Nathan Hughes is an award-winning writer/director working across drama and documentary formats.. He regularly works with academics from the fields of environmental humanities, heritage & history, and human computer interaction as a media consultant and research collaborator. He is co-founder of Black Moss, a nomadic research lab that works across UK/Sweden/China which uses art, design-fiction and ethnography to explore the increasingly liminal nexus of the body, environment and technology.
Marvin Gaye sang – ‘There’s only three things that for sure, Taxes, death and trouble, This I know baby, this I know sugar, Girl, Ain’t gon let it sweat me babe.’
For me, the most profoundly moving art and music celebrates evanescence. I chime with Taoism and Wabi-sabi, the Japanese aesthetic and worldview centred on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. I once read of a Japanese cult that holds a wake when a child is born, because something infinite and unbounded becomes mortal and subject to the slings and arrows of human life. The same cult frames death as an occasion to celebrate a reunion with the ineffable void.
I was born with a default inclination to gaze into the abyss, and let it gaze back into me (to paraphrase Nietzsche; it isn’t always a harmonious exchange), and was always drawn to objects, people and life experiences that hymned its presence as a liberating positive, and not something to be feared or resisted.
When KWMC invited me to make a unique object on the theme of ‘value’, I set out to fabricate a system that enabled a sequence of images to be obscured and revealed by dust floating in a shaft of light. I’ve long been enraptured by the graceful dynamics of swirling dust. For example, when a rug is shaken, for its evocation of deep space and a calming hint of infinity. The object we made is the result of a design journey in pursuit of this intention, which evolved both in form and function, to offer new conceptual and material possibilities. Instead of swirling dust we have lizard powder representing the sands of time.
The 50 images as they cycle forward and back through a subjective narrative of my life, distil memories, dreams, reflections; hopes dashed and joys rekindled. Viewing them, I’m struck by a sense of constant movement, not only of human bodies in air, on roads and by sea, but also through time and the fluid space of emotional memory. While not especially profound in the grand scheme of things, my unique object of value humbly states two things – the dust never settles, and as I (incomprehensibly) approach 50, like Marvin sang in Trouble Man, I ‘Ain’t gon let it sweat me babe’.