Former member of Institute of Making Staff Zachary Eastwood Bloom has his first solo exhibition.

12 October 2017

Former member of Institute of Making Staff Zachary Eastwood Bloom has his first solo exhibition.

This Major show by Zachary Eastwood Bloom is at the Pangolin Gallery in London and runs until 11th November 2017.

Below is a reaction to the show by Mark Miodownik.

Asteroids, one of the blockbuster arcade games of the 1970s, starts with a triangular spaceship located at the centre of the screen. The screen is as black as the emptiness of space. But it is not empty for long because soon asteroids drift across the screen towards you. The simple aim of the game is to avoid colliding with them while destroying as many as possible. This being a game created in the early days of computing, the asteroids are geometric shaped objects constructed from straight lines. Everything in this model universe has a geometry built up of straight lines, and undoubtedly part of the appeal of the game is its simplicity, you can lose yourself in this two dimensional simulated world – a place that is so much simpler and easier to comprehend than ours.  The ancient Greek philosopher Plato might have found this computer game appealing too, because he also invented a model of the universe made from a limited set of geometric shapes. These are now called platonic solids and are similar in form to Eastwood Bloom’s Sacred Geometry, featured in this exhibition.


A cube is a platonic solid, it is one because it is constructed from equal sized and shaped squares, and which meet at identical angles. If you change the shape from a square to triangle, you get another platonic solid called a tetrahedron. Plato noticed that only five such solids exist, the tetrahedron, the cube, the octahedron, the dodecahedron and the icosahedron. He associated these shapes with the classical elements that were thought then to make up the universe: earth, air, wind, fire, with aether added later. Others throughout history have tried also to fathom the significance of the platonic solids, their uniqueness seeming to hint at a hidden truth about the universe. That the universe might be understood at all - that the apparent complexity and messiness of our everyday experience might boil down to something as simple and symmetric as the platonic solids is an assumption that has driven Western thought in particular.


If you look up into the night sky, the pattern of stars seems random. You have to have a pretty active imagination to join the dots to get the signs of the Zodiac.  In fact pattern and order are rare in the universe. The sun rises in the East and sets in the West.  Common sense tells you that it is the Sun that travels around the Earth. This is the simplest explanation and if someone asked you to prove otherwise you would have a very hard time pointing to real evidence to the contrary. Likewise the stars seem to revolve around us at night, seemingly confirming our special place in the universe.  But look carefully and a few of those tiny bright dots do something odd: they deviate and wander – these are the planets of our solar system, they reflect light and don’t emit it; planets being Greek word meaning ‘wandering star’.


The Romans knew about the planets and named them after their gods, Mars after the god of war, Venus after the god of beauty, Saturn after the god of agriculture, Jupiter after the king of the Roman gods. But the Romans couldn’t work out why the planets appear to wander around the sky. It wasn’t until the Renaissance that astronomers such as Copernicus and Galileo started to propose a new model of the universe in which it is the Earth that goes around the Sun rather than the other way around. This still of course allows the sun to appear to rise in the East and set in the West because the Earth rotates, but it also explains why the planets wander around the sky because they are not orbiting the Earth and so don't need to travel in a circle around us. Instead they orbit the Sun and so to us looking up at the night sky they appear to wander in strange patterns as they get further away and then nearer as our relative orbits around the Sun go in and out of synchrony.


Despite the success of the heliocentric model of our solar system, the platonic solids still held their appeal. The connection between the planets and the platonic solids was postulated by the astronomer Johannes Kepler in the 16th century as a new model of the universe.  He proposed that our solar system comprised of concentric spheres on which the planets were attached. The size of each sphere was determined by its geometric fit to one of the platonic solids and each one corresponded to one of the six planets known to exist at the time Mercury (icosahedron), Venus (dodecahedron), Earth (octahedron), Mars (cube), Saturn (tetrahedron) with Jupiter being on the outermost sphere enclosing them all. It was a neat idea, but it was wrong.  The planets do not orbit the Sun in a circular way as implied by them being located on rotating spheres. On further examination of their movements in the sky, the planets move in ellipses, as Kepler later discovered. But what he missed was the other planets, planets that were so far away that the telescopes of the time missed them, these were the planets Uranus and Neptune.


So in the end, despite their appeal, the platonic solids don’t seem to help us understand our place in the universe which brings us back to the computer game Asteroids. Asteroids is an alternative universe, a simpler one, and one which in we really are at the centre. Faced with a complex universe in which we are not seemingly significant, a universe in which the ancient gods don’t exist and don’t look after us, a universe in which astrology makes no sense  – why not invent a new universe, with new truths, a virtual world to suit our tastes and soothe our religious insecurities.  And this is what Eastwood Bloom’s work does so well - to realise the power of the digital to undermine physical certainties. With these sculptures the philosophy of the ancient Greeks is brought up to date by exquisite casting, 3D printing, CNC milling techniques. But simultaneously they are undermined by the digital element of ambiguity programmed into the silver, bronze, and marble models, begging the question whether the digital will in the end overwhelm our messy and hard won scientific truths.