Lever, crank, bell crank, cam and ratchet

Lever, crank, bell crank, cam and ratchet was an installation of a series of sculptures I made specifically for the GOODS In group exhibition (Saturday 28th June, a one day event in a disused warehouse space).

It was the first time anything like this had happened in this space and location-wise it was outside the usual destinations and a little bit tricky to spot (amusing considering the size of the place!) so it was good to see so many people track it down and come and have a look over the few hours it was open.



As per usual I ended up producing something that needed active participation from the audience in order to function: Lever, crank, bell crank, cam and ratchet consisted of 5 small cardboard models of each of the named mechanical components connected to each other and to weights via threads that arched across the room.

installation view


The sculptures were made so that rather than forming an array of mechanisms that combined to produce some overall useful effect, each one worked in isolation and therefore was limited to a basic repetitive action.

Apart from a few extras to form the axles and pivots (and the occasional rubber band, of course), the units were made from A4 cardboard picked up when I worked as a temp for an examining board. This is the cardboard used to reinforce the envelopes in which adult basic literacy and numeracy exams are returned.

I’ll leave you to form your own connections and meanings…


The way it worked out, there was no signage to accompany the works in the show so it became quite interesting for me to watch and see how people overcame (or otherwise) the usual gallery barriers to interact (or otherwise) with the mechanisms.

Many people wouldn’t operate the levers and handles – even when told they could, and even when they’d been looking at them for some time presumably wondering what would happen if…

As usual, the best way to get people participating was to lead by example and just get on and have a play and then invite them to join you. There were some nice cascades where for a while we’d have 3 or 4 people all operating different parts of the installation.

Also, as with other projects, those that got over that initial participation barrier tended to become ‘power-users’ [to borrow a term from a recent post] and get properly stuck in. I’m definitely talking about Pete here as demonstrated by the final scene in this video:

Lever, crank, bell crank, cam and ratchet from nikkipugh on Vimeo.