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By Joe Roberts on

Behind the scenes: building Tape

In this guest post, volunteer Joe Roberts takes us through the production process of one of the headline activities at Manchester Science Festival, Tape.

Tape is an immersive sculpture conceived and constructed by the Austrian art collective Numen/For Use. Suspended from the wooden pillars of the 1830 Warehouse in the museum, its shape is like that of a spider’s web, in which a network of tunnels can be freely explored by up to five people at a time.

What makes it most unique, and what gives the piece its greatest sense of wonder, is that it is made using layers upon layers of sticky tape, amounting to a weight of approximately 100 kilograms. To put that in perspective, a single roll of Sellotape you might find in your kitchen drawer weighs a little over 80 grams.

I had first encountered Tape over two years ago, when it was erected between tree trunks in Bute Park, Cardiff, in collaboration with the RSPB. I was struck by the beauty and engineering of the piece, though I did not think I would encounter it again. Upon hearing that the sculpture was being brought to Manchester, and that there was a chance to be involved in the building process, I leapt at the opportunity. Over the course of a week, three artists from Numen/For Use and a dedicated team of 12 volunteers worked tirelessly to bring the creation to life once again.

What makes the piece so impressive also makes it a great challenge to construct. Tape is an exceedingly difficult building material. It is brittle, disobedient and—quite obviously—sticky. For tape to gain the strength necessary to create such a piece, it must be stretched and bent in ways in which it does not usually move. The piece relies on the stretched tape creating tension which, when enough layers have been added and are sufficiently taut, causes the piece to be strong enough to hold the weight of several people.

Tape being constructed at the Museum of Science and Industry

The screeching sound and distinctive smell of tape being freshly unravelled has become a staple feature of my days for the past week. One evening, as I removed my socks, I even found several small pieces of tape inside them. Though at times the material was frustrating, it was all made worthwhile watching the piece develop from a few thin, almost invisible guidelines, to the strong and imposing final product.

Tape being constructed at the Museum of Science and Industry

But alongside being structurally and visually impressive, Tape is made to be enjoyed. It is art that is not only created to be gazed upon, but also to be experienced. When exploring the translucent, winding tunnels, you are transported into an alien environment that is beautifully strange and exciting. To experience that feeling for yourself, visit the Manchester Science Festival between 19–29 October. Alongside Tape, you can enjoy a variety of scientific displays and discussions relating to the arachnids that inspired the exhibition, as well as coming face to face with an array of sophisticated robots.

It has been wonderful to be a part of the creation process of Tape, now it is time for it to be experienced by you!

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