The journeys made by people and objects, the origins of design, and the value of materials, are just some of the things that interest Simon Starling. Some of his most notable works have transformed one object into another. An early work from 1996 took the metal of an antique silver spoon to make copies of a fake twenty-pence piece Starling had found. In 2005 he dismantled a woodshed in Basel, Switzerland, and used the material to make a small boat. He then used the boat to travel along the river Rhine, to the art museum in which he was preparing an exhibition, where he dismantled the boat to reconstruct the woodshed, which was exhibited in the museum as Shedboatshed (Mobile architecture No.2).
Burn Time is one of many works by Starling to draw on the history of design – in this case the work of Wilhelm Wagenfeld (1900–1990), a German designer of industrially produced consumer goods, including table lamps and glassware. Starling’s work involves one of Wagenfeld’s designs: a glass ‘egg coddler’ – a lidded pot for cooking a single egg – designed in the 1930s and one of a number of items still in production today. Burn Time brings together this object with the building that now houses a museum dedicated to Wagenfeld’s work in Bremen, Germany. Starling made a scale model of the building, which was originally designed as a prison, using recycled wood, during a residency as Henry Moore Sculpture Fellow at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Dundee in 2000. The model is larger than a typical architectural model, as it was in intended to function as a hen house. Starling built it in his studio and then transported it to Stronchullin Farm in Strone, Argyll, where it was used as an actual hen house for three months.
First exhibited at Camden Arts Centre, London in 2000, Burn Time includes the relocated hen house, now well worn by months on the Scottish hillside and the comings and goings of a gaggle of hens; Wagenfeld egg coddlers, which were used to cook eggs from those hens; and a small stove fuelled by wood cut from the hen house/museum model. Like many of Starling’s works, Burn Time creates a cycle of transformation, of use, re-use and value.