by Vatsala SethiDec 26, 2022
See Monster is a retired rig from the North Sea, transformed into one of the UK’s largest public art installations to inspire global conversations about reuse, renewables and the British weather. The inherited structure is what stands out in the unique theme of the Unboxed: Creativity in the UK project despite its loud features that draw your attention. Perhaps immersive spaces, fun and play areas, and sustainability-themed spaces are all part of a previously encountered narrative. But this decommissioned oil rig from the North Sea forms the baseline of the theme of the art installation. The question that is most poignant here is the cycle of creation and metamorphosis. The structures that were built many centuries ago still stand tall in ancient cities across the world, and yet, we have modern structures crumbling under the deceit of their material and other dysfunctions. When we deeply ruminate on what values we create while we design and build a space, and at what number on that list is the life cycle of a project, we come to terms with the harsh reality of the lack of contingency towards the sensitivity of the cycles of products, buildings, and cities that we make today.
Projects such as the See Monster highlight the importance of an inherited environment. The retired oil rig was metamorphosised into an urban exhibit that invited its audience to engage with its playfulness. The sensitivity and seriousness of the larger message it intended to deliver did not loom over the accessibility and adventure an immersive interactive exhibit warrants, and it surely delivered on both fronts.
The added layers of textural play that address the visual while imitating and characterising the context of the shore of the sea, are equally qualified for the theme of liveliness. A quick overview of the play of textures listed the 10-metre high waterfall that adds to make an effervescent cascade, a glimmering active movement of kinetic scales right above the waterfall, reflecting its surrounding dances playfully while imitating the reflective surface of the water body surrounding it. The list of texture plays continues with the multi-storeyed structure that embraces jitters of greenery through a seemingly well-planned layout that not only breaks the roguishness of the style of its exposed structural disposition but also builds upon the textural layering. As a part of the experience of the immersive exhibit, there is also a fog simulator, as remarked by the creator as a layer of clouds which are part of the experience, but while we count the textures on this installation, this tops the experimentation platter offered on the subject. Each play of texture, while seen as an individual part of the whole, or the whole in each of its elements, speaks to the theme and the visual camouflage of the contextual sea. It also ensures that its robustness reminds the observer of the mechanical nature the structure inherits from its past.
The Blur Building by Diller Scofidio + Renfro built for the Swiss Expo in 2002 holds an inspirational resemblance to the theme of the amorphous textural play, although it held the theme as the essence through its every detail; with the See Monster, its story deviates to a narrative of its own leaving the reminiscence of the Blur Building altogether to engage with the theme of inherited structures and renewable environments.
The See Monster hosts a Solar Tree, the WindNest, and the Garden Lab that weighs in on its thematic renewability aspect and closes the loop. The wind sculpture by artist Ivan Black is a kinetic sculpture based on geometric forms that bear roots in Islamic art. Symmetrically divided using mathematical principles, this symmetrical axis allows the wind to rotate each part of the sculpture. The Garden Lab was curated by Greensman Peter Beardsley who has paid heed to select plants and trees which are nourished by the climate of the sea. These cross-disciplinary collaborations are also emphasised with the structure of the Solar Tree, which in addition to being a renewable resource is also designed to oblige an inspiration of the blossoming buds of spring and the roughness of a tree's structure with its form. The WindNest on the other hand is the masterful work of artist Trevor Lee who intricately threads the functionality of wind turbines with its design. In his structure, two air turbines are nested in pod-like structures; as the turbines rotate in the wind, they generate electricity that is stored for later use in the exhibit structure.
This 115 feet monster structure was exhibited at UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK, which took place across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and online from March to November 2022. The See Monster, a retired oil rig from the North Sea, as an art exhibition was located in Weston-Super-Mare, UK from July to November 2022. It claimed to be one of the largest free public art installations envisioned by NEWSUBSTANCE, spearheading conversations surrounding reuse, renewables, and the great British weather. This Monster, with a weight of 450 tonnes has a solar tree capacity of 4080 wattage per day. According to the sources from the official website, the power generated from the Solar Tree and the WindNest was used to power the irrigation system on the Garden Lab and Cellar Deck. Although the exhibition is now closed, the official website hosts 360 virtual tours that offer engaging virtual interaction with the structure.