Paul Tecklenberg

Jacob's Ladder

Nitric oxide (laughing gass) bulbs and stainless steel cable

Height : 715cm   Width : 31cm   Depth : 2cm  

I have made an escape ladder out of nitric oxide 'laughing gas' bulbs that chefs use to make foam and young adults use to get high. During the first lockdown, I would find hundreds of these in parks, side roads, council estates and car parks. It is how kids found their escapism. I like the idea that it is going up to the sky, but also out of reach and precarious. Drawing connections between Jack and the beanstalk and Jacob's dream of a ladder that goes to heaven from Genesis.

Supporting Materials

I was invited by Harry Pye to be in a show called 'Smile'. This nudged me to make 'Ha! Ha!' I cast concrete into a squashed milk bottle and used the laughing gas bulbs as eyes and teeth. I like the dullness of the concrete against the shiny silver bulbs and the brutal humour. It effortlessly 'floats' on the wall even though they are very heavy. The handle doubles up as a broken nose.

This was my breakthrough moment, which leads onto making an escape ladder by threading the bulbs with stainless steel cable. I didn't know how many I had, so I weighed ten, which came to 210 grams, 21 grams each, and the weight of the soul according to Dr Duncan MacDougall. This inspired me to call it 'Jacob's Ladder'. I like the rigidity of the columns next to the fluid movement of the ladder by the wind and the poignancy that it is out of reach.

This was installed in a gallery and I'm drawn to the juxtaposition of the erect, formal and ordered part of the ladder compared to the limp and disordered ladder on the floor. It is a duality of two different states just like awake and asleep, dead and alive, horizontal and vertical.