‘Spine’ 2000       oak wood, pine wood       130 x 25 x 25 cm


It is the intention of Martin Helm to constantly go ‘back to basics’, and ‘Spine’ is exemplary.

The ‘Hybridicon Laboratory’ is a collection of hybrid objects which share many characteristics with what is still seen as ‘primitive art’ – a term which the artist abhors.


It has the basic bilateral symmetry, a manufacturing technology based on manual skills (i.e. it is low-tech), the shapes are based on those found in nature, the materials determine the expressive qualities, it represents something with symbolic values. It is not art-for-arts-sake, it shows us possible courses for a future develpment in the arts.

The central object of ‘Spine’ is based on two models: That of a so-called Venus figure, particularly the venus of Lespugue, and the model of a reptilian brain.

It is hypothesised that this is no coincidence. Prehistoric humans may have been very aware of the similarity between the brain of reptiles and similar animals – snakes, turtles, crocoliles, lizards – and the human figure,   and may well have copied them and exaggerated  their human traits.

To create ‘Spine’ the artist studied the shapes of different reptiles’ central nervous system. For practical purposes photo’s and drawings of an aligator brain were used as a basis, and the Lespugue Venus served as reference to proportions if not dimensions.

Diagrams of the human spine were used and adapted to fit the brain shape.All was combined to be cut from oak wood.

The design for the encasement was based on seed pods, but essentially created from two canoe-like models, which were joined  laterally. The pod supports the ‘central nervous system’.

The combined object, ‘Spine’ and the pod, are not self supporting. To exhibit them they have to lean against a wall.

The object is a comment on –  and  an hommage to – humanity’s rich, mysterous and creative prehistoric past and, for the artist, it was a reason to  reproduce one of these venus figurines (albeit not to scale) and place it in a different context.


click on thumbnail image to return to Hybridicon Laboratory

or click here to go to Martin Helm Chronology Projects