Senior Thesis Work by James Minshall
This body of work explores the soul, imaging it through a narrative pseudo-reality. In this world the soul is extracted and examined. Its characteristics are described in a constructed scene.
I created this body of work to be an interactive experience for the viewer. The installation itself appealed to a number of senses designed to arouse curiosity in the viewers. Copious notes, illustrations and diagrams littered a seemingly recently vacated lab desk. The key piece in the installation were the soul jars which were a variety of suspensions containing ferrofluid that reacted to N42 rare earth neodymium magnets hidden withing their wooden resting plynth. The magnetic reaction with the ferrofluid produced an animate, life-like movement creating the illusion that these ‘extracted souls’ were still conscious.
To supplement the souls various lab equipment, liquid suspensions and other ingredients were used. The suspensions, powders and ingredients all had distinct scents creating an aroma around the lab desk further enhancing the viewer’s experience.
Finally, the viewers were invited to explore all the contents of the desk. The entire desk was filled with hundreds of pages of my own notes from throughout thesis research process as well as various files and lab supplies making it seem realistic.
The process of creating this body of work was nearly a year of experimentation in materials, imagination, ideas and conceptualization. It evolved from something totally different, gradually taking shape as my extensive notes and thoughts took more concise and defined shapes.
I chose my subject: the human soul; that invaluable yet elusive sense we all possess and began to select my materials and refine my method of display.
How do I represent the soul? It is free will. Our very essence that dwells within our bodies. I imagined it as a fluid shape, able to transition and flow throughout the body. Finding a material which accurately captured this imagined form was the real challenge. I sumbled upon a liquid sculpture by Sachiko Kodama. The use of ferrofluid to form moving and changing shapes seemed perfect.
My next task was to figure out how to make the ferrofluid souls react. I put them in glass jars, suspended in varied fluids which enhanced their visual appeal and began my experimentation with magnets. I eventually found powerful magnets which were small enough to be concealed and created a plynth for the soul jars to be displayed on. I used a wood burner to engrave upon the wooden plynth I built and additionally constructed a secondary shelf for additional smaller soul jars which I labeled as soul fragments or incomplete souls.
This installation was on display at the Elon Art Department Senior Thesis Show: L’Omelette du Fromage from May 3rd to May 10th 2010.
A special thanks to my mentors: David Schaeffer, LM Wood, Michael Fels & Michael Sanford. Without your encouragement and support I’d never have made it through.
And thanks to my peers in the Senior Art class of 2010 for putting together one amazing exhibition.