The imminent loss of vast swathes of the Amazon Rainforest stirred Brett Lockwood to create
ArtsCulture: Tell us about Finite: what is it; how did you come up with the idea; what does it involve and how is it represented?
Brett Lockwood: ‘FINITE’ is an environmentally charged project. Forming my own premonition of our future Amazon Rainforest, I create 2D dead landscapes out of the collaborative growth and death of bacteria and micro-plants (like cress). I’ve used this method in containers starting from
The idea honestly came out of a child-like curiosity that I carry around with me a lot. There isn’t a day when I think; ‘what would happen if I do this?’ sometimes more prominent ideas rise that I actually bring to life. I’m pretty impulsive so I tend to get fascinated with a handful of concepts and sink a ridiculous amount of time into 1 or 2 of the concepts until I feel the potential has been reached – the potential of ‘FINITE’ definitely hasn’t been reached yet.
ArtsCulture: What did you learn while creating it – did anything unexpected happen – and what were the problems or victories?
Brett Lockwood: As a scientifically based project, there are so many variables to control during the growth stages which manipulates seemingly random outcomes (less random maybe for a microbiologist). So the practical work can seem like happy accidents at times. Although with niche experience, I’ve learned how to control the outcomes somewhat.
At the initial time of experimenting with bacteria and plants about 2 years ago, I didn’t really acknowledge the scope of the project. I was just interested in the physical side with no desire to link anything so political to it. I’ve always been interested in how we interact with nature so that just passively bled into my work. From there the project grew into something more as you see today, which leads me to the first lesson: it’s okay to start a project out of fun and experimentation. To put pressure on it could’ve lead to a less organic outcome.
Once deep-diving into the research around the Amazon, I found myself perpetually shocked by the statistics of how fast we are destroying this ever iconic, biologically diverse and important site. The prediction that set me off in creating miniature, dead landscapes was: in 2030 we would have destroyed 60% of the Amazon. From there I used the percentage and applied it to my
The main difficulty of the project was growing different types of bacteria and plants in tandem. Catering to 2 lifeforms in one tiny space, allowing for them to both grow successfully was a challenge of patience. These things took time, so getting a tiny detail wrong could be a big loss. Now I’m more accustomed to my practice I’ve been able to scale my work up which has rekindled the passion for this project.
The victories… Really just seeing the work up on the wall in the Old Truman Brewery, London was a proud moment for me. Apart from that, I found my favourite colour through growing bacteria – a deep and vivid teal.
ArtsCulture: What’s been the reaction to it?
Brett Lockwood: I enjoy the challenge of making physically unique work, so my favourite reactions are from the curious people trying to work out what the object I show are made out of and how I did it – people have mistaken them for Planets… Even tea bags!
Past the physicality, after viewers have read more into ‘FINITE’ or spoke to me directly. Thankfully, there seems to be a great deal of interest and concern into our actions to Earth thus far. Whether or not the feeling persists I’m not sure – I hope so!
ArtsCulture: Climate change is a crisis facing the world, what role does art have – to inform or inspire to action?
Brett Lockwood: It is definitely a crisis, I’ve seen a lot of artists tackle this broad and overwhelming problem in interesting and brilliant ways. My personal opinion of the role of art in climate change is to get people thinking about how they could help our Planet. The realisation that there is only one Earth is key to this movement. Every time I try to imagine Earth as a dried out husk floating in space with no life on it, I get worried. For me that inspires the way I live now and has motivated me to help as an artist and person.
ArtsCulture: And more generally, what is the role of the artist in society?
Brett Lockwood: Big question, I think it’s important for the artist, of whatever medium, to stay true to his/herself and work. Chasing after money and getting greedy with it can be such a distraction from creating sincere projects. I also believe the importance in connecting to the audience. What is art without sharing emotion – positive and/or negative? Much like a book or a film, there is a piece for everyone, even if the person isn’t into art all that much. As artists it’s our jobs to reach out, connect and inspire positive change.
ArtsCulture: Finite captures
I’ve always been interested with documenting movement within my work, starting with long exposures in contemporary dance. To incorporate movement into ‘FINITE’ I’ve created a series of day-long timelapses condensed into a matter of 30 seconds – 1 minute. Using a macro lens and an intervalometer, I captured such fine detail of the plants bending to the Sun’s direction as it pans across the sky, and bacteria spreading along the bases of the plants. Almost as though a new habitat was forming in front of my very eyes. Truly beautiful!
ArtsCulture: Where can we find out more?
Brett Lockwood: My main platform of day-to-day documentation is on my
There is also my website www.brettlphotography.format.com for more information about my work.
Lastly, my work is up in the Exeter, Phoenix Gallery Café from 8th Feb – 12th Mar.