Jeff has a piece that you may not have heard of before. It’s called Anticipation, and it’s pretty different from his other work. The first time I saw it, I kinda freaked out. Watch this video and you’ll see why:
Unlike Jeff’s other sculptures which run on their own once the motor gets started, Anticipation requires the complete involvement of an interested human. The crank must be turned for the hammer to move at all. The interactive nature of the sculpture makes it seem more game than art at first, but the range of feelings the machine generates as the wheel turns and the hammer rises are genuine and very intentional.
Even more unlike Jeff’s other works is the presence of an actual name attached to the sculpture. Last week, I spent almost a whole blog post exclaiming over the fact that Jeff numbers but doesn’t name his work. He leaves his sculptures free of leading information so that his viewers can draw their own conclusions about what they seeing. Why does Anticipation need a name, then? What is he trying to get us to see?
When Jeff gave his TEDx talk in Westlake, TX, he talked about the alternate realities or “reality bubbles” that surround each of us and are made up of the stuff of our lives. He talked about how his reality as an artist with a background in a solid family differs from that of, say, his adopted daughter Kaila, who came into the Zachmann home from a background of neglect. She still deals with the truths of her early reality every day, but her bubble has expanded to include the structure of a loving family and the joys and despairs of growing up in today’s world. Like each of us, her reality is relatively unknowable to anyone outside her personal bubble (which is, well, everyone). Her actions, however, offer an outsider a glimpse into her reality.
As an artist, Jeff has a more concrete way to offer glimpses into his reality: his work.
His love of movement and his fascination with machines can be traced back to his childhood, and as we’ve learned along the way, his art is also informed by his father’s practicality and the inventive necessities of farm life. His sculptures normally offer a deliberately open-ended view into his reality so that his creative energy can be easily assimilated into another person’s reality, but in this way Anticipation is different. It’s his grown-up sister trap; it’s artistic creation with the end goal being full participation in his reality. Rather than scaring unwanted siblings out of his bedroom (the sister trap’s ostensible purpose), Jeff is giving the person cranking the wheel and winding up the hammer the ability to feel the anticipation he feels when creating his kinetic sculptures. Something is coming, something will happen, and it will happen because the person turning the handle will make it so. There is a time when the hammer slowly crawls along upside down, nowhere near the nail that is still buried deep in the wood base from the last cycle of the sculpture, where excitement may wane and frustration may take over. When will it work? How long do I have to crank this thing? Suddenly, the nail pops up of its own accord and the hammer is no longer upside-down. All that remains is for the wheel to turn just enough for the hammer to swing and drive the nail back into the wood. It crashes down, and the motion is complete. It’s exhilarating and noisy and so cool because you’ve made something happen just by turning a wheel. Those emotions, that frustration and that excitement, are what Jeff wants to share directly. He’s not just giving you a glimpse into his reality, but the option to be fully immersed in it for a minute.
Just wait ’til he finishes his version of Anticipation made with a 10 pound sledgehammer. You’ll really feel it then.
Anticipation is for sale for $2,500 and will be at Red Dot December 3rd through December 8th!