Artist in Residence Blog # 2, May 2013: Measuring string and carbon accounting

AIR 2_1Working broadly across the spectrum of ECCI’s includes coming to terms with the complex and abstract calculations of carbon accounting, something increasingly apparent to me following the ICARB conference in March (13/03/13). This has required me to set up some initial frameworks by which to start approaching these specific issues within a studio context. For example in order to more easily visualise a tonne of CO2 I have been considering some basic calculations concerning weight to length, the price of string and the fluctuating values involved in Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Since 1 tonne of CO2 apparently occupies a space of 27 feet cubic feet, physically working with the same dimensions has helped get this key measurement into a more tangible form – hence the string – but is not as easy as it sounds….

For example taking the Ultratwine Medium Ball of Cotton Twine (min 85% cotton) at a weight of 525metres per kilo at 60 grams per ball the calculation goes approximately as follows;

100 grams = 52.5 metres
10 grams = 5.25 metres
60 grams = 31.5 metres
60 grams = 31.5 metres = 134.5 feet.
AIR 2_2

It can therefore be stated that the actual length of a piece of string – a recognised and popular unit of measurement in the UK – should be 324 feet. However to maintain a single linear form by not involving any discontinuity caused by cutting and rejoining, needs a further 81 feet to allow for doubling back on the cube form. The simple comparison between the linear qualities of string and the linear qualities of drawing in containing an imagined space produces a conceptual narrative that is both abstract and tangible. In drawing also distinguishing between the continuous and the broken or implied line contains an expressive significance, a type of information that belongs to the studio rather than the lab and is used differently.

The length – and consequently the price – of a piece of string however may be rather simpler to calculate than the fluctuations in pricing a tonne of C02

So in studio practice the definitive length of the actual rather than the theoretical piece of string becomes 405 feet, with issues such as knots and stretch to be factored in, creating analogies with the known and unknown data within carbon accounting. The length – and consequently the price – of a piece of string however may be rather simpler to calculate than the fluctuations in pricing a tonne of C02. Currently the string in question can be bought for £4.40, sufficient to describe a tonne of CO2 easily. By comparison the Floor Price for Co2 is currently set at £16 (set to rise to £30.00 in 2020) but the actual Trading Price for 1 tonne as given in January 2013 came in at under £4.00. (Source:

However initial conclusions from this enquiry in which the framework (the string) and the content of the framework (CO2) are understood as being in constant flux suggests a need to simultaneously incorporate both the measurable and the un-measureable in order to work productively with complex information – aiming for certainty can in fact be counterproductive.

Find out more about Jennie’s project. And look out for regular updates on the blog.


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