Quelle: Die Webseite von Russel Mills.
Tuesday 21st November - Saturday 16th December 2006
Atrium Gallery, The Glasgow School of Art
Sketches and notes towards artworks for The Downward Spiral and March of the Pigs for Nine Inch Nails
These sketches, scratchings and textual notes have been culled from various notebooks and individual scraps of paper that I always have lying around in the studio specifically for catching thoughts as they appear. They are speculative thoughts and ideas put down in a visual shorthand, ostensibly for my reference only, made as aide memoirs. During the making of the works, they act as triggers. As I read more and research into various areas of interest, some relevant and others not apparently related, juxtapositions suggest further associations. As the ideas accumulate, further clues and connections are suggested. As the works proceed, materially growing layer upon layer, as additions are made, as chemical reactions produce new and sometimes unexpected changes, so too do the ideas. In a reciprocal process both inform and inspire the other.
The Downward Spiral, March of the Pigs and the NIN logo for Nine Inch Nails
Commissioned in 1994 by Nine Inch Nails for Nothing/Interscope Records
The phone ringing burst the peace of the moment. I answered and found myself in a conference call with three people speaking from USA. They represented a hugely successful and influential American group called Nine Inch Nails. Their designer Gary Talpas was talking from his studio in Cincinnati. Their manager John Malm was at his office, also in Cincinnati and Trent Reznor, the core of Nine Inch Nails, was in Los Angeles. Here I was in rural sleepy Lake District, surrounded by the fells, talking with high-powered types in America. The bizarreness of this contradictory situation hit me immediately and I had to struggle to stifle a chortle at the absurdity of it all.
Following their perfunctory introductions they each expressed their wishes for me to produce works towards Nine Inch Nail’s forthcoming album, various singles, remix albums and all merchandising. Gary Talpas talked about how he wanted the imagery to dominate, the typography to be minimal and the overall design approach would be spare and restrained. Trent Reznor talked about the album, its central ideas and themes and how he felt that my work would perfectly suit his ideas for these proposed releases. Having talked a little about the ideas underpinning the lyrics, certain guiding keywords and notions emerged as describing the essence of these releases: - attrition, wound and decay, amongst others. We both had similar, generally critical ideas about the actual state of America at the time; we both felt that there was a severe and obscene disparity between the projected image of America and the actuality of the everyday American citizen. Trent wanted to focus on the injustices of corruption, poverty and squalor, societal and psychological, of the individual and of the masses, that lies beneath the sheen of America’s contemporary highly glossed society.
Thereafter our conversation meandered around my desire to produce works that were allusive, suggestive rather than descriptive or overly literal. John Malm seemed happy with the fact that we were all getting on and were all on the same wavelength. I accepted the commission and said that I would begin work immediately and I would probably end up producing an extended series of works, which they could choose to use in whatever way they felt would be appropriate. As is my way there would probably be too many pieces for their needs. To me it seemed like a dream commission as I was essentially being asked to produce the kinds of works that I would be doing anyhow. Our three way conversation was concluded with a metaphoric handshake and we all hung up.
Two days later John Malm phoned again. He informed me that, as Trent never works with people he has never actually met, I was requested, required, to fly to Los Angeles two days later, the flights and hotel had already been booked, a dinner was arranged. Rock n’ roll excess.
I dutifully flew out, checked into an enormous suite of rooms high up in the Mondrian Hotel on Sunset Boulevard, apparently a favourite of the music world. My rooms had magnificent views of the endless sprawling low suburbia that is Los Angeles. Almost immediately I was to meet Gary Talpas to spend some time together to talk about the commission and his design direction. He drove me out to the beach where Baywatch used to be filmed. I was totally underwhelmed and really disappointed by what we found. Instead of the sun-drenched golden sands populated by lithe bodies, I found a grey, dull beach, almost totally devoid of people, certainly no sexy bikini-clad beauties or bronzed body builders. It was littered with empty beer cans, scraps of paper and miscellaneous detritus; it looked inhospitable and hygienically unsafe. It was dismal. We returned to the hotel for some beers prior to our dinner meeting with Trent and some other members of Nine Inch Nails.
Trent was smaller than I expected him to be. He was also quiet and very charming; again my preconceptions were shattered. We talked generally, convivially, about music, about art, about America, about corporate deceit and greed, and we basically repeated what we had discussed on the phone a few days earlier. Nothing had changed, Trent was happy with me, the commission was to proceed. Soon after he and his band mates departed and Gary and I continued to drink and talk for about half an hour before he too had to leave. Fortuitously and miraculously at the back of the restaurant I noticed a lone diner who I recognised – Gavin Friday, a former member of the Dublin experimental performance band the Virgin Prunes and old mucker of the U2 boys. I had met Gavin on several occasions years before, both in Dublin with U2 and in London, usually in bars. He was in Los Angeles working on some film soundtrack work and he hated the place. He was missing his family, his friends and the crack of Dublin conversations. He was therefore delighted to see me loom into his vision. We continued to drink and laugh until we could do no more.
I returned to the UK and to the quiet of the Lake District the following day and got on with the commission.
Wound for The Downward Spiral
The Possible Slow Fuse for March of the Pigs
Future Echoes for The Downward Spiral CD slipcase cover
I was also interested in how organic matter can provide clues for past lives and past events. One hair from a human head carries enough DNA for that person to be identified. Similarly our teeth, which, after death, survive longer than any other part of our bodies, are carriers of intimate details of past lives.
The piece I made focuses on teeth and their associative potential. A row of teeth is embedded in flows of salt crystals. Salt corrodes all but gold and glass; it is destructive as well as preservative.
Nine Inch Nails | NIN logo
I commissioned a local blacksmith, Alan Benson, to make up a kind of huge baking tray with the NIN logo at its centre. This he completed in a day. With the photographer David Buckland and my collaborator on installation work Ian Walton we took the logo out in the surrounding landscape intent on subjecting it to whatever treatment took our fancy. We filled it with dead leaves, with moss, ashes, plaster dust and bronze powders. We took it to Grasmere Lake and submerged in the shallows, poured petrol and lighter fuel over it and photographed it. We took it to the tops over Kirkstone where the snow still lay thick, filled it with snow and photographed it. On Loughrigg Fell we found the skeleton of a dead Ram which we placed over the logo and again photographed it. Finally we set fire to it. By the end of the day we had about 40 – 50 shots of the logo in different conditions.
I sent all the results of this shoot over to Nine Inch Nails via courier, along with the transparencies of about 25 mixed media works I’d done for the commission and awaited their response. They loved and would use most of the mixed media works but had no uses for the treated iron logo. Bugger! No matter, the logo cost relatively little, the day out shooting with good friends was great fun and I learnt a lot about how certain materials reacted having being subjected to apparently inadvisable or adverse conditions. Also, as a bonus, I still have the massive and heavy iron logo, rusted to the colour of sunlit marmalade. I’m thinking of integrating into a wall in my garden somehow.