10 Jan 2017



Ross Manning misuses technology

Coming from a music background, Ross Manning first became interested in instrument building. Art came later. His automated, self-playing instruments found their way into a gallery and eventually started turning into more formalised sculptures. His current practice involves light, kinetics, installation and sculpture – and music, of course. Ross tends to squash the whole history of technology into his pieces, current mixed with primitive technology.

In his work, Ross tries to focus on the electronic image, especially the potency and agency it has in contemporary life. In a way, he misuses technology in his work, trying to make it work in different and unusual ways. He tries to break open the pre-set parameters that technology gives us and modify and change them. Occasionally, Ross works with fans and neon lights – these works are not instruments, but rather compositions of light and sound. Some of them make music, some can be played. He has built electronics that turn light into sound, and he hopes to make sculptures that will be light based but will make sound.

Some of the work Ross has created during his stay at HIAP is very economical, made on the island of Suomenlinna from objects found on the island. It is recession art, Ross jokes – recycling is of course one aspect to it, and an important one at that, but it is also important to be free from monetary constraints, not having to rely on outside sources such as grants.

While doing all this, Ross is also researching writings on sound and instruments, as well as Finnish instrument builders, such as Erkki Kurenniemi. Ross finds instrument builders extremely interesting as individuals. People who build their own instruments are their own authority. They create their own sounds worlds, they know how to play the instruments, they know what sounds good or bad. Each instrument and each piece of music is evidently idiosyncratic of the person making the work. Instrument building, according to Ross, is something that bypasses education and privilege and skill, it is free and unique and special to the individual builder.

Ross is interested in the union of art and technology, which he uses in his works in order to create new environments. By building instruments which act as sculptures, and then performing them to the public, he wants to challenge our ideas of what everyday objects can do, highlighting their magic.

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Attend one of Ross’ upcoming performances:

Text and images by Tessa Aarniosuo