Chord, Conrad Shawcross

British  artist Conrad Shawcross  constructed a giant, site specific, mechanical installation in the Kingsway Tram Subway, Holborn in October 2009. This vast underground tunnel is a remarkable and fascinating survivor of London’s tramway heritage which has been closed for public use since 1952.

Chord was Conrad’s most ambitious and complex work to date. Conceived specifically for the long subway, the artist built two identical rope machines that made a thick hawser from 324 spools of coloured string. These vast machines began back to back in the centre of the space and then gradually moved away from each other slowly down the subway following the old tram tracks. Like two huge spiders, they slowly weave the rope behind them as they travelled through the space over the course of the exhibition.

Returning to the themes of previous rope production works The Nervous Systems, (2003 – Saatchi collection) and Yarn (2001) Chord is concerned with the human perception of time, as both a linear and cyclical notion. The rope becomes a strong structural metaphor, as it is a clear linear entity made up and formed by a cyclical process.

Each point on the rope can be traced back to a certain moment during the show and duration becomes interchangeable with length; time with space, an hour being around 20 cm, a day around six meters.