Electric motor, Control levers, Concrete blocks, Cable
500 x 200 x 700 cm
Edition of 1

James Capper's Ripper drags itself along to physically carve out or 'rip' up a path, displacing gravel, dirt or whatever may lie in its way. It is a "tool for making art," according to Capper, who has incorporated a control box as an element of this work. From a young age, Capper has been interested in cranes and earth-moving equipment, which developed to encompass the processes affected by these tools. Ripper is an example of Capper's ability to consolidate both the aesthetics and mechanical procedures of these machines to produce a work more concerned with machine aesthetics and process than productivity and output. Ripper is part of Capper's series of mark-making works, all of which sit on skid plates, an invention created by Robert Gilmour Le Tourneau - an engineer who, in the early 1960s, recognized the global importance of moving earth. He produced various machines and technologies to facilitate this, many of which have influenced the technology we still use today. Ripper sits atop three skid plates composed in a tripod-like formation to ensure the work is consistently balanced. An armature is controlled by the viewer, via the control box, to extend up and out and to sink the tooth into the ground in front of Ripper, dragging the remainder of the machine along and marking the earth. All of the elements of Ripper were custom-designed by Capper to produce a machine that possesses the futility of an “earth mover” but functionality of an “earth marker.”


About The Artist

Interested in the aesthetics of mechanical power and hydraulics, James Capper's works respond to their environments by rolling, digging, climbing, drawing, lifting and cutting. To do so, they are often equipped with unique ‘marking’ components that are described by the artist as ‘tread pads’ or ‘teeth’. His works are separated into divisions, which he describes as constantly expanding ‘family trees’– from Earth Marking to Off Shore; from Carving Tools to the new Material Handling work. Capper is influenced by the Land art movement that originated in 1970s America, in which figures such as Robert Smithson made frequent use of machinery to facilitate their use of the natural landscape to create sculptures. Capper’s work similarly ascribes to the abandonment of formalism, rules and traditional art materials, as espoused by the Land artists, elevating his industrial materials and enabling their transcendence from solely functional objects. He also derives inspiration from the early developments of engineering, particularly the work of the prolific inventor Robert Gilmour Le Tourneau, who developed a number of experimental problem-solving, earth-moving machines, some of which were used during World War II. Capper’s machines have specific, functional uses, but the tangible impact they have on the environment also engages with essential questions concerning the relationship between the natural world, art and technology.

James Capper

Born: 1987

Other Artworks by James Capper at CASS



GREENHORN is the first work in a new series of James Capper’s Material Handling division, so called because of the way i…

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