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Photo: Georges Lentz.

This water tank is also known as the Silver Tank because once upon a time it was painted in silver anti-rust paint. Read about a sound-art installation here that was a collaboration between the composer Georges Lentz and the architect Glenn Murcutt, in Cobar, Australia.

It’s always interesting to learn what inspires an artist. Inspiration from an old, rusted water tank may be unusual, but creative people are like that. It’s not really surprising.

Casey Quackenbush reported the story at the New York Times in January, “Life in Cobar was a delicate thing until the arrival of the Silver Tank.

“In the vast, red-dirt hinterland of Australia, over 400 miles northwest of the shores of Sydney, rainwater is scarce. ​​For thousands of years, the nomadic Aboriginal Ngiyampaa people excelled at the art of survival by creating natural rock reservoirs. But after European settlers discovered copper and gold in the area in the 1870s, enough water was needed to sustain a booming mining town. Reservoirs were dug. Water was trained in from afar. Then, in 1901, a 33-foot-high steel water tank painted silver, hence its nickname, was erected about a mile outside of town. While the threat of drought remained (and remains to this day), it turned dusty Cobar, a freckle at the edge of the Outback, into something of a desert oasis.

“Nowadays, Cobar pipes in its water from the Burrendong Dam, about 233 miles east, and the tank, whose silver finish long ago succumbed to rust and graffiti, is empty of water. It has, however, been filled with something new — music.

“On April 2, after two decades of work, it will be officially reborn as the Cobar Sound Chapel, an audacious sound-art collaboration between Georges Lentz, one of Australia’s leading contemporary composers, and Glenn Murcutt, an Australian Pritzker Prize- and Praemium Imperiale award-winning architect.

“For his reimagining of the roofless tank, Murcutt installed an approximately 16-foot cube within its cylindrical space, in which Lentz’s ‘String Quartet(s)’ (2000-21), a 24-hour-long classical-meets-electronica work, will play on loop via a quadraphonic sound system. Inside the chamber is a concrete bench that seats up to four, from which one can look out through the ceiling’s gold-rimmed oculus. Morning, noon and night, then, the otherworldly sonic stream will reverberate throughout the concrete booth. …

“Lentz has been consumed by questions of cosmology and spirituality ever since he was a child. Born in Echternach, a small town in Luxembourg that formed around a seventh-century abbey, he grew up attending classical music festivals and stargazing with his dad. Later, he studied music in Hanover, Germany. While riding the train to university in the fall of 1988, he happened upon a story in the German science magazine Geo about the creation of the universe. It threw the tininess of humanity into sharp relief for him. …

“Ever since, Lentz has devoted his entire body of work to exploring the questions of the cosmos, transforming his initial fear into a quest for contemplation, one that only intensified following his 1990 move to Australia and exposure to the Outback’s ocean of sky. Both a continuation and culmination of his work, ‘String Quartet(s)’ began as an attempt to translate that sky into a score.

“To do so, he collaborated with the Noise, an experimental string quartet that’s based in Sydney. They used a range of techniques; to mirror a starry night, for example, the musicians invoked the pointillism of the contemporary Aboriginal painter Kathleen Petyarre, plucking their bows at the top of their instruments to create contained bits of sound. …

“They ended up with about six hours’ worth of music, which, through digital editing, Lentz expanded into a 24-hour, techno-infused soundscape of terror, wonder and reverence. …

“Around 2000, Lentz began dreaming of a music box amid a copper landscape, a place where his music could live alongside its muse. But it wasn’t until he played a concert in Cobar in 2008 that he considered the town as a potential site.

“He pitched the idea to the Cobar Shire Council, which later proposed the hilltop bearing the tank, suggesting it be demolished to make room. ‘Absolutely not!’ Lentz said. Soon after, he called Murcutt, 85, who is celebrated for hand-drawn, landscape-specific designs inspired by Australian vernacular architecture. …

“Murcutt has always been drawn to the desert, whose sparseness resonates with the Aboriginal mantra — touch the earth lightly — by which he tries to abide. In keeping with that idea, he set out to design, largely thanks to governmental funding, a simple, solar-powered chapel that would unify sound, site and atmosphere.

“Two large slabs of concrete mark the entrance outside. Inside, the cubic space (which is slightly slanted to optimize acoustics) is stark, just like the desert itself. In the four corners of the ceiling, sunlight streams through windows of Russian blue glass painted by the local Aboriginal artist Sharron Ohlsen, who also employs pointillism in her work. And, over the course of each day, an ellipse of light traverses the floor and concrete walls.”

More at the Times, here.

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Photo: Dan Cameron.
Chumono, Muelle de Alma (2005), site specific art installation near Cucao, Chiloé, Chile.

Today’s article is the first in a Hyperallergic series about a fellowship for curators that one recipient used for a project in Chile. Blogger Rebecca may know the part of Chile that curator Dan Cameron talks about.

He writes at Hyperallergic, “While preparing this project one day, I was perusing Chilean regional news outlets for details about the December 2021 fire that damaged or destroyed a number of houses in Castro, the capital of the Isla Grande de Chiloé, when I noticed that multiple sources referred to the island as a ‘tourist’ destination.

“Maybe it’s the just intellectual vanity that goes with being the sort of curator who leaves New York City to come to a remote corner of South America, but it felt weirdly like a slap in the face to see this little-known (outside of Chile) place that I’d been steadfastly exploring for a future curatorial project seemingly transformed by a single word into a locale that would be for, well, tourists. In my mind it didn’t matter that Chiloé’s famed palafito stilt houses and 17th- and 18th-century wooden churches attract visitors worldwide, or that the more secluded corners of Chiloé I’d scouted on previous trips had everything a moderately resourceful traveler would need for a splendid visit. …

“My flash of pique at reading Chiloé so described is curiously linked to my personal history with Chile, which I first visited exactly 30 years ago. … I’ve returned consistently to Chile over the years, precisely because I thought I wouldn’t otherwise get to know it. This was summarized by the word that the Santiago-based artist Eugenio Dittborn would employ five years later as his title for a survey exhibition I curated of his signature pinturas aeropostales (airmail paintings) at the New Museum: Remota.

In 1992 I hardly knew anybody who possessed firsthand information about Chile, and that made it irresistible.

“During our initial meeting at his studio in Santiago, I shared with Dittborn my very ambitious itinerary, which included Santiago, Valparaiso, Easter Island, and the northern cities of Iquique and Antofagasta. … Dittborn responded that in the future, I should visit the southernmost art museum in the world, in Castro [in Chiloé], and perhaps consider organizing an exhibition there. …

“I finally made it to Chiloé in 2015 with the artist Gianfranco Foschino. … It helped that Gianfranco was personally enthusiastic about organizing a contemporary art exhibition in Chiloé, but what became less clear once we’d made our initial reconnaissance of the island was whether or not MAM Chiloé was the ideal venue for a project that would function largely as a platform for local artists. After spending time with and talking to various artists living on the island, it seemed that, for most, the museum functioned as a venue for artists based in Santiago. If I wanted to see where local artists showed, I’d need to dig a little deeper into the patchwork of regional museums, municipal libraries, gallery-cafés, and community centers, which tended to be scattered all over Chiloé, and on the nearby islands of Quinchao and Lemuy.

“My last time in Chiloé, in November 2019 … I started envisioning Alrededores more as a long-term curatorial endeavor, where instead of artworks appearing for one season and vanishing, some might require years even to come to fruition. That would place the project closer in spirit to the niche that the Chilote artist Chumono opened up with his site-specific Muelle del Alma (‘Pier of the Soul’), which since its 2005 construction has become emblematic of art and nature co-existing on mutually beneficial terms. Thousands of visitors each year park their cars near the village of Cucao and hike nearly three miles through verdant hills and pastures to the westernmost edge of the island.

“There, according to Chiloé folklore, the boatman Tempilcahue will someday ferry them to the afterlife; fittingly, Chumono’s wooden ramp visually beckons visitors up into the sky and out over the Pacific Ocean. …

“The most exciting part of my plan was the possibility that Chiloé’s artists might end up with an international context for their work, without rupturing the sociocultural framework of their lives.

“The art was already there — I had already been surprised by its depth, and it was simply a matter of introducing the world to it. Even if cultural tourism, broadly speaking, was on a temporary hiatus as new waves of COVID spread worldwide, other avenues could bring the public to the art of Guillermo Grez or Anelys Wolf, or to the sole-proprietor storefront Museum of the Accordion in Chonchi.

“The latter, a modest but beloved establishment, preserves an integral part of the musical legacy left through centuries of ships — on which the accordion was that rare instrument capable of surviving adverse conditions — rounding Tierra del Fuego to pass between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, which slowed to a crawl after the 1914 opening of the Panama Canal. Part of the original Alrededores concept had been to move the museum’s collection — acquired long ago from sailors who left their accordions for repair and never returned — temporarily to MAM Chiloé, while putting some TLC into the museum’s display and conservation in Chonchi, where exhibits are typically set out on folding tables with hand-written labels.

“This month I’m returning to Chiloé for the fifth time in eight years … in pursuit of something that compels me to return over and over again, and to continue dreaming of a truly marvelous future art exhibition.”

More at Hyperallergic, here, where you can click through the curator’s updates. No firewall, nice pictures.

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Photo: Aaron Ufumeli/EPA.
Author Tsitsi Dangarembga has joined the Future Library, offering a work that won’t be read for 100 years. 

There are many ways artists can highlight how global warming is hurting the planet. Katie Paterson, for example, once created an installation that allowed people to listen in on the sound of glaciers melting. Now she has come up with the idea of a Future Library in hopes that it will still exist in 100 years so that people can read the works of the celebrated authors who have joined the project.

Alison Flood reports on one such author at the Guardian. “Tsitsi Dangarembga made the Booker shortlist for her most recent novel, This Mournable Body, the story of a girl trying to make a life in post-colonial Zimbabwe which was praised as ‘magnificent’ and ‘sublime.’ Her next work, however, is likely to receive fewer accolades: it will not be revealed to the world until 2114.

“The Zimbabwean writer is the eighth author selected for the Future Library project, an organic artwork dreamed up by the Scottish artist Katie Paterson. It began in 2014 with the planting of 1,000 Norwegian spruces in a patch of forest outside Oslo. Paterson is asking one writer a year to contribute a manuscript to the project – ‘the length of the piece is entirely for the author to decide’ – with Margaret Atwood, Ocean Vuong and Karl Ove Knausgård already signed up. The works, unseen by anyone but the writers themselves, will be kept in a room lined with wood from the forest in the Deichman library in Oslo. One hundred years after Future Library was launched, in 2114, the trees will be felled, and the manuscripts printed for the first time.

“The artwork ‘perfectly expresses my yearning for a human culture that centres the earth’s sustainability,’ said Dangarembga. ‘I share with many other dwellers of our beautiful planet a deep sense of concern for our home’s wellbeing.’ …

“The author, whose acclaimed debut Nervous Conditions (1988) was the first novel written in English by a black woman from Zimbabwe, said she was already “settling on the story” she would tell. She was not worried about the fact that she will never know how her writing is received.

‘I’m always my first audience. … A lot of my life has been writing into the void. So I’m used to writing into the void.’

“Paterson said that Future Library was ‘honoured’ to include Dangarembga. … ‘Tsitsi Dangarembga’s words have shaped the world. Praised for her ability to capture and communicate vital truths, the Zimbabwean novelist is admired worldwide as a voice of hope,’ said Paterson. ‘She examines oppression, discrimination, and systemic racism, through writing that is brave and unforgettable.’ …

” ‘I don’t think of myself in those terms,’ Dangarembga said. ‘So it’s really a great honour, I’m very pleased about it.’

Nervous Conditions, to which This Mournable Body is a sequel, was named by the BBC as one of the 100 books that shaped the world. Currently in Harare, the Zimbabwean author is working on a piece of non-fiction, and a speculative young adult novel. She is also awaiting a trial date after she was arrested during anti-corruption protests in Harare last year, and charged with intention to incite public violence. Authors and free speech organisations have called for the charges to be dropped, describing them as an outrage.”

More at the Guardian, here.

Photo: Giorgia Polizzi.
Novelist Margaret Atwood with artist Katie Paterson at the inauguration of the Future Library forest in Norway. 

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I had an awfully nice lunch yesterday, and I’d like to tell you about it. It involved two nonprofits — the mostly Caucasian conservation group Trustees of Reservations and the mostly African American community-outreach enterprise called Haley House.

The trustees had a really great idea recently to do meaningful art installations on a couple of their properties and chose one next to the Old Manse in Concord. The Old Manse is most often associated with 19th Century novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, but the grandfather of Ralph Waldo Emerson was also a resident and saw the historic events unfold at the North Bridge on April 19, 1775.

Artist Sam Durant wanted to draw attention to the presence of slaves in the early days of Concord and launch a discussion, so he constructed a kind of big-tent meeting house, with a floor made of the kinds of materials that might have been in slave buildings.

The Trustees conferred with him on a series of “lyceums” that might bring races together at the site. They decided that at the first one, they would encourage races to break bread together and talk about food traditions.

From Haley House in Roxbury, they brought in a chef, a beautiful meal, and singer/educator/retired-nurse Fulani Haynes.

I ate a vegan burger, sweet-potato mash, very spicey collard greens and wonderful corn muffins. Also available were salad and chicken.

Haynes sang a bit and talked about the origins of Haley House, how it helps low-income people and ex-offenders and local children, teaching cooking and nutrition and gardening, among other things. She invited attendees to tell food stories from their early years, and several brave spirits stood up.

That participatory aspect of the activities helped to reduce the impression that African Americans were making entertainments for a mostly white audience (art, food, music entertainments).

I loved the whole thing and learned a lot. (For example, Grandpa Emerson had slaves living upstairs, and “the embattled farmers” who “fired the shot heard ’round the world” were able to go marching off because slaves were working the farms. I really didn’t know.)

African American artifacts are on display next door at the Old Manse. The art installation will be up until the end of October 2016.

More here.

Photos: Artist Sam Durant offers the crowd a new lens on history. The chef from Haley House keeps an eye on the African American cuisine. Fulani Haynes demonstrates how a food can become an instrument.

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Someone tweeted this today, and I thought you would like it.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has created a nighttime art installation made of bicycles all lit up.

On October 5, says Alice at the website My Modern Met, “Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei presented a new version of his incredible Forever Bicycles installation. As the centerpiece of this year’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, the all-night contemporary art event that takes over city streets, 3,144 bicycles, the most Weiwei has used of this work to date, were stacked 100 feet in length and 30 feet in height and depth in Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square. This was the first time the installation has been displayed in an open air, public space. Since this was a night-time festival, it was spectacularly lit up with pink and blue lights.”

Check My Modern Met for a stunning array of photos, here.

Photo: http://www.mymodernmet.com

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Check out Big, Red & Shiny, “a non-profit arts organization and online art journal [set up to] commission and publish articles, essays and reviews that explore the theory, history and reception of art in its current conditions.”

A tweet sent me to BR&S, where I learned about a special art installation that was hung in the MassArt courtyard on Tuesday.

Stephanie Cardon of BR&S writes, “This is the story of how one student’s year long effort has brought solace and joy to a community when it is most needed. In spite of the crystalline air and brilliant sunshine, Tuesday morning was dark for Bostonians near and far. … Yet, serendipitously, it was on this day that Leah Medin poured a sheet of gold, soft as a caress and reaffirming as a cheer, onto many wounded hearts.

“Her gesture was simple, but took months of planning and painstaking work. While carefully conceived, her sculpture unintentionally came to represent the soaring expression of spirit many of us so desperately needed to find that very day.

“I met with Medin to talk about the timely unfurling of her piece, The Gold Divide, in MassArt‘s central courtyard. For those who witnessed it, the hushed voices spoke of awe and wonder and hope. I was curious to hear how the sculpture had come about, and how its transformation into a symbol affected her.

” ‘What happened Tuesday was everything I wasn’t expecting,’ she said about the overwhelming public response. After all, Medin had been planning this piece for over a year. It all started during her junior year abroad in Amsterdam, where she would ride her bike all around the city. As she biked, she took in the sun and the air.

“The fabric — 440 yards of gold crystal nylon organza stitched in 57 foot long panels — was inspired by these outings, by the sense of freedom and exhilaration they contained, by the light.  …

“On the day of the Boston Marathon, Leah Medin was still hard at work in an empty school, putting the finishing touches on the cloth, reinforcing its seams. When she heard what had happened off campus, while she was quietly and solitarily working to meet her deadline, she had a moment of doubt. ‘I called my mom. I wasn’t sure I should stick with it. She told me that now more than ever it was important to bring something beautiful to people.’

” ‘I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. Then, all of a sudden, there were all these eyes on it. On my baby! It was touching the surface and reaching inside the buildings, caressing the people, running along the ground.’ …

” ‘A lot of people have come up to me and said thank you. I don’t even know many of them. We give each other hugs.’ ” More.

See more of Leah’s work at leahmedin.com

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When I saw the headline at Wired, it didn’t really compute.

“Artists Create Portraits on Live Grass.” What? I don’t get it. Did the artists set up easels and paint with oils? Did they paint directly on the grass?

Writer-photographer Jakob Schiller explains.

“It all started, as these things sometimes do, by accident. In 1990, before they worked in photography, [Heather] Ackroyd and [Dan] Harvey created an art installation that covered an entire room with grass. As part of the art piece they had left a ladder leaning against a wall and when they went to remove it they saw that the ubiquitous and fast-growing plant had been imprinted with the shadow. The grass had stayed yellow where the ladder had prevented it from receiving any light.

“ ‘We didn’t know straight away what we were looking at, but we knew that we had observed something important,’ Ackroyd says.

“They began playing with the idea of manipulating the light that hits grass and by the next year were projecting light through an old 35mm Kodak projector onto a swath of grass on the wall.”

What to think as the grass withers and dies? It’s kind of a Dorian Gray scenario.

Read more about the project at Wired‘s Raw File, here.

Photograph: Ackroyd & Harvey.
Myles, Basia, Nath and Alesha, The Big Chill Festival, Eastnor Castle, between the Cotswolds and the Welsh Marches. 2007

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More curiosities seen on the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston: Waves. The first wave pictured below has a sign saying, “From the Greenway.” The second says, “From the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.”

This website helps to explain that an urban collaboration led by artists Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman is behind this project, “The Wave: An Interactive Public Art Installation Fostering Global H20 Awareness.” I love it, but it didn’t raise my water awareness immediately because I had trouble figuring out what it was. Thank goodness for Google.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote to the Greenway people (and to the city of Boston) about bikers who were using the Greenway paths despite signs saying not to use “bicycles, skateboards, personal transportation, i.e. Segway.” I like that people bike instead of use cars, but not on footpaths. The signs cause walkers to lower their guard. I’ve seen near misses.

The city wrote me: “Thank you so much for your email. It is illegal to ride on the Greenway. We at the City of Boston are aware of this issue. We will be installing a bike lane on the road for the cyclists this season. Research shows that that bike lanes dramatically reduce sidewalk riding.”

The Greenway people wrote: ” For the safety and enjoyment of all Greenway visitors, biking is not permitted anywhere in the parks. When our horticultural and maintenance staffs witness a cyclist, they will ask them to dismount; City of Boston Police Department handles enforcement.  … The City of Boston installed five new Hubway stations along the Greenway.  This fall, the City will be installing painted bike lanes onto the street which will help alleviate the problem in the parks.”

(At the moment the Boston police are more preoccupied with Occupy Boston. They arrested 141 Occupiers early Tuesday because they had spread into the Greenway from Dewey Square. Funny how a few days can change one’s perspective. Today the concerns of the Occupiers and the concerns of the police both seem more serious than bikes on footpaths.)



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