They may not have the structural integrity to withstand a 3.0 on the Richter Scale, but these gelatinous mini-cities certainly do taste delicious! For the last six years, San Francisco installation artist, Liz Hickok, has been recreating cities and famous landmarks from around the US in her favorite medium - Jell-O. Hickok recently completed an installation of NYC and we caught up with her to ask a few questions about this fascinating new construction material and her low impact methods.
Hickok has recreated various parts of San Francisco including famous landmarks like City Hall, the Bay Bridge, the Ferry Building, parts of the Mission and even a whole skyline as seen from Alcatraz. She’s also built the White House and created a video in reverse showing it evolve from fully decomposed back into its original state of glory. Her recent model of NYC includes the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and much more. Wiggly, jiggly and oh so sweet, Hickok’s Jell-O architecture is only temporary and lasts until the tasty treat dissolves, leaving not a trace behind except her photos and videos. Talk about leaving no impact! Read on to find out more about her inspiration and methods.
INHABITAT: What is your inspiration for constructing buildings out of Jell-O?
Liz Hickok: I drew the inspiration for this project from my immediate surroundings – San Francisco, where the geological uncertainties of the landscape evoke uncanny parallels with the gelatinous material. Since beginning the series, I have been inspired by other urban and suburban sites with metaphorical possibilities, including the White House, Las Vegas, and New York City. Remade in an unexpected material, seemingly permanent architectural structures are transformed into something precarious and ephemeral. Their fragility quickly becomes a metaphor for the transitory nature of human artifacts.
INHABITAT: What got you started creating the buildings?
Liz Hickok: When I made my first city, I decided to make it out of a material that would incorporate my longstanding reverence of color and light, which stems from my roots as a painter. Instead of using resin, which was my first choice, but is very toxic and difficult to use, I stumbled upon the idea of Jell-O®. This fragile and impermanent material, which we typically associate with childhood memories, has proved to be a very poetic expression of the city.
INHABITAT: What architects or style of architecture do you really like?
Liz Hickok: Naturally, I am very interested in the idea of “flexible” architecture, and what that would mean in a practical sense. But I also tend to be drawn to buildings that have a inventive use of intense color and transparency, as well as architecture that is ephemeral, such as the Blur Building.
INHABITAT: Are your molds silicon? Do you reuse or recycle them?
Liz Hickok: I do make my molds with silicone rubber. And yes, I definitely reuse them. I keep my molds and use them for all different kinds of cities. I also photograph the molds (and the models I use to cast them.) I find the formal qualities of the objects themselves very appealing.
INHABITAT: Any chance you use organic Jell-O? Or have any other green/eco strategies to your work?
Liz Hickok: As far as I know organic Jell-O is not very common, and it would be hard to purchase in the bulk quantities that I need. I could use agar agar, but it doesn’t have the same flexible quality or translucence as traditional gelatin or Jell-O.
I’ve recently been using a new material called Gel Wax, which is meant for candle making (it is not edible). One advantage of the Gel Wax if that I can cast it and then re-melt unlimited times. Plus, similar to gelatin, it creates beautiful, trembling buildings.
I’ve been particularly excited by my recent discovery of flexible LED ribbon lights. Now I want to incorporate them into everything I do!
INHABITAT: Plans for the future? What do you want to do next?
Liz Hickok: I’m in the process of experimenting with a lot of new materials and will probably be phasing out of using Jell-O, at least for a while. (In addition to the LED’s) I have been thinking about using plants as a central element in my sculptural and photographic work. I think it would be fascinating and challenging to work with living materials. But I’m still in a very experimental phase, so we will see how that develops. That may end up being part of a completely different path from my interest in mapping and cities.
Images ©Liz Hickok