The series Slow Arc Inside a Cube, which Shawcross started working on 2007, is inspired by a description by the British scientist Dorothy Hodgkin (1910-1994), who was responsible for working out the structure of pig insulin, a complex protein chain. The artist's website explains, that Hodgkin did this by pioneering a technique called crystal Radiography, and compared the longwinded process of extrapolating the dense protein cloud from reams of chromatographic grids to trying to work out the structure of a tree from purely looking at its shadow. It is similar, of course, to Plato's cave.
The way in which the present piece poses intricate questions is common to Shawcross' work, who regards himself an interdisciplinary thinker and maker. In this series (for the earliest work from 2007 see fig. 1 below) a small bright halogen light, on the end of an articulated arm, travels diagonally from one corner of a metal mesh cube to its opposite side, drawing a slightly bowed path. The piece addresses the relationship between the moving source of light, the cage, which is the only constant, and the changing shadow of this constant projected on to the walls of the surrounding space. Attempting to comprehend the world through the shadows it casts derives from a long philosophical tradition. As referred to above, the allegory of Plato's cave suggests that what we see as reality is in fact only the shadow of a perfect truth. In Shawcross' piece the constantly changing, dislocating nature of the expanding and contracting grid of shadows caused by the constantly moving robotic arm force the spectator to engage with this complex notion.