Suspension of Decrease

3D piece made by freezing a fireman's axe in 150lbs of clear ice.

Suspension of Decrease is a temporary piece examining the role of labor in a society that is becoming increasingly automated.  The piece consists of a 4 foot axe frozen inside 150 pounds of pristine ice, displayed on a saw horse or hanging between two nooses.  As the piece melts, cracks form due to an uneven temperature gradient, resulting in gradual clouding and obscuring of the axe.
The block/axe was originally displayed between two nooses, for several reasons.  In a fairly literal sense, it complimented the title, literally suspending the axe while the ice around it decreased.  Figuratively the noose has always been a symbol, not of just death itself but of an impending death, one that has not yet arrived but inevitably will.  While the axe hangs between the nooses, the enormous block of ice melts, its own weight causing the nooses to contract.  As the piece progresses, the nooses get tighter and tighter around the axe until at last, the ice has melted leaving only this ancient tool hanging from the rafters.
With Suspension of Decrease, I wanted to examine the role of manual labor, and how it is somewhat disappearing as we continue to find new ways to automate.  What I find strange about this automation is that we are essentially formulating ways to cut ourselves out of the very production processes we designed, diminishing our own usefulness. While automation is a technological marvel, there is still something to be said for a hard day's work and the ruggedness of manual labor.  By freezing the axe in ice I wanted to send a classic tool the way of the Cro-Magnon or the mammoth, to purposefully cast it in a primitive and ancient light.  The ice is a sort of way to frame the context of the tool's usefulness, or diminishment thereof, by locking it in place and in a more conceptual sense, its own time.
Suspension of Decrease recently made an appearance at a music festival that showcases the art and music of San Diego students.  Throughout the day, the western side of the block was exposed to direct sunlight creating a strong temperature gradient, and resulting in a beautiful matrix of cracks and fissures that gradually expanded and fractured the ice.  The drainage physics inside the block were such that every few minutes water would escape from the growing cracks, filling the block with mirrored veins of air.

Logistically the piece is difficult to produce and transport, meaning the process itself requires a much higher degree of manual labor.  I like that, because it actually makes me reflect a bit more on the point of the piece, and in a way negates my own reasons for creating it.  It's heavy, slippery, and painful to touch for more than a few seconds; in short, encumbering and a huge pain to work with.  The axe is frozen in an enormous drop freezer at a specialized location, using a special process to suspend it in the center of the ice block without using wires or supports of any kind.  The water used is ultra-filtered and pure, which is one reason the ice is clear enough to see the axe through. in fact you can drink from it, i've seen little kids do it (ok, I've done it myself too).

The process of freezing the axe is incredibly time and labor intensive, taking three days to fully freeze.  When the block is finished, it is so heavy that it must be removed with a forklift, and then cut down to its final dimensions using a chainsaw.  Believe it or not, the freezer it's made in typically makes 300lb blocks, so my axe only takes up half the tank.  Although it takes 3 days to freeze, it only takes 36 hours to fully melt.  Because it's so big and delicate, I've had to find special ways to transport it.  I've lined carts and trucks full ow towels to keep it from shattering, taken it to a second story terrace using a freight elevator, all kinds of stuff to accommodate the fact it's huge but really breakable.
Suspension was displayed at MCASD’s 25 Under 25 Art Show, which showcases the work of 25 artists in San Diego under the age of 25.  Although it broke almost all of the rules of the competition, it was selected anyway based upon its own merit.
Back to Top