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Commuter - Coffin
An installation by Rob Godfrey
en franšais

Commuter's coffin is one of the fundamental aspects of the installation. Thus the coffin will have a very high build quality. The sides of the coffin are in Brasilian oak veneer. There are brass handles. The perimeter of the coffin has a white silk cushion inlay. There is a large, white silk cushion at the head. When someone sees Commuter it will be very apparent that they are looking at a coffin, albeit a fifty foot long one! The coffin is in the style of those made in the 19th century, such as that used by the French actress Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) who reputedly slept in her coffin and took it with her whenever she toured.

There were two big design problems with regard to the coffin: firstly the coffin has to look like a solid lump, yet it also has to easily break down into sections for transportation purposes.

Sarah Bernhardt and her coffin
actress Sarah Bernhardt,
who used to sleep in a coffin

Secondly there is the matter of proportion: Commuter's topography is based upon Charing Cross Station, in London, and trains and the tracks they run on are proportionally much thinner and longer than a coffin.

coffin proportions

In proportion to its width, Commuter's coffin is almost five times longer than a normal coffin. This mis-proportion is overcome because in the first instance a spectator will see a side view of the installation, before approaching closer for a more aeriel view.

iii.   E ad a good innings

Time please, gents, the lid is closing.
A cart-shaped wreath, a toilet farce;
the lads are lashed, the women pass
smelling salts (Dan's decomposing).
A yellow grin, for Mo's just seen a
therapist, her cough all tarry,
joining in Dan's death safari:
3 packs a day to emphysema:
a last bet on the Old Kent Road,
some jellied eels and rancid toad
in the hole and auntie Glynis
almost followed from too much Guinness;
with flowers, dirt and coined regrets
we turn away, light cigarettes.

The framework of the coffin is constructed from 76 x 50 x 3 aluminium channel. All joints welded. The coffin has to be easily transportable and so it consists of 19 panels. The largest panel is 2000mm x 550mm. The 19 panels slot on to the baseboards. The diagram below shows the general principle of these slot brackets. There is a 5mm gap between the edge of the baseboards and the coffin frame. This is to allow water run off when Commuter is being displayed outdoors.

At the head of the coffin is the station. The surface of the concourse and platforms is 3mm perspex, removable for access to lighting effects and electronics. The sides of the platforms are made from clear plastic sheet. The shortest platforms are 1 and 2, which are 1.9 metres (6' 2") long. The longest platforms are 5 and 6, which are 2.8 metres (9' 2") long. The station stradddles three baseboards and is built into their structure.


Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

From To the Virgins, to make much of Time
By Robert Herrick


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e-mail: rob@spiderbomb.com

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