SPACE CHICKENS HELP ME MAKE APPLE PIE
Matthew Bradley’s practice has always been concerned with machines. A certain kind of machine-system that relates to making possibilities, constructing processes of becoming and opening up the present to the potentials of the universe. These concerns follow through into his current exhibition; Space Chickens Help Me Make Apple Pie. He has constructed a model of a neoclassical space observatory that is being used as a chicken coup and as a model for the workings of the universe. Bradley’s Chicken Observatory is an obscure form of a machine. It is a machine of resonance and exchange, rather than a machine of production (although, it does produce eggs and apple pies!). The Chicken Observatory envelops more than just its immediate surroundings, both in the gallery and in Bradley’s neighbour’s back yard, where the chickens roost. It takes into account the mechanics of the universe; the chicken coup is a physical object that is also a transcendent machine. Not a literal machine like Bradley’s Monster Bike (2007) or Air cannon from Not how to make an Air Cannon (2006). The chicken Observatory is an epistemological venture. An attempt to understand more deeply the old chicken and the egg.
Delicately and beautifully constructed by Bradley, the Chicken Observatory is made from scrap wood he had lying around in his back yard. Making a connection with his neighbour, Bradley has created an exchange whereby he has constructed a home for the chooks in return for some eggs. With these eggs he has been making apple pies. Really delicious apple pies. Bradley has developed an association between his neighbours chooks and an interstellar constellation nicknamed ‘Space Chicken’ for its rather obscure resemblance to a chickens face. Writing about the Observatory Bradley says “I imagined a chicken looking in the eyepiece of a telescope and saw galaxies in the eyes of astronomer chickens.” We could suppose that the chooks are looking at the space chicken and questioning their own origins. The chickens are at once the observer and observed; the scientists in the grandeur of their observatory, and the giant space chicken, watching over the universe. Again, the chicken and the egg.
There is an aesthetic shift in Bradley’s recent work, a move away from literal machines. He has re-approached the world through a different medium in order to feel the world’s vibrations through a different field. This shift refocuses his investigation towards a more philosophical study of the mechanics of the universe. What remains the same throughout Bradley’s practice is his physical presence within the making of the machine. His body is involved, and his presence is implied, both in the chicken observatory and in the apple pie, Bradley is looking at notions of exchange, of becoming, at how things fit together. If the universe is a machine, then each of its parts is a point of infinite facility, operating in exchange with each other part of the machine. This process, a device for constructing the universe, is a multiplicity of points, interconnected and responsive. Everything exists in an unfolding, mutable flux of exchange.
The point of infinite facility is a concept that informs Bradley’s practice. Part physics, part philosophy and part Bradley’s own, beautiful reasoning. He describes them as having “no mass, no colour, they do not spin or vibrate, they cannot be seen or touched, they have no property at all until assigned one.” The point of infinite facility refers to particles, points in space, things that are unnamable, unrepresentable, and seemingly unavailable. These points can take on properties, can think themselves into thingdom. There is a moment of immanence where they suddenly become. Its quasi-scientific, but it is also a little bit magical/spiritual.
All it takes is a moment, the right moment. A moment of collision or connection, or resonance where all the right things extend and become at the right frequency. And then perhaps it collapses, in order for other connections to be made; a retraction of parts, an un-becoming, disappearing. In particle science it is referred to as quantum magic, where, if collided at the right speed, particles can disappear into pure energy. This energy holds within it, potential, a ‘not-yet’.
The point of infinite facility is another way of looking at the materiality of the universe. It is way of seeing the cosmos not as a physical thing, but as a process, or a thought. In this way, one thing leads into another, and everything becomes connected. It is not time/space/material, but a constant, changing thought machine with potential to become anything. In this case, an apple pie, a chicken coup, and some potentially enlightened chickens. Bradleys Space Chickens Help Me Make Apple Pie isn’t a metaphor for the workings of the universe, it is the universe in action. Because, as Carl Sagan points out, 'If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, first you must invent the universe".
- Catalogue essay by Adele Sliuzas