Lead has had many uses in the past including lead pipes for plumbing which was still in use up to the 1970s! I was also used as fishing weights, toy soldiers and letterpress type. It was also added to paint, petrol and pesticides, but its uses are limited due to the toxic nature of lead and its detrimental effect on the environment.
Ii seemed that lead was used for its versatility and malleability but these inappropriate uses suggests that it was considered a wonder metal, a panacea.
I decided to list inappropriate uses for lead, bearing in mind its toxic when ingested. Cutlery, dentures and baby toys were considered for casting, but it occurred to me that actually swallowing lead would be very harmful. The phrase “This would put lead in your pencil” sprung to mind. Given that alchemists used lead I decided to cast medicinal products. One of the side-effects of lead poisoning is erectile dysfunction, so it seemed obvious to cast Viagra tablets.
The presentation and label
Reflection on my dialogue
My concern was with the message. This is the dialogue I tend to have with the material. For me lead and its toxic nature and its past inappropriate uses, were it’s main talking points. To blatantly create inappropriate uses for this material allowed me to offer a satirical presentation of lead and its unsuitability for medicinal use. Given that lead poisoning leads to erectile dysfunction, lead Viagra tablets seemed to present a paradox as the last thing needed is “lead in your pencil”.
There was of course an ongoing dialogue during the making of the pieces, as I needed advice from experienced artists, and also finding the best method of making to suit my lack of experience with Delph casting.