IN-SITE Proposal

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As an artist, I am interested in the intersection of nature and culture, including the way that we humans represent plant-life in illustrations, advertisements and logos, as well as for decorative purposes. The many representations of nature are, in my estimation, about as numerous and varied as real plant species. They range from the most simple geometric shapes to detailed illustrations and photographs, sometimes referencing existing or even imaginary species. As we are increasingly separated from direct contact with wilderness, these representations can sometimes stand in for the real thing. I’ve been playing with this idea in projects such as the fabric sculpture Canopy (2010), my collage series Field Studies (2011), as well as my recent public sculpture on Randall’s Island, New Growth (2013).

I propose to create a conceptual project in which I collect and scan real leaves from downtown South Orange and the park area as well as representations of leaves also found in the downtown area, such as those printed on packaging in stores, signs, on clothing fabric, decorative fake plants, elements of logos, architectural elements reminiscent of plants, etc. I will organize these “specimens” into a digital herbarium in the form of a website with accompanying information about each leaf (photos of the leaves as they were found, along with information such as location, context, size, and species).

I will also enlarge several of these images to approximately 2 feet tall (quite possibly larger) and wheatpaste them onto walls in public space throughout the downtown area. A QR code symbol will accompany each leaf which will lead viewers to the project website. This will function as a dispersed “natural” history display.

Wheatpasting is a temporary way to adhere paper to an outdoor wall. It’s made of water, flour, and sugar. It can last for months in an outdoor location. Wheatpasted images can be removed with hot water.

QR Codes are square black and white bar codes which can be scanned using smart phones. These codes can have web addresses embedded in them. Scanning the code will take you to the website.

Images attached:

1. Examples of leaves and leaf imagery found in downtown South Orange.

2 & 3. Digital collage of wheatpaste installation for one leaf.

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Installation on Upvan Lake

A little preview …. still editing / waiting for documentation of my second project for the Upvan Art Festival, supported by FCA’s Emergency Grant. A little sculpture installed on a tiny island in the lake, via paddleboat.

Here are some video clips from the installation — one of the most surreal installations I’ve experienced.

Reconciliation of the Opposites

During my time in Thane, I took a brief trip to Borivali, Mumbai to give a slide lecture at Cona, a space run primarily by Shreyas Karle and Hemali Bhuta. We had a nice conversation about public art in an Indian vs. western context, and I answered questions from students about finding one’s way as an artist and the creative process.

Shreyas printed these beautiful invitation cards for my lecture, which he titled “reconciliation of the opposites”.

Picture 2

Picture 1

Update

It’s good to be here! The original idea, an installation inspired by tree barriers, will not work because there is not a good site. However, I have started on two other projects:

One: a collaboration with local students to create a digital archive of weeds.

Two: a sculpture to be installed on a tiny island in the lake.

More details to come as the projects progress. In the meantime: I asked for a jigsaw, a screwgun, and some screws so I could start building the sculpture. After some investigation, it seems it is way more cost effective to hire a carpenter to build the thing for me, and also a translator so the carpenter can understand my instructions!

Labor is cheap here. Goods, equipment, and materials are relatively expensive. This is why concrete is mixed by hand. This is why recycling is more prevalent here than in the US, because there is more value in the materials than in the human-hours spent sorting and processing it.

Upvan Art Festival – Brainstorming

I have been looking at pictures of Thane online, and I am interested in these square, concrete barriers around tree beds:

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Visually, I am interested in the contrast between the organic lines of the trees and the hard-edged, geometric structure of the barriers. Conceptually, I am interested in what the barriers signify: “This is a space for a tree, separate from human space. Also, this nature was put here for your enjoyment and recreation. This is a destination. This place has been cared for. This place is beautiful and civilized.”

In general, I am interested in the relationship between people and their environment. I am also interested in how we mentally categorize different kinds of spaces and places. Some are valued and maintained, seen as “destinations”. Other kinds of spaces are purely functional, not aesthetic. Others still can be called “junkspace”: a place that is overlooked, unused, untended, and thus host to numerous extraordinary possibilities.

I am interested in finding some trees that are a little bit outside of the main recreational area of Thane and Upvan lake, in spaces that have not been designated for this purpose. I would like to construct a barrier for each tree I choose, inspired by the ones I see in the photos above. I would like to use concrete if possible, so if I could hire a small crew to help me make some small, low structures, that would be great. The structures can be temporary, if necessary.

By doing so, these “junkspaces” would become destinations by virtue of having public art placed there, and the trees would get more attention too. I would like to take this a step further by creating Foursquare.com venues online for each tree, which visitors could vitually “check into” and leave photos and comments. There is also a kind of pun here: The barriers are square-shaped, and maybe I could have four of them!

Once I am in Thane, I might get some more ideas to add to this project: possibly some kind of adornment for the low concrete structures, or possibly some kind of workshop organized about how to care for city trees.

I know there was recently a tree census in Thane. Maybe this project would help to raise awareness that all of the trees are beneficial to the people. I also see there are some articles online about illegal tree cutting. So this project would have an environmental message, and also deal with how we use and think about public space in relationship to nature.

Journée des Barricades

By Heather & Ivan Morison

Journée des Barricades
2008
Various industrial and domestic items
800 x 2100 x 1000cm
Commissioned by Litmus Research Initiative, Massey University for One Day Sculpture
Photos: Stephen Rowe

The first decade of this new millennium is haunted by the spectre of catastrophe, found in spectacular events that invade and haunt the collective imaginary: floods, tsunamis, earthquakes and invasions, as well as the collapse of monuments, regimes and economies. Operating on an epic scale these extended moments in nature and civilisation unsettle our sense of security, shift our consciousness and blur boundaries between the local and the global. British artists Heather and Ivan Morison tend to refer to this “worrying world” through what curator Claire Doherty calls an “ongoing investigation into future catastrophic scenarios and their social implications.” Their most recent project, with its direct allusion to the Parisian revolutionary barricades, also references the blockades of more recent protest and warfare as well as forming a post-apocalyptic image that suggests some “climatic disaster.” Such artwork, which takes on the role of playing between past, present and future histories not only elicits an aesthetic charge within the civic realm, but could also feasibly harness public and private performances…

The monumental installation “made up from the detritus of Wellington” inhabited and bifurcated Stout Street, which provided an ideal urban frame for viewing the sight from Lambton Quay. A colossal mass of inorganic rubbish borrowed from local recyclers and the dump, it was formed from abandoned vehicles, tyres, compacted plastic, household appliances, bicycles, supermarket trolleys and – on closer inspection – garden and domestic objects, including a host of children’s toys. It seemed as if Wellington had violently disgorged its suburban contents only to be washed up onto the city’s original shoreline, now 250 metres from the existing waterfront. Passers-by were drawn towards this massive spill, which somehow made sense of Ruamoko (1998), the Hotere/McFarlane sculpture standing in the foreground. Like Ruamoko – composed of pillars and letters from the State Insurance Building that once occupied the corner site – this behemoth was formed from salvaged materials. However, unlike the smaller public artwork, the wall of rubbish was designed to inhabit the street for a single day; from its construction, which began at midnight on Saturday, to its total disassembly and dispersal 24 hours later: hence Journée des Barricades – The Day of Barricades…

The paradox of the Morisons’ project is that, despite its associations with political resistance (involving radical, hostile or unexpected manoeuvres), the erection of the barricade engaged in neither spontaneous nor furtive action. Theirs was a carefully planned installation that required exhaustive negotiations with the authorities in order to close off a city street, erect a blockade and comply with health and safety issues – all with minimal disruption to the city’s traffic and negligible damage to its urban fabric. This pacified both the object (and its objective), rendering it monumental, sculptural and totalising rather than durational, subversive or communal. The giant barricade – perspectivally framed by some of the most European buildings in Wellington – also resembled a scenic backdrop. Cleared of parked cars, Stout Street became a picturesque space that drew the public in from Lambton Quay towards the artwork. But once you approached the spectacular assemblage, you realised that physical engagement with it was restricted, other than to look and marvel at its epic scale or enjoy the carefully arranged objects within objects – the most delightful being a collection of toys staring out at you from the dashboard of a van. Discretely placed stewards appeared (like museum docents) to prevent people from rummaging through its contents, scrambling up its precipitous structure or even climbing the rusty ladder left invitingly against the back of a battered vehicle. Nevertheless moments occurred where the barricade was breached to the delight of onlookers who tended to stand back and capture it on camera…

The potency of Journée des Barricades lay in its scenic splendour as a sculpture that fleetingly linked the theatrical and the quotidian with the catastrophic. Confronting the public with an image that suggests some sort of epic failure (social, political or ecological) recalls Walter Benjamin’s conflation of the “moment of enchantment” with the “figure of shock.” Coming across a barricade constructed of refuse indexes the ground on which its stands – reclaimed land constructed over a century ago from barricades of refuse – reminding us that we occupy despoiled shores. It also affirms Victor Burgin’s statement that art itself could be considered a “form of ecological pollution.” Although the barricade was more object than action, returning the sculpture’s contents to the dump and recyclers from which it was borrowed still positions the artwork as a fleeting event: a transitory performance that leaves its traces only in the minds of those who witnessed it as well as in the archival documentation and articles such as this one.

Dorita Hannah, Constructing the Barricade – an urban performance building between the archive and the repertoire (excepts from), critical response to Journée des Barricades, 2009