building processes can be the biggest impediment to realizing the vision of an alternative settlement. When you visit Arcosanti, you get the sense that they are kind of trapped in a Sisyphusian loop, trying to get new buildings and systems off the ground while scrambling to patch up and repair the original structures that now are starting to lose the battle against entropy. It’s an interesting predicament, reminding us of the imaginative struggle to make what we want of the world, no matter what limitations and boundaries seem to press down on us.”

-Excerpt from an interview conducted and transcribed for the exhibition catalog for “PROTOPIA almost a place”.

Exhibited at:

“Land Arts of the American West 2011 Exhibition” - SCA Contemporary, Albuquerque, NM