Image of Aeolus by Diane Maclean
Diane Maclean, Aeolus. Photo © Diane Maclean

Diane Maclean

Work exhibited: Aeolus.

Visually, it is dominated by a set of tall tubes of varying dimensions that give it the appearance of a kind of wind instrument utilising a set of organ pipes; however, these tubes do not produce musical sounds, but constantly changing patterns of coloured light.

The changing colours issue in response to signals from a wind monitor on the roof of Second Court. A record of wind speeds is fed into a datalogger which drives the lights in a programmed sequence relative to the acceleration and deceleration of the winds.

The extraordinarily haunting effects produced by this arrangement validate Maclean’s quixotic desire to recruit the elements in her work. An immense curiosity about the environment and its impact on our daily lives has led to her to research the possibilities of new technologies for realising an aesthetic response to the simultaneous elusiveness and omnipresence of climate conditions.

There are few topics of conversation as universally engrossing as speculation about weather patterns. Every day we renew the puzzle of anticipation and more often than not share the knowledge of disappointment; it is one of our most commonplace yet also most effective means of socialisation. In an era of global warning, our observation of nature has acquired an importance that affects us equally as individuals and as species. The weather never goes away, yet is impossible to fix in representation, since its most characteristic effects are often as insubstantial as they are ephemeral.

In ancient Greek mythology, Aeolus was the divine keeper of the stormwinds (anemoi) which he would release only in reponse to the commands of the Olympian gods. Maclean’s use of an anemometer does not in any sense suggest an attempt to harness or restrain a natural force, still less to control it, but neither does it provide a means of expressing passivity or helplessness at the receiving end of weather patterns.

It is quite precisely a collaboration, the outcome of teamwork engaged in with various scientists and technicians, and an attempt to cooperate with nature in a creative reflection on phenomena we often regard in terms of their destructive power. It offers a route to aesthetic pleasure that is simultaneously an encouragement to other, and broader, forms of awareness.

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