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article imageUK artist builds a fragile 'city of staples' Special

By David Silverberg     May 2, 2010 in Entertainment
UK artist Peter Root created a "city" with an unusual everyday material: staples. He explains his artistic philosophy to DigitalJournal.com and why he loves crafting fragile projects destined for a short lifespan.
Imagine piling staple upon staple, trying to best fit this tiny sliver of metal to augment the one underneath. This is what Root dealt with when he created Ephemicropolis, a city made of staples. Within 40 hours, he used 100,000 staples on a floor space 600x300 cm in a Guernsey gallery. Some buildings or stacks rose 12 cm high, other were a mere single staple.
The result is a unique architecture of art at its most minuscule. The downtown structures resemble any high-rise area, as if it's an actualized Gotham City.
Best of all, Root plans to document the eventual destruction of this precious project, and then attempt it again with one million staples.
Root, from Guernsey, UK, is no stranger to creating art out of household materials. He's built sculptures out of soap, honey, vegetable steamers, sticks and scrap metal. He describes his artist statement on his website as: "The work I create regularly involves highly labor-intensive, mantra-like procedures of construction and assemblage. As well as being simple, playful experiments the work often touches upon themes of impermanence, repetition, structure, pattern, scale and architecture."
Root spoke to Digitaljournal.com about the motivation behind Ephemicropolis, what he found challenging with his staples metropolis and what attracts him to easily destroyed structures.
DJ: What inspired you to create Ephemicropolis?
Peter Root: Inspiration, for me, comes from everywhere; places I have visited, architecture, landscapes, maps, model-making, technology, computer games, puzzles, patterns, mass-produced things, multiples of objects, German bunkers, science fiction, retro ideas of the future, toys I played with as a kid, boredom, repetition, rules, man-made structures, record-breakers, nature.
I've used staples in conjunction with various other mass-produced items in past installations - Under Construction and Bath 2001. With regards to Ephemicropolis, I wanted to create a refined piece using a single type of unit.
A long-shot of Peter Root s  staples city
A long-shot of Peter Root's "staples city"
Courtesy Peter Root
DJ: What is it about staples that attracted you the medium? What was challenging about working with staples?
PR: I began incorporating staples in my work during a residency in Kerala, South India. As a result of several trips through metal and scrap dealer markets in Thiruvananthapuram I collected a wide variety of materials including transformer laminates and other metal components. Originally I began to use the staples as printing blocks to create drawings. In both my sculptural work and drawings I often apply specific rules and restrictions, 3D work often being free from glue or methods of permanently fixing elements together.
Staples are available in huge numbers, for a relatively low cost. They have a shiny, brand-new, perfect, man-made quality that when viewed in a specific way can be seen as both microscopic or massive in scale. The horizontal lines created by the individual staples that make up a stack are suggestive of relatively featureless tower-blocks or skyscrapers, the stacks of staples are themselves man-made structures. The material finish of the particular staples I used to to create Ephemicropolis is very shiny, which creates a glittering 'disco-ball' effect as the sun light passes over the faces and edges of the stacks of staples throughout the day.
As the stacks are free-standing and are tessellated very close together, the obvious challenge was not to knock them over. To build the more dense sections of the work took several hours... on a couple of occasions gravity demonstrated its severe lack of sympathy by undoing this work in milliseconds.
Peter Root s  Staples City  displayed on a floor space. It was created within 40 hours and required ...
Peter Root's "Staples City" displayed on a floor space. It was created within 40 hours and required 100,000 staples
Courtesy Peter Root
DJ: Will this project be featured to the public anytime soon?
PR: The current incarnation of Ephemicropolis has been installed in a private location here in Guernsey. However, I am always looking to develop the work and would love to create an even larger and more intricate version of the work in a public space or gallery. Due to the fragile nature of 100,000 free-standing stacks of staples the location for the work needs to be totally breeze- and vibration-free, having said that, it would be interesting to create some equally fragile work in more hostile environments.
DJ: In your artist statement, you wrote "My work often takes the form of extremely fragile, temporary arrangements..." What attracts you to fragile structures? What do you think the viewer gets out of it?
PR: I think there is a beauty in making something that requires so much precision, care, time and effort, yet is destined to last for only a short period of time. The work seems to benefit from having a limited life-span and not existing permanently unchanged in a glass case. Although Ephemicropolis is quite monumental (in a miniature sense), perhaps even brutalist in appearance, it's grandeur is precarious and highly vulnerable to micro-apocalyptic events such as a light breeze or a falling leaf. I feel people are able to recognise and connect with the labour involved in the creation process of work like Ephemicropolis, and that there is an element of excitement knowing that forty hours of the hard work could be destroyed in a few seconds.
A close-up view of Root s mini-city made of staples
A close-up view of Root's mini-city made of staples
Courtesy Peter Root
DJ: You have previously used potatoes and soap to create your artwork. Are these materials a statement about reusing the environment around us? What else are you trying to say?
PR: The materials I choose to work with are often familiar, every day items. I am not intentionally trying to make a statement about anything, much of my work is simply an exploration of materials carried out through a variety of construction processes.
For more on Root's work, check out his website.
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