© Casey Curran
The inner workings of nature, its growth and evolution have always fascinated humans. In the past, thinkers like Rene Descartes believed that the natural world could be explained in mechanistic terms, that living things are made like machines, or artifacts made up of parts. Descartes’ views were radical for his time, but thankfully, those views have given way over the centuries to other more complex and nuanced views that emphasize the interconnectedness of the whole, of the interweaving of intricate systems that often pave the way for unexpected properties to emerge.
In any case, that hasn’t stopped artists and other scientist-creators from looking to nature for inspiration and attempting to build some simulacra of living organisms. Seattle-based sculptor Casey Curran crafts his artificial versions of nature out of wire, wood, silk flowers and leather, animating them using simple mechanic means. Curran’s latest work is titled "Bequeath These Seeds":
© Casey Curran © Casey Curran
While his pieces look complicated, Curran often uses a single hand crank to make them move, though some sculptures do use a motor. Curran’s aim is to allow the viewer to see all the inner workings of the piece, to "remove all the magic from each of my pieces”, so that “every lever, each pulley, and all the little interactions of the various pieces that create the final motion of the work” is apparent and obvious.
© Casey Curran © Casey Curran © Casey Curran © Casey Curran
Curran is driven by some interesting philosophical ideas about life, death and immortality. As he tells In The Make:
I’m always inspired by the natural sciences and philosophy. Ernst Becker, who wrote the book Denial of Death, has been a great springboard for a lot of the ideas I’ve been attempting to explore in my pieces. It basically postulates that society is built on a series of hero complexes generated by a culture, and when a citizen adopts one of these identities the fulfillment of those specific social/moral imperatives act as a stand in for an immortal legacy. We die but do not wish to be forgotten so there is this vastly complex social structure which we’ve unwittingly created, allowing each individual a pathway to what they feel is virtuous and lasting. [..]
This whole system posed by Becker has a consequence of building on itself, becoming more complex and reaching as new cultural identities shift from good to bad or bad to good as each cultures moral narrative evolves over the centuries.
© Casey Curran © Casey Curran © Casey Curran
One has to wonder if it’s the relentless denial of death and the search for an immortal legacy that underpins much of the research into creating artificial intelligence. In any case, beyond their captivating symphony of movements, Curran’s nature-imitating sculptures make a compelling case that nature itself is ultimately made up of more than mere automata with machine-like parts — it seems that life is imbued with something we can’t yet put a finger on. See more over at Casey Curran.