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ART SPACE ECOLOGY Two Views - Twenty Interviews JOHN K. GRANDE

BLACK ROSE BOOKS Montreal/New York/Chicago/London

Copyright Š 20 19 Black Rose Books No part of this book may be repro duced or transmitted in any form, by any means electro nic or mechanical including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system - without written permission from the publisher, or, in the case of photocopying or other reprograpnlc copying, a license from the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency, Access Copyright, with the exception of brief passages quoted by a reviewer in a newspaper or magazine. Black Rose Books No. TT 395

library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Grande, John K., author, interviewer Art, space, ecology : two views, twenty interviews/ John K. Grande. Issued in print and electronic formats. ISBN 978-1-55164-696-1 (paperback).--ISBN 978-1-55164-698-5 {hardcover).--ISBN 978-1-55164-700-5 (PDF) 1. Art--Themes, motives. 2. Artists--lnterviews. I. Title.

N7560.G73 2018




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John K. Grande

Table of Contents Foreword by Edward Lucie-Smith Introduction by John K. Grande

4 6

A leading figure in art and ecology, John K. Grande is author of a range of books that include Balance: Art and Nature (Black Rose Books, 1994), Intertwining: Landscape,

Technology, Issues, Artists (Black Rose Books, 1998), Jouer avec le feu: Armand


Vaillancourt: Sculpteur engage (Montreal: Lanctot, 2001), Art Nature Dialogues (SUNY Press, New York 2003), Dialogues in Diversity; Art from Marginal to Mainstream (Pari,

Paul Walde: Requiem for a Glacier Jason decaires Taylor: Rising Waters Jan-Erik Andersson: Form Follows Fun Milos Sejn: Walking Past Babylon Buster Simpson: It's About Habitat Peter Hutchinson: With Nature in Mind Lise Autogena & Joshua Portway: Environments in Conflict Chris Booth: Sculpture in Ecolution The Harrisons: How Big is Here? Pilar Ovalle: Nature In Place Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas: Best to Love Bugs David Maisel: Tapping Topography Alan Sonfist: Culture Nature David Mach: DISRUPTOR Haesim Kim: Contemplating Nature NILS-UDO: Towards Nature Gyenis Tibor: Photo Actionism Dennis Oppenheim: Putting the Public back into Public Art Robert Polidori: Ars Memoria Henrique Oliveira: Being and Form

14 24 31 44 51 60 69 76 88 95 100 108 116 129 136 144 153 .159 167 174

Italy 2007).

Art in Nature (Korean edition) won the Public Book Prize from the Ministry of Culture, South Korea in 2012. Grande has published countless catalogue essays on artists in Ireland, Belgium, India, Hungary, Czech Republic, Canada, UK, Spain, Poland, Japan, Norway and the United States. Recent books include NILS-UDO; Sur /'Eau (Actes Sud, France, 2015), Az erzekeles kapui / Gates of Perception (T3, Transylvania, 2016),

Nadalian (Paradise Art Center, Persian Gulf, lran, 2017), Bob Verschueren; Ecos de la Memoria (Valencia, Spain, 2016) and In) Formation -Alice Teichert Recent Paintings (Hirmer Verlag, Germany, 2017). John K. Grande's Earth Art shows, curated six times for the Royal Botanical Gardens, and for Van Dusen Gardens in Vancouver, B.C., the Pori Art Museum, Finland (2011), Meran, Italy (2014), and the Pan Am Games have won awards, including Garden Exhibition of the Year Award from the Canadian Garden Council in 2015. In 2016 John K. Grande co-curated Small Gestures at the Mucsarnok / Kunsthalle, Budapest, Hungary. He was awarded Doctor Honoris Causa, by the University of Pees, Pees, Hungary in 2015. His writings have been published extensively in Artforum, Vice Versa, Art Papers, British Journal of Photography, Public Art Review, Ciel Variable, Lensculture On Paper, Arte.Es, Artichoke, Border Crossings, Public Art Review and Landscape Architecture.

FOREWORD Science is Romanticism - or vice versa

to an increasing consciousness of the way in which the components of this whole - ranging from the almost unimaginably large to the less than

In his introductory essay to this book John K. Grande declares: "The process of art brings us back home to nature." He might also perhaps have added that it also brings us back home to science.

microscopically small - relate to one another. The contents of this book are therefore fragments of a huge process of finding out. Finding out what the world is made, how these components

Recent years have witnessed a remarkable coming together of art and

work, how they rhyme together. The search for inter-relationships is one

science, especially where ecological instances are concerned. Artists have

of the reasons why they classify themselves as art, rather than purely

examined nature, using both new concepts provided to them by advances

as science, though it is now in fact impossible entirely to separate the

in scientific research, and new tools provided by evolving and advancing

two realms.

technology. This process is not in itself new. It can be traced back to the European Romantic Movement. Was¡it not Wordsworth who said:

I think one overlooked factor in this process has been the breaking down of barriers between what are traditionally thought of as European ways of thinking- a pragmatism focused on the idea of the human - and culturally

To me the meanest flower that blows can give Thoughts to do often lie too deep for tears.

different traditions. To offer a crude illustration of this, there is the fact that the European tradition, when it is a matter of what to depict, tends to focus on the human

In fact, it is possible to claim that the real roots of the European Romantic

body, while other traditions, Chinese and Japanese for example, tend to

Movement in the arts are in fact to be found in an apparently paradoxical

look elsewhere - at the landscape that surrounds that body, enfolds it,

place - in the European Enlightenment: the rejection of long-held irrational

diminishes it in the service of depicting the immensity of its surroundings.

beliefs that made itself felt in the mid-18th century. In fact, as the two lines

The moment one says this, however, one thinks of the drawings (not the

just quoted indicate, the two impulses developed hand in hand. The result has been somewhat paradoxical. As a unifying god was replaced

paintings) of Leonardo da Vinci. On the one hand there are the sheets that represent the first true steps into scientific anatomy - dissections of the

from the centre of European consciousness, it was replaced by a worship of

human body that explore mechanisms not till then fully known. On the other

science. The rites of this new religion nevertheless led its participants

hand there are the turbulent landscape drawings - the Deluges - made by

towards an ever-increasing sense of wonder concerning not only the

Leonardo at the very end of his life, when he was living at Amboise.

complexity of the continuously expanding universe they inhabited, but also

The Royal Collection Trust, which owns them, describes them thus:

A series of eleven drawings by Leonardo of a mighty

On the other hand, there is the desire to make sense of the world that

deluge are among the most enigmatic and visionary

immediately surrounds us. This, in present circumstances, often seems to

works of the Renaissance. Modest in size and densely

create conflicts between different ways of formulation. More specifically,

worked, each shows a landscape overwhelmed by a vast

between what is seen, how it is shown, and how what is shown can be


formulated in words. Add to this, two further complications. There is no such thing as seeing

These are not works of detached examination, like the anatomical drawings,

any object or event without the act of seeing being affected both by cultural

but are instead seismic outbursts of Leonard's visionary imagination. Yet

context, and by, in addition, the personal life-experiences of the individual

at the same time we recognise that they are extrapolations from things

viewer. The same considerations apply to formulations in words, through

minutely observed in the world of facts.

which we try to describe what it is that has been seen.

Essentially the contemporary works examined in this book oscillate

Every image in this book, every description of an image, every formulation

between the two worlds that Leonardo's genius inhabited. Without the

of what that image means or contains, is inevitably going to be culturally

force of imagination behind them, they would lose their power. The universe inhabited by these contemporaries is infinitely more

inflected - not just once, but at least twice over. First at its source. Then at the point where it is received.

complicated than that known to Leonardo, or indeed to any of his

One of the lessons of modern science, in one of its most important roles,

contemporaries. More complicated, indeed, than that known to the

which is as an examination of human psychology, is that there is really no

rationalizing sages of the European Enlightenment, or to the poets and

such thing as universal vision, even when what is presented comes with all

artists of the Romantic Movement, who aimed to give Enlightenment

the trappings of scientific proof. In contemporary art, conspicuously, every

discoveries an emotional resonance that would replace the displaced,

practitioner "sees" differently. And everyone who is presented with what

but now self-evidently too narrow, religious certainties of the past.

calls itself art receives the experience offered in a way peculiar to himself

The problems that today's artists confront are complex. There is, on the one hand, the unstoppable expansion of scientific knowledge, to the

or herself. Read this book to find out.

point where all boundaries are fleeing away. The one certainty offered by knowledge of this kind is that the boundaries of what can be known are constantly receding, fleeing away just as we reach out to grasp them.

- Edward Lucie-Smith Two Views - Twenty Interviews 5

INTRODUCTION Aesthetics connects to the physical world we are all part of. And nature is

be possible we will not recognize the art forms of the future, but they will

part of that physical world, so much so that whatever we enact in, around,

always involve the physical world, the physics of this world and universe. If

with or against nature has repercussions for us all. Today's arts practice

it does not we probably won't be around. I believe we will, as we evolve

can involve connective aesthetics, a relational involvement between the

new adaptive technologies that work with nature rather than against

artist, a variety of cultures, the environment and the public. "Artists to my

it. And regenerative art forms, art forms that play with these new

mind are the real architects of change, and not the political legislators

technologies, and with nature could be part of that evolution. I recently

who implement change after the fact,"1 William S. Burroughs commented

had to answer questions on national radio about public commissions

years ago. Cultural memory, aesthetics and art will not survive without

for a new mega-hospital in Canada (all of which was removed from

constant renewal, transformation and change. Art and ecology are a

the broadcast), stating we need green places in our hospitals, gardens

source of renewal for art, for design, for science, and so many areas in

and places for relaxing, for being in contact with nature, not immense

which humans participate on planet earth.

photo reproductions of nature, or gigantesque models of stethoscopes

The journey is eternal, and the voices of our era that have resonance

in stainless steel. How unimaginative and stultifying these artists have

understand the place of music, of dance, and of life as being a theatre ...

become and the generic public art they create! I guess they need a job!

the stage is Mother Earth. We all live on Stage Mother Earth. And we are

Dennis Oppenheim's public art commissions move the other way, for they

a part of the earth, along with innumerable other species, life forms, some

engage society, issues of our times, almost as a story teller would.

disappearing now, just as the languages and dialects are disappearing.

The popularity of art in nature has sporadically gone up and down over

Language, like art, presents a series of world-views, and when a language

the decades, from Land Art to Earth Art to Bio-art. Joseph Beuys, Hans

disappears, so does that world-view.

Haacke, Allan Kaprow, and many others advanced a social environmental

Art as a process can be slow. It does not have to be fast. And art can

art, with performance, object sculpture that had a narrative, and in which

connect to the natural world and engage with living species, and with the

the art object integrated a nature-related phenomenology. Herbert Sayer's

elements. The rift between our place and nature - ever present - can be healed.

ancient earth mound at Sil bury Hill, a societal collective creation dating to

Art Space Ecology presents two views in each of its interviews - so

2400 BC. Though it is more modest, it suggests a reconnecting to ancient

it is actually forty views! All this is part of a necessary evolution. It may

art, something the postmodern art era we just went through was unable

Earth Mound (1954) in Aspen, Colorado recalls the largest artificial and

to do in its endless quest for copious quasi-originality.

piece of land in the Czech Republic to build a Solar Mountain, complete

Peter Hutchinson's landscape interventions in Mexico, the West Indies,

with a stream that runs through it, bells and healing stones. It's a place

and his landscape actions and interventions opened up a whole new field

for contemplation and renewal, a remarkable initiative less well known

of the world for art actions and installations within the natural world. In

than it should be. It's never too late to evolve aesthetics, to integrate

Art Space Ecology, Dennis Oppenheim, talks of his transition from Land

nature into the world of art. Wasn't nature always part of art? Why the

Artist to that of coordinating and conceiving public art commissions.

great distancing from nature in contemporary galleries? Almost all the

Alan Sonfist's lifetime commitment to the environment is the result of

great artists historically drew on nature as a source for their art. Aren't

a performative aesthetic of reconciliation of the great gap between

we a part of nature?

humanity and nature. Sonfist's Time Landscape (1965-1978-present) in

Art, Space, Ecology; Two Views Twenty Interviews establishes through

New York City set an environmental precedent in contemporary art when

its cross-cultural informality natural ways for students, artists, designers,

it was conceived, building a bridge to the first generation of Land art, but

landscape architects, planners and the general readers of perceiving

moving in a less minimalist or object-oriented direction towards art with,

the creative forum anew. The intention is close to anthropology, a way of

just as NILS-UDO's early art installations and plantings did. The "poetic

presenting examples and viewpoints so as to open up a multi-cultural

dimension" of NILS-UDO's art integrates nature and as was the case with

discourse, with an interwoven world-view where nature counts. These

The Blue Flower: Landscape for Heinrich von Ofterdingen (1993-1996)

artists' processes, as much as the objects produced, guide us with their

even an ecosystem with 10,000 wildflowers near Munich. NILS-UDO is

prototypes of ways of seeing, to new expressions and edifications of

truly a master! Modestly, he says his art is only a pretext to enhancing

place, identity, and community. Among the first Eco-Art pioneers who gen­

our awareness of nature itself.

erated a movement, Santa Cruz artists Newton and Helen Mayer Harrison

With the Anthropocene, increasing pressures on resources, a new cultural

changed the course of art, working worldwide to develop prototypes for

hybridity that results from the intercultural effects of globalization has

greening civilization, including Green Heart of Holland and the much

evolved the language of art. The process of art brings us back home to

more ambitious Force Majeure project. The interdisciplinary approach

nature. Nature is ever persistent, a backdrop to humanity's inexhaustible

the Harrisons have taken involves biologists, ecologists, architects, urban

actions and interventions. Milos Sejn, whose early art events often involved

planners and the public. They initiate collaborative dialogues that uncover

simply walking, or moving through environments, evolved an abandoned

ideas and solutions which support biodiversity and community well being. Two Views - Twenty Interviews



Artists now work globally and exchange globally, often avoiding the

clear in the Charter for the Earth and for Man: "The systematic tampering

traditional arts centres, and with a sense that aesthetics of place, .

with landscapes all over the earth, and the consequent ecological and

of site, of community really do matter. Understanding contemporary

aesthetic decay, cause the irreparable loss of the symbolic values

art need not require a mere trick, or idea, or throwaway concept. Art

embedded in the landscapes themselves.'?

need not be purely idea-based, even though ideas are exciting. Nature

We are in the process of re-evaluating the great distance between

designs unconsciously, preternaturally, and can adapt the ways we

ourselves, the economies that involve us and nature, whose elements

design, produce, and create. Buster Simpson's remarkable projects have involved a range of 21st

provide the source of all production. The physical world and the tactile sensory experience is a cue for working environmentally. An ecology of

century issues including localizing water resources within cities, building

materials and culture is indivisible from the environments we live in. And

sculptures with a poetic utility. His commissions serve to preserve shore­

they are changing as a result of human intervention, population growth,

lines as the sea level rises, and his other shelter sculptures like the

and irresponsible practices in resource use and harvesting. Science helps

Wickiups reify and establish new connections with Kickapoo Amerindian

to evolve new systems that can offset these human impacts, and art

traditions in the American west.

plays a role.

South Korea's Haesim Kim works with great sensitivity and understanding,

The artists in Art Space Ecology are from a diverse range of backgrounds,

delicately intertwining aspects of self, nature, and community. Her art

and their various practices reflect the diversity of a world where many

actions are close to life while the results are close to autobiography.

currents and sources and influences all come together to produce a

Art and even society's relation to nature is more than a dialogue, for it

beautiful new hybridity that evolves our perspectives on the world we are

proffers the development of a new paradigm, new ways of envisioning the

in. For the Coast Salish or Haida of British Columbia, something as simple

processes, and the essence of the artist's gesture. As the landscape and

as a stone carved pile driver for installing fishing nets in the river to catch

environment change on our planet, artists' engagement with these issues

fish was art. Art was indivisible from society and society inseparable from

increasingly moves from a theoretical and conceptual bias (something

the natural world. The natural world remains a context for contemporary

early Land Art emphasized) to direct action and process-oriented art or

art as much as the world of images, of imagery, whether on a screen, in

art that involves landscape integration as part of its vernacular. Art and

a video, or as photography. Seen in sculpture parks, collections and in

ecology are central to future artistic practice as Massimo Morasso made

public artworks, Chris Booth's art process draws on indigenous Maori


and Aboriginal characteristics, capturing aspects of topography, natural

When we look at the design and aesthetics, even the architecture, of

history, landscape forms and more recently mushroom culture. Booth

traditional cultures, we can see a seemingly universal functional poetic

categorizes these works as Slabs, Earth Blankets, Boulder works, Columns

aspect to art and design. Jan-Erik Andersson's Life on a Leaf house

and Living Sculptures.

in Turku, Finland, planned with architect Erkki Pitkaranta, found its

Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas' Year of the Blink (2017) evolves a new

inspiration from a short story Andersson wrote about a leaf. The story

Haida Manga hybridity ingeniously, while his sculpture and art reflects his

goes that August Strindberg was painting in the Vita bergen in Stockholm

Haida ancestry and traditions. Yahgulanaas' Haida Manga vernacular, like

and a drop of his paint fell on a leaf. The leaf flew with the wind over to

Flight of the Hummingbird an earlier Haida Manga story of connectivity

Turku and landed on a window sill in Turku Castle where King Erik XIV

to nature, exemplify the potential of intercultural evolution in art of the

was imprisoned. The King drew a heart shape on the condensation of the

future. The Anthropocene reflects the impact of human activity, and if we

window and the leaf then flew off and landed on the site where Andersson

are to survive as a species, we have to regulate, integrate and evolve our

was to build his Life on a Leaf house! A collaboration with artists, the Life

actions and lifestyles globally. Paul Walde's actions and events including

on a Leaf house is where Andersson and his family now live.

Requiem for a Glacier (2014) and Tom Thomson Centennial Swim (2017)

Art Space Ecology integrates three different photographers who have

generate and connect new communities of people in the art world and

engaged the environment in altogether different ways. David Maisel's

world at large. It's a positive direction art in our times is taking.

overviews of the earth present near abstract ways of seeing geo-structures

Like culture, nature has become an untouchable, a distant phe­

and morphologies. Maisel presents the very life forces of the earth as if

nomenon we often do not engage with. It is interesting to realize that

the earth were a living body, which it is. Robert Polidori's photographs, of

Silicon Valley parents - with full knowledge of the impacts of screen-bred

the flooding in New Orleans, or of ruined or disintegrating structures are

technology- encourage their children to be tech-free! Images of nature,

food for thought. Tibor Gyenis, like Jeff Wall, produces setups and then

images that represent culture can supersede the living culture. It must

photographs them, but these setups have an environmental and social

be primordial ancient wiring that algorithms stimulate that draws us to

context Gyenis reifies through his art.

image-based screen bred experience ... but nature is a primordial memory

What remains in the insights, in the two views and twenty interviews

door. It can stimulate storytelling, and enhance the imagination through

is a parable of civilization, and on the power of nature, but equally how

real cues, so many cues ...

interesting we humans are, for what we have done and how we adapt, Two Views - Twenty Interviews 9


create, react. Paul Walde's environmental Requiem for a Glacier verges

choreography is in real time ... And as actors we can see a relation

on suggesting a new Romanticism generated by climate change, a

between body and land. lntercultural and inter-species exchange is a

distant echo of Caspar David Friedrich's paintings. Jason deCaires

key to survival. Lise Autogena and Joshua Portway's Foghorn Requiem, a

Taylor's sub-aquatic art parks include the MUSA (Museo Subacuatico de

coordinated concert with boats, foghorns, and an orchestra at the Souter

Arte) near Cancun, Isla Mujeres, and Punta Nizuc, and the Canary Islands,

Lighthouse near Newcastle, their work in Greenland, and Black Shoals

and the Museo Atlantiico in Lanzarote, Europe's first underwater museum.

project, each involve commitment to community and environmental issues

The figures in deCaires Taylor's PhNeutral cement castings of people

in an age of globalization.

and scenarios exist in a world we may never have visited, threatened

We can see the earth as a body. We can treat the earth as a body. We

by climate change, overfishing, ocean acidification, and habitat loss.

could see our bodies as the land. We could treat our bodies as the land.

With coral reefs declining and dying, and the incredible volume of plastic

We can respect the land as if it were our own bodies.

in our oceans, that damages and threatens sea life, deCaires Taylor's

In a system that relies on abstraction of value, and where capital is

underwater sculptures provides environments for regenerating coral,

based on credit systems, there is no ethic of cause and effect. And so

algae, and underwater life.

disruption, destruction, resource extraction and external developments are

The digitization of the artifact, of culture, moves us away from the direct

justified as creating jobs. These are short-term jobs and false credit is an

experience of the physical world, even from spoken word and immediate

illusion. Caring for, and regulating, resource use and regenerating renewable

social connectivity. Wisdom, acquired over time, is discarded like so

resources are integral futuristic values for all humanity. Look at the forests,

much trash, while data trash grows exponentially. Art can embody mutual

the fisheries, the underground and underwater resources depleting. There

respect between the artist and the social and natural context of the world

are limits to growth. As Iceland has done, we can establish that nature's

in which we live. At its best it carries an energy with it and shares it. The

credit is real value.

artist/actor is involved in reactivating the human imagination, and this

Pilar Ovalle's sculptures and assemblages involve wood gathering in the

process involves an understanding of the NATURAL CAPITAL of the world

Chilean forests and capturing discarded wood. Pilar Ovalle brings together

that exists in all its geopolitical regions. We can share this understanding

weather-worn and discarded wood to build artworks that are a language in

of the capital of nature with the global community.

their own right - intricate, intimate, eco-social, always art. The story her

We need to exercise our souls, individually and collectively! The

sculptures tell is eternal. Brazilian sculptor Henrique Oliveira produces very


powerful installations, on-site interventions that recycle fund plywood into

remove all from nature. The word wilderness was probably invented by a

ingenious environments - structures that express the incredible force of

civilization that cultivated the land. The definition according to dictionaries

nature - amid the architecture and structures we build. Understanding the

is "... a tract or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings."

limits to resources is actually liberating. We do more with less, and challenge

Environment presupposes a centre, something that surrounds - environs.

our creativity with a poetic utilitarianism. This is where art can come in. For

Again, a structural diagnosis is applied to what is a fluid ecological system

at has always been part of a living culture. It is seldom clinically diagnosed

- nature. Technology and the pragmatic assumptions it carries presupposes

in living cultures. Art is too close to life!

a structural formula even for that which is - the world as it is. And so the

Anxiety is produced by the fabrication of volumes of products. David

notion of progress is built into technology. Technology drives progress so to

Mach's immersive installations, with their tons of recycled magazines and

speak, and technology's imperative is controlling. Our inner psyches clash

materials, are real life evidence of what we consume, now transformed into

with images and the intuitive imagination is fed by nature; the uncontrolled

eco-Baroque environments of magazine refuse, cars, trucks, objects of

ever-increasing volumes of data and imagery build a stultified aesthetic,

consumer culture. David Mach's media landscapes are sublime, as are his

while nature encourages an integrative dialogue. A story develops ...

full metal jacket found tree forms, and clever collage works!

How does the artist express with the language of his or her own culture?

Sometimes, actions, transitions, and transformations can change our

Is that language inter-cultural or mono-cultural? Hybridity has been with

perspective, our way of seeing what art can be. Transformations are not just

us forever as civilizations fall, and others borrow and adapt aspects of

caused by people, but by animals, fish, ants ... The questions that preoccupy

those past civilizations. And so intercultural exchange is a necessary part

any of us are much the same questions that preoccupy any person almost

of evolution. How does the currency of art's monetization devalue regional

anywhere on earth. What is a resource? Are resources something we extract

cultures? As the world's art machine turns, absorbs and commodities

or remove, or something we can regenerate for future generations? Inner

cultural specificity, the artifacts of object culture and the market leave

resources can enrich us. Empiricism or reason delegates a certain table of

many of those artist individuals bereft as they are simultaneously absorbed

contents for the earth but the spirit delegates a different menu.

into the global culture. The smart ones are not! They maintain integrity,

The bank of nature has been and continues to be emptied. The earth

geo-specific values, and exhibit worldwide. As cultural diversity is sanitized

still has some reserves in the bank of nature. But beware! There will be

it becomes part of the gap between synthetic image and data culture and

nothing in the account for the world of the future when global interests

the physical world. Perceived within a pragmatic vein, new technologies Two Views - Twenty Interviews



are not at all pragmatic. They encourage a passive culture, a visuality that

the source of all economy. Natural capital is largely ignored as is the well

is panoptic and unfocussed but always informational. Out of focus or the

being that comes from natural and sustained environments.

cult of distraction is today's culturally and economically mandated mantra.

We discover the same phenomena in the world of contemporary art

An art that involves an exchange with nature's living systems is direct

as in the world of oil. The valuation of art is as arbitrary as that of


all resources. Art with no context, with no place or pretext in the living

Climate change has arrived. The anthropologist Wade Davis has written

world seems to be highly valued. Art that represents a disconnect from

in The Wayfinders,

the physical and natural world we live in is a commodity like any other. The pathways we make, that pass through the lands of the earth, involve

As a result of global warming the lnnu hunting season has been

choices. The choices are social, aesthetic, practical, and involve the

cut in half. New species of birds like robins have appeared in the

natural world.

Arctic. There is then this tragedy and perhaps the inspiration of the Arctic. A people that have endured so much - epidemic disease, the

The nature-culture exchange is eternal. Life is sacred. Life is sacred. We are a part of life. Nature is the art of which we are a part.

humiliation and violence of the residential schools, the culture of poverty inherent in the welfare system, drug and alcohol exposure leading to suicide rates six times that of southern Canada, now on the very eve of their emergence as a culture reborn politically, socially and psychologically - find themselves confronted by a force beyond their capacity to resist. The ice is melting... 4 Economy stems from the same roots as ecology. Nature is the house we all live in. Nature is the capital. We are a part of nature. Our social capital is always based on natural capital. The land, the air, water and all living species that makes up the Earth's biosphere are the source of any real security. Our ecosystem ensures our survival and well-being. Nature is

1. William S. Burroughs quote sourced at http://www.azquotes.com/quote/42353 2. Charter for the Earth and for Man (Arenzano Charter, 2001), Massimo Morasso 3. Wilderness, definition of, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wilderness 4. Wade Davis, The Wayfinders; Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World, Toronto: House of Anansi, 2009. p. 213

Two Views - Twenty Interviews


Requiem for a Glacier Paul Walde

Paul Walde is an artist, composer, and curator.

(2016 and 2017). In 2013, he completed Requiem

Art Centre in Nelson, BC (2014); and The Langham

Walde's body of work suggests unexpected inter­

for a Glacier, a site-specific sound performance

Cultural Centre in Kaslo, BC (2013).

connections between landscape, identity, and

featuring a fifty-five-piece choir and orchestra live

In 2012 he relocated to Victoria, BC, where

technology. Recent exhibitions of his work in­

on the Farnham Glacier in the Purcell Mountains.

he is Associate Professor of Visual Arts and

clude: Au Loin Une Tie at Mains d'CEuvres in Paris,

Requiem for a Glacier was subsequently developed

Department Chair at the University of Victoria.

France (2018), Records and Wireframes at Dundee

into a multichannel sound and video installation

Walde is a founding member of Audio Lodge,

Contemporary Arts as part of the NEoN Festival of

which has been the basis of solo exhibitions at

a Canadian sound art collective and EMU

Digital Media in Dundee, Scotland (2017), and The

WKP Kennedy Gallery in North Bay, ON (2017);

Experimental Music Unit a Victoria-based sound

View from Up Here at the Anchorage Museum and

L'Universite Laval Art Gallery in Quebec City, QC; Art Gallery at Evergreen, Coquitlam, BC; Oxygen


the Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum in Ttomse, Norway

Dance, Alaska Variations, Dance 1,

2015-2016, Still from 3 channel 4K video installation with quadrophonic sound. Photo courtesy of the artist.

JKG: Can you tell me about Requiem for a Glacier?

development project culminating with the BC

It seems like an offering back to nature...

Government's approval of the project in 2012.

PW: Yes, the work was conceived as a premature

JKG: Who did the composition?

Requiem for the Farnham Glacier, which is still there, but shrinking every day and is under threat

PW: I did the composition, this was my first piece

from a major ski resort development project.

for orchestra and vocals, and my largest piece

The piece was written and performed for the

to date. I started working with music notation

glacier - there was no audience. Imagining a

in 2000 for my exhibition Northern Symphony at

memorial service the piece celebrates the Glacier,

V. MacDonnell Gallery in 2001, in which I com-

wishes it eternal (after) life, and discusses some

posed a five-movement string quartet based on

Requiem for a Glacier, 2015-2016 Still from 3 channel 4K video installation

of the causes of death including the build-up of

beaver-gnawed markings on a tree trunk felled in

with quadrophonic sound Photo courtesy of the artist.

C02 in the atmosphere and a history of the resort

front of my studio. With Requiem, I was able to Two Views - Twenty Interviews


ART SPACE ECOLOGY expand on my ideas of music and classical music

on land into the Purcell Mountains on a logging

immersed in nature (Canoe Lake), as Tom was an

as a signifier of "high culture." This indicates to

road from lnvermere. Up until two days before we

artist who never segregated the nature from so-

the audience that a cultural activity is taking

went to the site, the road in was closed due to

called human activities ...

place. By performing a site-specific work in the

mudslides caused by global warming heating up

landscape it implies in a general sense that the

high altitude permafrost that normally remains

PW: The synchronized swimmers and musicians

landscape itself is a part of the culture. Of course

frozen. I had to make arrangements to feed and

are indicators that something cultural is taking

Indigenous cultures have been saying this for mil-

house this group, and ensure that nothing was

place in the landscape, that the landscape is a

lennia, but North American society is late to the

left on the site, including human waste. As you

site for cultural activity. In the piece, the swim-

game on this concept.

can imagine, this was quite the undertaking. The

ming routines referred to log runs, a regular sight

JKG: Did it involve a lot of logistics?

piece ended up having a strong activist aspect to it and because of this many people from both

on Canoe Lake 100 years ago, as well as clocks and the passage of time - both forwards and

PW: I've given a one hour talk on this topic alone! I

sides of the Kootenays were interested in being involved. In that respect the community engage-

Centennial. Part of the work was to confront the

spent a year and a half working on the logistics for

ment with the work's concept made it possible.

stark irony that Thomson's favourite subject, the

this project. I had help from Kiara Lynch, the cur-

From a mountaineering perspective, I was lucky

lake, was also what literally consumed him. The

backwards, with references to Canada's 1968

ator of the Langham Cultural Centre, which was the

enough to have Pat Morrow, who is the first person

idea of combining a distance swimming event

original partnering organization for the project, and

to climb all seven summits of the seven continents

was a way to tempt fate and an opportunity for exploring and understanding this landscape and

it was Kiara who first invited me to the Kootenays

on both lists. Pat was the one who first got us into

to do a project. The project involved close to 100

Farnham in 2012 for a site visit and put us in touch

history through performative experience. The water

people. 55 performers, drivers, sherpas, catering,

with some of the best mountaineering guides in

was cold and a dark tea-color, currents in Canoe

a mountaineering safety crew, and a film crew.

the business. Pat also volunteered with the crew

Lake were unpredictable between the islands;

Months of vocal rehearsals and three days of pri-

as a videographer.

even though I'd spent several days on the lake

Logistically, we had to arrange to get everyone

JKG: For the Tom Thomson Centennial Swim you

it was easy to get disoriented - which is exactly what happened during the event. I was carried off

to this remote location which is a four-hour drive

had choreographed swimmers and it was truly

course by strong currents and wind and ended up

mary rehearsals with the whole group in Nelson.

REQUIUM FOR A GLACIER very close to where Thomson's body was discov­

PW: There was a musical component: Passing

ered. This was not part of the plan, the plan was

Through Water was written to accompany the

to swim the shortest course from the south end

3 km swim of the length of Canoe Lake. The piece

of the lake to the Tom Thomson Memorial Cairn

was written for four brass instruments and mando­

at the north end. These descriptions of the water,

lin (which is the instrument that Thomson played)

what it was like under the surface of things are not

.The metre and time signatures are adapted from

evident in Thomson's paintings. The swim itself

my stroke rate, and the relationship to my kick and

represents the struggle that it takes to survive in

strokes, which alternate from a 6/4 in the first half

the landscape and the formidable force that it is.

to a 4/4 in the second half. I wanted the score

The piece also attempts to highlight how young

to be something that could have been created at

Canada and Canada's non-indigenous art history

any time in the past 100 years. Erik Satie's time­

really is. It's amazing that Duchamp's Fountain

less work was an inspiration for this. undertaking,

was exhibited for the first time the same year as

particularly Vexations and the Gnossiennes (both

Thomson's death. The event was designed around

c.1893). Distance swimming is a very repetitious,

the principle concept of travelling 100 years: start­

rhythmic, and meditative activity so this score

ing in 2017 at one end of the lake, arriving at 1917

attempts to create a work that is at once dirge­

on the day of Thomson's death at the mid-point,

like, hypnotic, yet transformative. One of the lim-

and returning to 2017 by the end of the swim. A

itations of the piece was to compose a work over

communion for Thomson took place at the mid-

45 minutes long that could fit on marching band

point, July 8th 1917, with a minute of silence which

lyres, miniature portable music stands that clip

was recorded at the bottom of the lake.

to instruments, so that musicians could perform from canoes; this was accomplished by writing

JKG: Was there a musical component?

a modular score in which repeated sections and elements are interleaved sonically.

Tom Thomson Centennial Swim {2017) documentation of a site specific event. Photo by Andrew Wright, courtesy of the artist.

Two Views - Twenty Interviews



Tom Thomson Centennial Swim (2017) documentation of a site specific event. Photo by Andrew Wright, courtesy of the artist.

REQUIUM FOR A GLACIER JKG: Was Murray Schafer an inspiration to you for

was used as a cultural signifier in contrast to in-

the environmental cultural approach you have?

formation found in nature. This approach to using standard music notation was more recently used

PW: R. Murray would be more of an antecedent

in Requiem for a Glacier, a live, site-specific sound

than a direct influence to my work, primarily being

performance featuring a fifty-five-piece choir and

that it has been difficult to experience much of this

orchestra on the Farnham Glacier in the Purcell

work first hand and recordings are not that easy to

Mountains. The Requiem was a four-movement

come by. That said, I do deeply respect the work he

oratorio derived from found texts relating to the

has done and continues to do especially around

politics of the site and climate data. Also signifi-

defining acoustic ecology and his work directly in

cant to the development of Alaska Variations is the

the landscape such as the Patria series. However,

fact that the Requiem was adapted into a sound

I'm far more influenced by the work of John Cage

and video gallery work. This work combined per-

whose thinking, concepts, and music have all been

formance footage with additional footage of the

a direct influence.

site and performative vignettes featuring some of the players from the initial performance.

JKG: How did you evolve into doing projects like Alaska Variations?

During the past twenty years I've also worked with graphic notation, in which visual information describes the music to be played instead of stan-

PW: Music and sound composition have been a

dard music notation. Most of my work in this area

part of my artistic practice since the year 2000

has been in arranging information from nature

when I started work on Northern Symphony, an in-

directly and performing from these arrangements

stallation that featured a score for a string quartet

of materials, such as mushroom spores. In addi-

based on beaver-gnawed markings left on a tree

tion to this, I've been interested in verbal notation,

felled in front of my studio in Northern Ontario,

or instructional scores, in which prose is used to

Canada. In this work, classical music composition

give direction to the performers. This type of score Two Views - Twenty Interviews


ART SPACE ECOLOGY makes the most sense when the goals of the work

had receded I noticed that the ski pole, when tra­

for potentially realizing some of the instructional

are less musical, more conceptual, scientific or

versing the ice, could make a sonic description of

scores, as I was looking for relatively quiet spaces

indeterminate. Over the years I've amassed a fairly

the thickness and character of the ice and space

near the city that would accommodate travelling

large collection of these scores, which for the most

under it. This was the origin of Ice Record, one of

with equipment, crew and musicians. While there

part are unrealized. Indeed many are unrealizable

nine pieces in Alaska Variations.

due to their visionary nature.

I became interested in the distribution of the flora

Upon returning to Victoria BC, where I currently

on the side of Little O'Malley peak, which according

Since I began my professional practice in 1994,

live and work, I added this score to others that I

to subsequent research, is in flux due to climate

I've used landscape as a device to discuss issues

had previously written. It occurred to me then that

change. I decided to map the existing vegetation

of identity, technology, and the pressures facing

several of these scores could be realized in Alaska

and translate the location and size of the trees and

the environment. Global warming became a focus

and that realizing them in this environment would

shrubs in to standard notation, each species being

of this investigation in 2003 following a research

produce variations of these pieces that would re­

represented by a group of instruments. The result

trip to the Yukon during which I became aware of

flect the specifics of the time and place that they

was Glen Alps: a score written for tenor, soprano,

the issue of melting permafrost and the impact

were realized. As a collection they would resonate

string quartet, and percussion. Four variations of

this is having on the global climate.

metaphorically in concert with each another, pro­

this composition were prepared for the installation

ducing a sort of portrait of this environment.

and a musical theme that would help tie the dis­

In 2015, at the invitation of Anchorage Museum Director Julie Decker, I visited Alaska for the first

In addition to the instructional scores, I want­

parate elements of the album together. The libretto

time in a preliminary visit to prepare for my Polar

ed to revisit the approach I used for Northern

was based on the Latin names of the flora depicted

Lab residency the following year. During this visit

Symphony using the translation of found environ­

in the work.

I spent much of the time experimenting outside

mental information, as well as graphic notation

On the initial visit to the Glen Alps, I also dis­

with available materials and interacting directly

based on forms in nature. My subject for both

covered a high concentration of moose gnawings

with the landscape. On a day trip to Matanuska

approaches presented itself shortly after arriving

on the trees on the trails leading to Little O'Malley.

Glacier with Anchorage artist Michael Conti, I

in Anchorage in February 2016 when I visited the

I have been working with evidential markings left

became interested in the sound of our ski poles

Glen Alps Trail head and View Point, which is part of

by animals in the environment in my work since

piercing the snow in an otherwise silent landscape.

the Chugach State Park, but located within the city

1995 but hadn't revisited this branch of investi­

Walking onto exposed ice under which the water

of Anchorage. I went to Glen Alps to scout locations

gation for over a decade. Though I'd grown up in

REQUIUM FOR A GLACIER Northern Ontario near the Great Lakes and had

experience with graphic notation. Alex graciously

spent a good part of my adulthood there, I'd never

agreed to interpret the score entitled Gnaw IX,

as animations of the score were combined to ac­

seen moose gnawing to this extent, as the moose

which revisits the titling of previous gnaw-related

company the variations. The Glen Alps Variations

in the area use the trails for easy access to these

works from the early '90s, and which in turn were

include a straight recording which is used to ac­

trees. Previously in my work I'd used printmaking

named after a Janine Antoni work of the same title.

company the church shoot: a re-spatialized version

performance, performances for the camera as well

techniques for recording this information- relief

During my Polar Lab residency I decided to work

which sounds as though it's in a huge cathedral

printing and rubbings; however, in this situation

on realizing a series of scores for the camera that

which is used with the location shoot of the vocal­

the marks were too big and too inaccessible to

would serve as the basis of a multi-screen sound

ists, a backwards version in which the animation

capture in a practical manner. Some initial experi­

and video installation. I started with 8 scores all

of the score plays backwards and a final version

ments with photography also proved impractical

written prior to the residency, five of which were

which combines footage and audio from all of the

due to the nature of the markings, as well as the

realized: 5 Planes, Battery (retitled A// Terrain), Ice

scores into a mash up of the entire album.

scale, height, and location, which were off-trail

Record, Experimental Climate Change Research

in deep snow. In the end I decided upon a meth-

No.1, and Dance 1, as well as an additional vari-

to realize several ideas that I'd been developing

od that I hadn't yet used in crafting a graphic

ation of the Ice Record: Ice Groove and the afore-

for several years, including a variety of modes of

score: video. Panning up and down and across the

mentioned Gnaw 9 and Glen Alps.

scoring, work with local artists and musicians, and

Alaska Variations was an opportunity for me

tree trunks, I was able to capture these markings

The score for Glen Alps was written while in

the creation of a work whose focus is determined

and in post-production I was able to orchestrate

residency and immediately recorded at Surreal

largely by its adherence to a particular time and

the order in which the markings were to be played,

Sound by Anchorage Producer Kurt Reimann, with

place. The intersection of urban Alaska to the vast

as well as the speed and duration. While shooting

a quickly recruited ensemble of local musicians in­

wilderness that surrounds it allowed for a unique

the score, I imagined the voicing and techniques

cluding soloist Judy Berry of the Anchorage Opera

glimpse into human encroachment into northern

for realizing the score, and the work of New York

Company. Video shoots were conducted at the for-

wild spaces, and the effects of our presence there

cellist Alex Waterman came to mind, inspiring the

mer Love Church (now artist studios in Spenard)

and on the planet, while suggesting what is at

outcome of the score. Waterman is not only a

and on location at the Glen Alps Trail head and

stake in these relationships.

tremendously accomplished instrumentalist but

Lookout. Four variations of the recording were ere-

also a musicologist with extensive knowledge and

ated post-production and videos incorporating live Two Views - Twenty Interviews 21


Requiem for a Glacier, 2012-2014 Two channel video installation with stereosound. Solo image courtesy of the artist.


Two Views - Twenty Interviews 23

Rising Waters Jason deCaires Taylor Jason deCaires Taylor's sculptures involve a

far from the human sphere. Through their manu足

dramatic re-location of the human presence. In

facture, their selection as subjects, and eventual

2006, he established the first underwater sculp足

entropic change, they offer a new definition for

ture near the coast of Grenada in the West Indies.

sculpture as a way of facilitating and underwriting

It is now designated by National Geographic to

the inevitability of change. Adjacent to the Houses

be one of the 25 wonders of the world. A more

of Parliament in London and sited in the Thames

ambitious project, the MUSA (Museo Subacuatico

River, Rising Waters sculptures with children and

de Arte) was brought into existence in the wat足

businessmen on London "Shire horses" with heads

ers surrounding Cancun, Isla Mujeres, and Punta

that look like "nodding donkeys" - the nickname

Nizuc. The Cancun underwater marine park covers

for oil pumps - highlighted the effects on global

420 square metres of seabed, and includes 500

warming caused by the oil industry. The latest pro足

of Jason deCaires Taylor's continuously evolving

ject called Nexus, is at Sjoholmen, Norway. It has

permanent sculptures, in Cancun. Visited by over

human figures connected as if by an umbilical cord

250,000 visitors each year the site and sculptures

to the bottom of the sea and sends a message

are active catalysts in generating the recovery of

while encouraging undersea growth and life.

coral habitats and reefs. Art engages life! Jason deCaires Taylor's sculptures migrate to the underwater, a region we consider out of bounds,

Banker, 2011,

Isla Mujeres, Mexico pH neutral cement, glass fibre, aggregates

RISING WATERS JKG: It has been great getting to know of and

JKG: Museo Atlantico, off the coast at Lanza rote is

designed areas for individual creatures like crus­

to experience your work firsthand, Jason. Can

an ambitious project, the first underwater sculp­

taceans, schooling fish and so on. There are areas

me how you began to work underwater

ture park of its kind close to Europe. Can you tell

for species to escape predation as well and finally

as a sculptor?

me more about how it came into being?

I also use the narrative of the works as a kind of

JdCT: I first started working underwater in 2006,

JdCT: Lanzarote is famed for its environmental art

art activism to draw attention to the abuse of our planet and in particular the marine environment.

having previously studied environmental art at the

interventions. The government wanted to expand

Using a figurative element to connect to a wider

London Institute of Arts; after many years I found myself living on the island of Grenada in the West

its existing cultural portfolio to include marine environments. Museo Atlantico is centred around

audience is crucial for addressing climate change.

you tell

Indies teaching scuba diving. As I became more

a underwater botanical garden and consists of

JKG: The Thames River project The Rising Tide

familiar with the place, I started to understand

over ten large scale installations (around 300

was quite controversial, facing the Houses of

some of the environmental challenges it was fa­

individual pieces). It is divided into two sections

Parliament in London, and the piece included al­

cing. One of these was that the fringing corals reefs

by a 30-metre long wall and gateway. Each of the

lusions to the oil-based carbon culture. What was

had been decimated by hurricane Ivan, leaving only

individual installations uses this central line as a

the public and media response?

one area fully intact and pristine which was sub­

point of reference or a point of no return. Many

sequently visited and damaged by ever-increasing

of the works are human/plant hybrid sculptures.

JdCT: Yes it was picked up quite quickly that the

artificial reef from sculptures it would not only

JKG: And as with the Museo Subecuetico de Arte

lypse. It had a phenomenal public response,

create a new habitat for marine life but also draw

en Mexico (MUSA), do the sculptures fulfill an

almost to its own detriment, as overcrowding on

visitors away from the other natural sites.

environmental bio-function supporting coral and

the river bank started to give authorities safety

numbers of tourists. I realized that by creating an

horsemen were addressing the industrial apoca­

new growth? Vicissitudes, 2006 Moilinere Bay, Grenada, Depth: 5m Molinere Bay Underwater Sculpture Park

concerns from the rising tide and eventually the permit was not renewed. The London Shire hors-

JdCT: I try to achieve the following: tourist im-

es with heads like "nodding donkeys", a common

pact reducer, new substrate for corals, sponges

nickname for oil pumps, may not be such a famil-

and hydroids, habitat provider and specifically

iar part of the landscape in Europe, but are more Two Views - Twenty Interviews 27

ART SPACE ECOLOGY JdCT: Ten submerged sculptures float one metre

JdCT: The marine life is very interesting in the area,

front of the Houses of Parliament and the oil giant

below the surface tethered to the sea floor via

which is predominately a city environment, and it

Shell headquarters, it aimed to create a stark mes­

stainless steel "umbilical cords". A floating

is hoped that the new structures will attract filter

sage about climate change in front of the people

surface pontoon houses two bronze figurative

feeding organisms which in turn could help improve

who have the power to change things.

works that highlight the underwater presence of

water quality. We installed a series of crustacean

recognizable to American audiences. Situated in

the other installation elements. The underwater

dwellings also at the base of the umbilical cords,

JKG: ... and now the Maldives project you are

works look quite cold and bleak from the surface

which have been quickly inhabited. Children from

slated to work on ... It is so topical in light of the

of the water, however when you dive beneath, the

the art centre are going to add to these structures

disappearance of shoreline on the Maldives. What

sun and sediment from autumn leaves cause it

over time and monitor the development. You can

is in the works?

to become a totally different experience. It has

see some of the marine life is already establishing

been quite interesting as the water in the fjord

itself. Clear tubular sea squirts and mussels attach

JdCT: The project will consist of a partly submerged

is layered - fresh water, followed by salt water

themselves to vertical columns and filter the water,

gallery space or "Oceanarium" as I have called it.

with a greenish tinge from algae, followed by a

so it is hoped water quality will improve over time.

This will be the first time that I have attempted to

layer of white sulphur. So when you look up at the

I hope that the metaphor of people connected or

make a full architectural work in a tidal zone and

works while underwater, a series of aquatic light

tethered to the oceanic world and marine environ­

will comprise a cube-like coral structure housing

filters change the interpretation dramatically. It is

ment will highlight our intrinsic link and ultimate dependence on it health.

a series of works on plinths. The plinths displaying

also about to ice over, which will change how you

figurative works are at differing elevations and aim

access the works and effectively contain the works

to highlight the rising sea levels and the threats to

in an entirely different world.

coastal communities.

JKG: Where did you make your first underwater sculpture?

JKG: Again the Nexus piece involves an interface JKG: And just created in Sjoholmen, on the Oslo

between what you have created as art, and living

JdCT: My first underwater sculpture was The Lost

fjord, your new Nexus project. Can you tell me

organisms. In fact the art goes beyond mere ob-

Correspondent in Grenada. After I first sited it, it

about that?

ject. It is also a living forum for undersea growth and life.

The Rising Tide, 2016, Thames foreshore, London pH neutral cement, stainless steel, aggregates.

ART SPACE ECOLOGY quickly transformed and became inundated with

overfishing, ocean acidification, and habitat loss

marine life. I had previously always felt that my

due to human developments are the perfect storm

works needed more of a practical reason to exist

that could devastate our planet for generations to

other than their sole value as an artwork. They

come. We need to understand that when we think

needed to be multi-purpose and somehow give

of the environment and the destruction of nature.

something back. This first work has now spiraled

We also need to begin thinking of our oceans too.

into over 1000 public sculptures sited across the

Over two-thirds of planet is water, yet it is largely

world's oceans and seas. Each of the works uses a

forgotten and a rarely explored world. The iconog­

long lasting pH neutral cement textured for corals

raphy of the ocean is that of a flat blue endless

and marine life to inhabit. After spawning, the

expanse which could never be affected. Yet we now

works provide areas for the living species to settle.

know that we are unleashing terrible change. I hope

It is true that nothing man-made can match the

that my works change our relationship to this blue

imagination of nature. Sponges can take on the

world, create a portal to explore its majesty and

appearance of veins. Staghorn coral morphs the

foster a new sense of connection and empathy.

form, fireworms scrawl white lines across the faces as they feed, sea urchins crawl across the

JKG: And what do you foresee for the future?

body sculptures devouring algae at night, coralline algae settlements apply a kind of purple paint. As

JdCT: I foresee a turning tide; I think change is

a sculptor I am very fortunate to have a team of

afoot. Inevitably as part of my work I travel a lot,

marine assistants to apply the final patina.

and I am starting to sense a large cultural change or shift; whether it will come fast enough remains

JKG: What are you trying to achieve?

to be seen but I think there is a growing realization that our planet is finite and capitalism isn't.

JdCT: As we all know, our reefs are dying, and our oceans are in serious trouble. Climate change,

Nexus, Sjoholmen, 2018 Oslo Fjord, Norway pH neutral cement, jesmonite, stainless steel.

Form Follows Fun Jan-Erik Anderson

The Finnish artist Jan-Erik Andersson's

Along with sources like Kurt Schwitters, Le

outside. Andersson describes it as a way to have

Gesamtkunstwerk (or Total Art Work), the leaf

Corbusier, Antoni Gaudi, Bruce Goff, Konstantin

the friends of the family present. It also points to

shaped house Life on a Leaf, which functions as

Melnikov, Hundertwasser, Archigram, and Rem

the social and communicative side of the house

a home for Andersson's family in Turku, was first

Koolhaas, Andersson has also been inspired by

project. The house is not a sealed private house

conceived of in 1999. It was was planned with

the Swedish children's author, Elsa Beskow, whose

- it is a place where people with diverse thoughts

architect Erkki Pitkaranta, with whom Andersson

tales include houses shaped like hats and umbrel足

has worked for many years under the name

las. One of Andersson's constant themes during

and aesthetic views can meet and collaborate. This is also reflected in the interior design.

Rosegarden Art & Architecture. The house is

his 30 years as an artist is the investigation and

Modernist elements such as the six metre-high

the main part of Andersson's Doctorate in Fine

questioning of the border between the colourful

curved white walls are combined with strongly

Arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki. In it

and iconic aesthetics constructed by adults for

ornate floors, kitchen cupboards from IKEA, and

Andersson imaginatively explores several issues

children and the somber seriousness which usually

mosaic works made as a collaboration between

which address the relationship between art and

is related to adult visual culture.

all the members of the family. All the wash basins,

architecture, and between a house and its sur足

The Life on a Leaf house has inspired a doz足

toilet stools, and the bath tub are from recycling

roundings: can you live in a picture or a sculpture?

en of Andersson's artist colleagues to make art

centres. The house is heated by a thermal system.

In which ways can nature be mediated gradually

works and poems, which are incorporated into the

into the house? Can a building based on stories

building - wall and floor details, a laminated kitch足

and on representational shapes - like a leaf, a

en table top, wall paper, light fixtures, in-floor video

bluebell, and a Brazilian ferry- still be considered

work, outdoor tables and benches, environmental

architecture? Why don't we see more houses

planning, and a sound installation in a handrail

shaped like flowers, hats, or shoes?

which responds to changes in the wind and light

Life on a Leaf, 2009 Rosegarden Art & Architecture (Jan-Erik Andersson, Erkki Pitkaranta) Total Artwork and home of Jan-Erik Andersson. Photo: Matti Kallio

ART SPACE ECOLOGY JKG: Here we are at the Leaf House on an island

somewhere around and now you can see that it

design. Decades later, I found myself building a

in Turku, Finland. What I am looking at is a really

actually landed here on this island where the leaf

Leaf-shaped house with a Bluebell on the top

eclectic mix of design initiative and vernacular

house is. You can actually see the castle from here.

together with architect Erkki Pitkaranta. The Leaf

em- That was because Turku City, when they decided

house became the production part of my PhD in

ideas spread into a fully functional vertical

blem for non-conformist architecture. In other

they wanted the project and decided to find a lo-

words, architecture that builds a language and

cation for the house, they actually took the story

In seeking a context for the Leaf house I curated

the language itself is part of a story. Sometimes

into account and chose a place where you could

the exhibition, Wild, for the Turku City Art Museum,

a house inspires a story but in this case a story

actually see the castle. Very exciting to have this

whose focus was fantasy and architecture.

inspired the house! Jan-Erik you mentioned that


this Leaf House was based on a story. Can you tell

Fine Arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki.

JKG: The Wild exhibition indeed included the ori­

me a little bit about that story... that allegorical

JKG: And there was a Swedish storyteller, Elsa

spatial binding relation of literature to building?

Beskow, whose illustrated books influenced the

and documentation by professional architects,

conception and design of this house.

designers and artists like Jersey Devil, Douglas

painting on the Vita Bergen in Stockholm in the

J-EA: Beskow wrote some amazing stories. In one

Alsop were juxtaposed with less conventional

19th century. He painted a leaf, it took off from

of these stories a small town burns down. A rich

eclectic, organic builders like 24H, Antonio Gaudi,

the canvas and it flew over the water to Turku,

man who lived there when he was young agrees

Hubbell & Hubbell, Mariko Mori, FAT; Marko

J-EA: The famous author August Strindberg was

ginal watercolours by Elsa Bescow. And models

Cardinal, Rem Koolhaas, Vito Acconci and Will

Finland. It went some hundred years back in time

to pay for the rebuilding of the town on condition

Kaiponen, Riikka Kappi, Kim Adams and Eugene

and landed on the window in the castle where the

that each person builds their own kind of house.

Tsui. A great inspiration for creative and design

King Erik IV was imprisoned in the 16th century.

An umbrella house for the umbrella-maker, a cake

oriented people!

Erik made beautiful drawings in the prison of his

house for the cake maker, and a hat house for the

flance Karin Mansdotter. He sat there and saw

hat maker. I found Beskow's water colour ill us-

J-EA: Yes, what was really wild about the exhibition

the leaf shape outside the window, so he drew a

trating a row of these personally-designed houses

was that I succeeded in bringing top name archi-

heart shape on the moisture inside the window.

so exciting, it caused me to question why houses

tects and artists together with Do It Yourself artists

The leaf outside the window flew away and landed

couldn't be more fantastic and personal in their

and outsider- and eco-builders. I believe these two

FORM FOLLOWS FUN kinds of architecture should be put on the same

in temperatures and wind. This is not the first time

Do you see the Leaf House as a social intervention

level and a dialogue between the two would bring

Shawn is involved in creating sound for a building.

into the Finnish architectural community? Such a

about a much more livable environment.

For 15 years we have discussed the importance of

prototype did not exist in Finnish architecture be­

sound as ornament in buildings. In the late 1990s,

fore you made it. It offers another path or direction

JKG: Wild was an exercise in democracy!

Shawn made a sound work for the Flower shaped

for architecture in our times.

gardening school, Gerbera, designed by me and J-EA: Of course! Why are architects the people

Pitkaranta. He used pre-recorded sounds from 32

J-EA: I and Pitkaranta believe in playfulness and

who are ruling good taste in society? Buildings are

birds living in the surroundings as well as other

surprises. We work symbiotically, throw ideas back

a part of our life that greatly influence our aesthet-

nature sounds. The ever changing soundscape ere-

and forth, and we tell stories and these stories

ics. Architects choose what is good and not good. I don't really like this power that architects have.

ates a meditative space for the students to work in.

affect what we will do. When we create these stor-

More freedom should be given people to plan their

JKG: This is a house where artists are contribut-

it affects what we create, how you do it. It is an

own homes. Artists can and should be involved in

ing to the language of this building, It is kind of

extremely sound and warm way of creating a space.

planning at all levels in our society.

ies verbally and when we start to cut cardboard

Baroque. There is a direct connection between

It is important that you do not live alone in your

inside and outside, a very Nordic kind of vision.

own brain. It is not a compromise. We were able to

JKG: And you have demonstrated this by inte-

The British environmental artist Trudi Entwistle

create something really new, something unexpect-

grating art as a living design element in the Leaf house ...

integrated landscape elements on the grounds

ed, which neither of us would have been able to

outside. Susanna Peijari integrated footprints

create on our own. The invited artists were told not

and body elements into the ceiling of the main

to try to fit their works into the architecture, just

J-EA: Close to 20 artists were invited to integrate

floor and Karin Andersen evolved the kitchen

do what they like and then we in the house have

art works into the Leaf house's structures, and they

table top design. The Japanese artist Yuichiro

to live with it

are mostly our friends. This is a way of having them

Nishizawa made a very subtle wall integration cut

One researcher of the future said we have to be

close to us, even when they are far away. Shawn

in the upper interior section. Art can be a detail. It

able to look back to look forward. I am involved

Decker's work, the sound on the railing inside the

needn't dominate. Yet as ornament or detail it is

in saving these old art nouveau buildings in Turku

house gives off sounds based on exterior changes

all the more effective in its integrative language.

they are still pulling down. I feel it is very important Two Views - Twenty Interviews 35

ART SPACE ECOLOGY we preserve some of the past, and also maintain a connection to the fairy tales we heard when chil­ dren. I hope that the spaces we are creating stir up memories and stimulate fantasy. I think these qualities are a very important element if we are to create a sustainable future. JKG: Your partner Marjo was also involved in the planning of this house based on a story? M: First I didn't like the idea, because I am a minimalist. But because I want to live with Jan­ Erik who is a maximalist I wanted to give him the chance to realize his idea, but on the condition that I had my own room. But during the process I start­ ed to appreciate the whole house and now I love to live in it, because it also has many minimal design parts. Actually you can see the communication between us in how the house finally turned out! JKG: How did you get to this idea of minimalist thinking? M: I don't know what to say. I have a Finnish soul.

FORM FOLLOWS FUN J-EA: The Scandinavian coolness is in everybody here in Finland. It is a kind of minimal backbone. It is not that wild, and it is kind of controlled. M: It also comes because we were very poor when I was young. It gives you a kind of richness in terms of valuating and understanding materials. What they are and how they work. Sometimes you know more that way.

JKG: The Leaf house employed people locally and it also involved spaces between construction and building, periods of reflection and contemplation. It evolved in stages ... J-EA: I was reading Martin Heidegger's essay "Building Dwelling Thinking". The thinking part is the most important; you need to really figure out what you do want. My dream has not been to live in a private house. I could quite nicely have lived in our old condominium house. We knew a lot of people in the house, the elderly ladies helped with Adrian Interior Life on a Leaf, 2009 Rosegarden Art & Architecture

(Jan-Erik Andersson, Erkki Pitkaranta) Photo: Matti Kallio (Left and Right Photographs)

and things. If you want to do a house project it has to be something more than a sealed private family house, it needs to communicate! Two Views - Twenty Interviews 37

ART SPACE ECOLOGY We also excluded every space we didn't really

reading Martin Heidegger, who uses the bridge as

rarely, do art works on my own, but I enjoy most

need. The car garage and the cellar went because

a metaphor. The bridge not only connects places,

the collaborative, like in the Leaf house where you

Marjo doesn't want any things! Instead we created

it also creates the place, the site, when it touches

involve craftspeople and other artists. It is a huge

a space filled with interesting architectonic and

the ground. I feel the bridge is very important for

field of creative energy. I also like the idea that

my psyche. I wanted a bridge to go over to the

different aesthetic views live side by side in the

sleeping loft because when you fall asleep you

house. I like to show that it is possible to create a

artistic details. A space for your mind. I also wanted to pinch the architectural world because I feel that the concept of doing architec-

kind of go over a bridge. We also designed the

harmony out of it. We all need both the expressive

ture is too narrow and too much about the relation

bridge so that it leads slightly upwards to make it a

and the meditative side of life.

of abstract masses and so on. The collaborative

heightened experience going to sleep, and then it

thinking process with Marjo was also very creative.

makes it easier to get up in the mornings because

JKG: Do you feel any influence from other artists

She actually worked in the house for a year paint-

you can slide down the bridge!

and architects like Kurt Schwitters or Friedensreich

ing and knows more about the materials than I do.


For example I think it is much of her influence that

JKG: There is a folkloric element to the various

we have these modernist white walls.

details in the Leaf House that is combined with art-

J-EA: Both of them, and Bruce Goff was also very

ists' integrations and a fairly strong post-Modern

important as well as Le Corbusier's more ornate

JKG: You have a bridge on the 2nd floor of the

vibrancy. And that is the tension, a very interesting


Leaf House and it mirrors the bridges in Turku. You

tension in the building.

talked about that experience being so present when you were growing up?

JKG: You also mentioned that architects like J-EA: This question of collaboration has been very important for

me during the last fifteen years be-

J-EA: I just realized it very recently. I always lived

cause I got tired with my own brain. I collaborated

Louis Sullivan and Alvar Aalto are very often misinterpreted.

in the centre in Turku and every day we crossed

with the architect Erkki Pitkaranta, the sound art-

J-EA: All these architects are misunderstood.

the river. The bridge is an interesting non-site. You

ist Shawn Decker, and my two artist friends Kari

History is written by the winners. The modernists

see the other side, but you have not reached the

Juutilainen and Pertti Toikkanen from the perform-

created and designed history in a straight line to­

other side. Of course inspiration also came from

ance group Edible Finns. Of course I also, but very

wards the white abstract surface. For this reason,

FORM FOLLOWS FUN they took the 'Form Follows Function' quote from Sullivan. Louis Sullivan's original text said that

to reconnect to these safety houses. I think adults

and it brings out memories. Most of the interior

need to do this to reach harmony.

furniture, also the washing basins, toilet stools and

every architect should study abstract masses and

Many people tell me I should work with chil-

the bath tub, are recycled. We have recycled old

how they relate for two years, but after that, every

dren but children can find a sense of security and

building should be ornamented individually and

create their own worlds out of a cardboard box

background. Many details function by surprise;

this is what really creates the architecture. Louis

and a frying pan! This house is for adults! I really

there is even a video by Pierre St-Jacques set into

Sullivan had a way of combining very strict surface

don't think that playfulness is not serious. Form

the floor showing people like ants walking in Grand

with really intense ornamentations . This is the

can follow fun!

Central Station, NY. Of course, this integration of

JKG: Even in this living space there is evidence of

of stirring up memories in lived-in architectural

The early Aalto was very close to nature and

fun in the building! Looking out the window you


very organic. When they asked him the measure

can see the castle you referred to, and you have a

of his module he answered 2 millimetres! By way of comparison, one of Le Corbusier s modules was

leaf shaped window with a promontory like a boat,

JKG: And Jan-Erik, as a living artwork, do you see

we look out of... The furniture, the lamps is retro,

the Leaf House as a sculptural or cultural icon?

226 cm.

an old sofa is covered by a textile artist who lives

Between the collaging of iconic elements is there

in St Petersburg.

a sculptural accept? J-EA: It is interesting that, when we started the

part that is stripped away by historians and you only go with the masses and function.

I am very interested in a concept I call Iconic

family benches and tables to connect to old family

decorative yet history-laden elements is a way

space. The house project has made it possible for me to study how it feels different to live in a house

J-EA: In Finland in the 50s, the winters were dark

based on a figurative floor plan, figurative orna­

and boring, and the truly magical things in the city

project in 1999, a Finnish architecture professor

mentation and with iconic shapes on the windows.

were the lighting stores. I remember standing out-

wrote to me and said that I shouldn't build the

I think that this brings a totally different feeling to

side and looking at the dozens of light fixtures. The

house because it is more a picture than archi-

your mind to live in such a house. Stories we hear

installation of 26 second hand store-light fixtures

tecture, and that you cannot live in a picture! In

and create when we are children are like safety

is an "honour monument" to these shops. When

that case I proved him wrong! Our house is both a

houses in our minds and remain with us for all of

people come to the house they usually recognize

well-functioning home and an art work. And I cer-

our life. I think the iconic space will make it easier

a light fixture here from when they were young,

tainly also would call it architecture. And because Two Views - Twenty Interviews 39

ART SPACE ECOLOGY the design was made using a cardboard model,

created a forest in the cow house out of recycled

which I tweaked, cut and played around with, the

telephone poles. Then they are very social animals,

starting point is also sculptural. But in the finishing

so we put the children in the middle. We conceived

of the building, to get all the coloured surfaces and

a space in the centre for the child cows, and the

details to work together, I was thinking and acting

older cows can stand around them and look at

more like a painter. I actually love this situation of

them. And the space became cumin shaped, be-

uncertainty, not to be really sure what we live in!

cause we learned that cows love eating wild cumin

It is very creative.

in the forest.

JKG: And you, together with architect Erkki

JKG: There is this brilliant star gazing section for

Pitkaranta, conceived and built this project, the

the cows in the barn.

Cumin Cow House/Barn, designed for cows to live in 1997?

J-EA: Of course, cows really like to look at the stars at night so we opened up the roof with old recycled

J-EA: It was the smell of cheese and cumin and

plastic from the greenhouses for the cows to look

milk that started the project! The Cumin Cow

out on the night sky.

House was planned to be an ecological way of producing milk, made with the cows in mind. With

JKG: And you have had a series of events and

Erkki Pitkaranta we sought to create a sensuous

projects involving edible art... For Arts Night in

imaginative architecture to resonate with the soul

Helsinki 1993, a performance of sorts involved

life of the cows. We asked the farmers "What kind

Kari Juutilainen and you. The two of you enjoyed

of colour of flowers do the cows like?". And we

the same dinner that famous painter Axel Gallen­

went on and on. First the farmers stared at us

Kallela served to composer Jean Sibelius in honour

but after a while they started to really think about

of his 1915 birthday. And as part of Green Year, a

it. For example, cows love to be in a forest so we

Carrot Opera led by conductor Sami Panula was

FORM FOLLOWS FUN performed at Pori Art Museum (1995). A ski per­

better to use to money for building something that

formance with edges replaced with licorice and

will be taken down a few months later? I usually

I have constructed was in Evanston Art Center and

marzipan at the Lahti Art Museum (2002). The list

do these long lasting complex projects, and find

was made out of 350 triangles. The interesting

of events unfolds, as the Edible Finns went to Sao

these eating performances are a way of relaxing,

thing is that you don't see that it is made of one

Paolo, to Helsinki, to Ghent in Belgium. You even

of taking it easy.

single module, and it is a very stable construction!

had edible clothing ...

next one without any measuring. The biggest nest

Sound artist Shawn Decker always makes a sound

J-EA: It all began when Kari Juutilainen and I asked

JKG: Professionalism is sometimes a problem in art. Our language is hermetic and we have to

the great question, what is always a fun thing to

open things up to go further... And can you tell me

for the nests, testing new versions to have sound as an ornament.

do? We came up with eating. Eating sounds nice.

something about the Nest project? Another irony,

Eating as a process. We started by arranging a

creating a standard module form like a maquette

JKG: And you got involved with N55 from Denmark?

situation where we could just eat. People could come and see us. It was the concept of living

but in iife-size built using a simple triangular form.

J-EA: I try to stay open and to involve both max-

sculpture. Then we started to think about the pro-

J-EA: This came about because of the architectural

while curating Wild, an exhibition about Fantasy

cess of an ecological point. A way of doing art that

theory I studied during my PhD in Fine Arts. The

and Architecture, I thought many of the works

doesn't leave any traces. Pertti Toikkanen makes

architects use a lot of modules, and because of

so complicated, why not have N55 make their

all kinds of hats, gloves and organic clothes out

a certain measure, they say it is a human module.

simple module for living for the exhibition? N55

of organic wheat and lactic acid.

They create long corridors with these modules,

have manuals for everything in life on the Internet.

This eating project created many small scandals.

and it is not so human. So I wanted to make my

So they made the "Microdwelling", a micro-sized

In the early 1990s when the recession was on,

own module and try to make a controlled chaos

building, a one person apartment module that you

we used funds we received for a public installa­

out of it instead. So I made this triangle out of

can also sink under water. You can attach them

tion and produced an eating event with fantastic

wooden sticks, 140 cm x 140 cm x 140 cm, and I

together as a series if you want. I sponsored it

Lapland food. People were furious! What are the

thought, 'Why don't I create a nest the same way

myself, so I put it outside the Leaf house, as a

artists doing? The city architect almost got fired

as birds do." Just like the birds I have the shape

contrast, after the exhibition.

for hiring us for that commission. But is it any

in my brain, and I screwed one triangle onto the

imalist and minimalist energies in my life. So

Two Views - Twenty Interviews 41

ART SPACE ECOLOGY JKG: What is the Garlic structure you have on the

J-EA: I am not sure about the idea to present a

grounds outside the Leaf House?

house in an exhibition, but there was so much interest in the house, and people asked me. I tried

J-EA: The Sounding Dome Sauna is a mixture

to come up with something and this kiosk is the

between a garlic clove and a pumpkin. For the

best thing I could come up with. The videos are

Sauna-Lab exhibition, five contemporary artists

integrated into the structure and people can watch

are involved in a public sauna project this sum-

participants in the building of the Leaf, the Leaf

mer. My idea departed from my interest in Russian

from a story that became a house.

Orthodox Churches and their onion shaped cupolas. I wanted to do a public sauna on top of a

JKG: The Leaf House is ultimately about love, love

gray condominium complex from the 1960s and

of relationships, love as community, and of art as

decorate it with a cupola, but it did not pass. So

a vital element in architecture, architecture as an

now it will be placed in a public bath in a park.

ecological interactive process whose real econ­

So I still have the shape and the idea of a sound.

omy is love. Architecture can bind us all, a shared

Shawn Decker is creating sounds for the sauna,

experience manifest in the Leaf House.

which reacts when you throw water on the heater. Inside, you can hear a droning, meditative sound

J-EA: For me it is much about the love of detail,

and outside a funny steaming sound like boiling

the love or ornamentation, the love of caretaking. I

water... so it will be a totally unorthodox sauna

think the minimalist rationalist architecture misses


a lot when they have excluded this fantastic ele-

JKG: For the Eco-Art show at Pori, you made a

talk about a sustainable future.

ment. We should think about that also when we structure whose roof is actually made from the tarpaulins and clothing of the people who helped

JKG: Thanks so much for this, Jan-Erik! May the

make the Leaf house. A strong and effective social

force be with you.


Bird's Nest Evanston, 2007

Jan-Erik Andersson & Shawn Decker Photo: Jan-Erik Andersson

Walking Past Babylon Milos Sejn

Born in 1947 in Jablonec nad Nisou, Czech

as intrinsic needs of the mind, and focuses on

Museum in Krakow, Uppsala Art Museum, Palazzo

Republic, Milos Sejn graduated from the Faculty

immediate creative possibilities, based upon re-

Grassi in Venice, Museum of Fine Arts Houston,

of Philosophy (Charles University) in Prague in

lations between historical humanized landscapes

Indianapolis Museum ofArt, MoMA PS1 New York. (Website: sejn.cz)

1975. In 1976 he earned a PhD, and in 1991

and intact nature. He consciously works in the

was appointed professor of painting. In the years

areas of expressive language among text, visual

1990-2011, he directed the Department of New

stroke, body movement, voice, and expansion

Media at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague,

into space.

and was a visiting professor at the Academies in

In addition to his truly remarkable Solar

Aix-en-Provence, Carrara, Ljubljana, Stuttgart,

Mountain project in the Czech Republic, Sejn has

The Hague, and Vienna. Milos Sejn works in the

permanent or process landscape realizations in

fields of visual art, performance, and study of

France and Germany and worked with the land­

visual perception, and conducts workshops, such

scape in Norway, Sweden, The Netherlands, Italy,

as Bohemiae Rosa. Sejn's artistic vision formed

Poland, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Ireland, and

when he was young and when he undertook many

Iceland. His works have been presented since

trips into the wilderness. It embodied an inner

1970 in a number of galleries across Europe and

need to get closer to the secrets of nature and

overseas, e.g., the National Gallery in Prague, the

observe the miracles that happen in it. From the

Moravian Gallery in Brno, ifa Galerie in Berlin,

beginning of the 1960s he took pictures, drew,

Zentrum tar Kunst und Medientechnologie

collected, and described his observations of na­

Karlsruhe, Ludvig Forum tar lnternationale

ture during these wanderings. Sejn's present-day

Kunst Aachen, MAC Musees d'Art Contemporain

interest is in the relationship of nature and art

Marseille, MOcsarnok Budapest, Manggha

JKG: Walking and performance preceded your

JKG: In Czech were you aware of artists like Richard

volcanic regions of France, Iceland, and Ireland.

sculpture and parallels it as well...

Long who made the line walk?

But as a child, I considered a "big wandering" just

MS: Yes, definitely. More specifically, walking

MS: I became more familiar with this form of art in

and being in the landscape has been and still is

the late 70s and 80s. A very pleasant surprise for

JKG: Do you believe the objects produced are a

a key activity/condition for all my work. Not only

me was the work of Hamish Fulton, who not only

vehicle to contextualizing actions?

a few steps of reeds.

in relation to the sculptural object but also in re­

worked in photography and text, but whose work

lation to the image, the text and, above all, the

was highly intertwined with the terrain of the earth

MS: Certainly. And that's true not only for the well­

body interconnection with the power of places

and the body of the artist. At least, at that time,

known 20th-century Earth art, located in North

such as springs, rivers, valleys, forests, hills, and

I understood his idea of walking sculpture. I was

American deserts, England, or The Netherlands

mountains. In that sense, it is possible to talk

close to his understanding of nonlinear walk, for

polders. The layering of action contexts between

about moving my body as my knowledge of the

example, not missing even one step and turning on

objects worked in many landscape compositions

intersection with the knowledge landscape. I go

the spot. My starting point was different, however;

of the nineteenth century, in my homeland, for

through the interview, which is ideally sided and

with some exaggeration, we can say non-artistic.

example, in the Moravian Karst. First, we tested

multilayered. I believe that whatever place in the

My walk through the landscape was associated

strengths and water flows in places such as caves

landscape my presence is (and the presence of

with the seeds of scientific interest in ornithology

and key prospects. Then a communication path

humanity in general) is as important as my pres­

and botany, my being was fascinated by wandering

structure was proposed, containing the concepts

ence in the landscape for me. At that time, the

swamps and endless forests. The consciousness

of dramatization of the movements of people that

process of shaping the transformation of the en­

of an act of art was born to me gradually and com­

became part of pre-prepared events. Selected

vironment and the process of sculpting my body,

pletely independently. Since the end of the 1960s

sites were further modified or artificially comple­

and therefore my thinking, are in the way of mutual

I have gone through camera after camera through

mented by different types of buildings/objects to

exchange and the flow of real time is given by the

the floodplain forests and the swamps of the Dyje

enhance contextualization. Such practices by land­

quality of this process. The result, whether walking

River, Giant Mountains and Czech Paradise. An

scape architects, known from time immemorial,

performance or formations of more material nature

important place for me became the iconic hill

have inspired me very much.

are in direct proportion to the quality.

of Czech romanticism, Zebfn. Later I went to the Two Views - Twenty Interviews 45

ART SPACE ECOLOGY JKG: The actions themselves are the art? MS: Yes and no. It depends on contexts. Also on

also with Vaslav Nijinsky, James Turrell, Tatsumi

garden for the environmental education centre

Hijikata or Salomon de Caus. That is why I pose

near the Moravian town of Olomouc. An artificial

the question.

the above-mentioned contexts. And also whether

pond already existed in the area, which very quick­ ly merged with the surroundings of the floodplain

the performer's body is activated to a degree that

JKG: The Solar Mountain mound you produced on

forests and the meadows of the Morava River.

can be called art. But it is difficult to define. We

an abandoned site is truly a remarkable work of

This pond and the river basin were connected by

come to many areas of different forms of creation

environmental integration. It empowers an aban­

a stream, and just above it, in the process of my

that complement one another.

doned site, and gives people a place to engage

work and reflection, grew an idea of the mountain

with their bodies and materials, the healing stones,

with the flowing cave emerging upwards. The water

JKG: Nature plays a distinct role in your art. Can

the water that flows through, and so on.

element for me has always been important, and it

MS: Everything you have listed is really part of

able baby rhinestone: "Hou hou, kravy jdou, ne­

you tell me if there are precedents for this in Czech? Did you feel isolated working in this way?

has probably been linked to one hardly transport­ this work. This is the culmination of my activities

sou mlicko pod vodou ..." in Czech ("Hey, hey, the

MS: In the times I live in, I feel isolated in the

because it links both architectural feel to a place

cows are going, they are carrying the butter under

Czech environment, and I do not find anyone in the

requiring body involvement as well as plastic ren­

the water..."). There is also the idea of the church

arts community I am walking. But my influences

dering, painting, text and the concept of action

and the echoes of bells below the water surface.

have been many, including some Central European

and interaction between supposed participants/

I cannot forget the introductory dream of Heinrich

artists, the Baroque sculptor Matthias Bernhard


von Ofterdingen from the key Novalis fragment. I

Braun, the late baroque architect Johann Blasius

visited many caves and during the harvesting of

Santini-Aichi and the romantic landscape archi-

JKG: Please tell me some more about how this

the concept of the Solar Mountain, artificial caves

tect Joseph Hartdtmuth. In the wider context it is

remarkable piece went from concept into being.

as well, especially in the gardens of the Czech

literature from the Jesuit priest Bohuslav Balbinus, through Karel Hynek Macha after... Here, it is im-

castle in Veltrusy. When the idea of the building MS: I'm convinced it sprang from the subcon-

became more and more graceful, a key piece of

portant to say that I feel particularly sympathetic

scious. Nevertheless, the client's assignment was

Italian Mannerism, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili by

with Novalis, in part with Carl Gustav Jung, but

simple: to design and implement an educational

Francesco Colonna, came to my hand. The text on

WALKING PAST BABYLON the lower bell, floating above the central well in the


middle of the middle of the mountain, probably

The sap of mornings and the smell of that

sums up the tuning of my mind to the overall con­

and now.

cept of this object. I wrote it about ten years ago, in

The stones may come for us and they may

connection with the planned collective interaction

like us and they will make their nests in

(weekly happening) in the cave environment in a

our sap or the night will flood us and we

completely different place, namely in the Czech

will run, resembling the silver mane deep

Karst. Here it is in its entirety:

into the light. The sensors, we will hoist to our shells and

To open ourselves to the deep look of

the moves will penetrate us with the first

stones, rocks, gorges and the eyes of rifts


which call out our memories, having the

The sags of bridges, what will it be then in

shape of horses running through the gold

the crusts of scintillating rainbows?

In the azure of the grasses of night. To

Through bending we silently glow in the

look through multiple eyes of the threads

velvet black of the earthly clouds which

of roots, we the worms of the earthen

draw the streams down there for the



The white is on the surface dragging or

It is possible to offer yourself as a pool

glowing in the entrails, in the arms and

Through the skeleton of the nerves in the

joints the capillarity of salts, when the rain


wets the sun to kiss my mandibles?

Not to ask any questions, but to tread in

To be a breeze does not mean to rut.

the footprints, we the valleys.

Mazarna Cave Watching the Setting Sun; Definition of Space by Fire, 1982-83 Silver bromide emulsion on paper, record the event in the Grande Fatra mountains in Slovak Republic

Our claws know how to mould sounds and they murmur deeply through the sparkling Of the star dust of an endless weight and Two Views - Twenty Interviews 47

ART SPACE ECOLOGY JKG: Do you feel a certain continuity with ancient

JKG: Can you tell me something about your text

flow of sound and the following process may be

art, with monuments, and the built environments of times past?

related works? MS: The text in my work occurs naturally in the form

based on a complex documentation of the visual

MS: Absolutely, and I think I have already indicat­

of diary entries. In 1982, during work on the Maple

and textual activities with a high speed field cam-

ed it in one answer above. However, I should be

creek in the Giant Mountains, I had combined

era. The visual and sound processes are entirely

more specific. From a static point of view, I studied

drawing with momentary textual associations. For


some Polish mounds, such as the Krakus Mound

ten years already I had been trying to incorporate

partly similar to a scientific history of the "language transcription" of birdsong. My work is at this time

in Krakow. Also important for me were inspiration

text simultaneously into the drawing so that the

from some caves. The vast majority of our caves

written text somehow also reflects the visual real-

were prehistoric. And here it was interesting to see

ity. It all started with drawings complemented by

in which parts was concentrated settlement, what

texts which were still possible to read. Through a

was the relationship of underground springs, which

gradual co-mingling, the language disintegrated

curves and folds of corridors were probably sacred

and became illegible. But because I wanted to

for the then-inhabitants. In terms of painting, I was

know so badly after the fact what I had written with

inspired by a French cave, especially those with a

the drawing, I would recite the entire text aloud,

non-figurative decoration. And I must not forget

having a recorder clipped around my neck, so that

Egyptian tombs.

for each layer of the work there were also these audio recordings. I then transcribed them again

JKG: It seems every work is a response and reaction

as text and the pauses or bigger breaks actually

to an encountered situation...

gave me the rhythm of speech with suggestions

MS: Yes, and otherwise it is impossible.

soon as I became more spontaneous, the language

of stanzas, which I would put it in brackets. As broke down into exclamations and mumbling. Here begins the problem of how to transcribe such a

JKG: What to say about your journey at the end? MS: Every wandering ends in the beginning.


Solar Mountain, 2012-2014, Earth work, clay, limestone, sandstone, granite, quartz, agate, jasper, rosin, mica, glass, bronze, lead, water Base 30 x 30 m, height 12 m, location 6 km north of Olomouc, Czech Republic

Solar Mountain Interior View, 2012-2014

Two Views - Twenty Interviews 49

Anthropocene Beach, commissioned 2014, installed (projected) 2020.

Rendering of Anthropomorphic Dolos and Improvised Seawall for a new Seattle Seawall Project. Delos are intended to be repurposed as conditions merit as root wad habitat and eventually shoreline armer. Artist's rendering.

Downspout Planter System, 1978 Part of the Growing Vine Street project in Belltown, Post Alley, Seattle, Washington. Photo: Buster Simpson

It's About Habitat Buster Simpson Buster Simpson, a pioneer in the field of urban

At a time when Seattle is re-imagining its water足

that this little town had been poorly sited and was

environmentalism and art in public spaces has,

front and its identity, BUSTER SIMPSON //

prone to flooding. Flooding is good, it brings new

for over 40 years since moving to Seattle, been

SURVEYOR reframes Buster Simpson's vision of

nutrients to the bottomlands. For me, the flood

the ecological and social conscience for neighbor足

the city and presents his groundbreaking contribu足

waters provided a form of "redistribution of wealth,"

hoods and cities in constant states of transition

tion to dialogues about the health of communities

as lumber, ladders, and anything that floated knew

and renewal. Simpson's site-specific, agitprop,

and the societal obligations of the artist striving

no boundaries, and if unclaimed, was liberated.

and process-driven art has surveyed the problems,

to affect real change in public life. The exhibition

Many of my treehouses and shacks were built from

scrutinized the context, and presented new frames

documents and articulates for the first time the

appropriated flotsam and jetsam.

of reference to provide local solutions for global

breadth, depth, and influence of Simpson's body


of work, staking a claim for his artistic legacy and

JKG: So, you already had this awareness of the

Since the late 1960s and early 1970s, Simpson

defining how his methodology and regional aes足

inter-relation of culture and nature as a kid. This

has been dedicated to working in the public realm;

thetic applies to global systems and ideologies.

sensitization to nature informed the language you

his method is grounded in a farsighted contract

would later use as a sculptor.

between the artist and where he lives. His career parallels the rise of public art in the Pacific

JKG: Buster I am interested how you made your

BS: Never thought of it as art then: fish died off in

Northwest and he has played a crucial role in es-

debut as a sculptor.

the Cass River when effluents were disposed into

tablishing Seattle as a significant center for com-

it. I was up close, seeing the results of our impact

munity-minded artistic practice. By acting locally

BS: It was a process of accretion, I am sure

on nature. But also experiencing an integrated

while thinking globally, Simpson has contributed

starting at an early age, for me. I grew up in a

economy of a small town, with a working flower

greatly to the national and international debate on

floodplain along the Cass River in Michigan, and

mill, woolen mill, two breweries, lumber mill, quite

what constitutes responsible public art programs.

each spring the banks overflowed, reminding us

self-reliant, and productive.

Two Views - Twenty Interviews 51


Anthropocene Beach// Zone One Elliott Bay Seawall Habitat Project, Schematic Design: Integral Public Art, 1.17.2014 ~ Rendering: Todd Mellen of Anthropocene Anthropomorphic Doles (concept rendering), 2016 Seattle Seawall Project.

IT'S ABOUT HABITAT JKG: Were they spraying chemicals then?

another water story), I studied geology, sociology,

of their "Arts and Industry" program. Artists work

biology... the usual liberal arts, but I also had art

alongside workers making porcelain toilets. I was

BS: Living in a small town it was easy to walk to

classes. Eventually I gravitated to the art school

creating porcelain dinner plates, which seemed an

the countryside and hedge rows that propagated

in my final year at Flint, realizing there were less

appropriate acknowledgment of what they call in

along fence lines, listening to and watching birds.

boundaries, anything could be art, even business

the sanitary engineering world "the process train."

Surrounded by small farms, undoubtedly some

law, which I took and liked at the time. I transferred

The plates were low-fire and destined for various

chemicals were used. The Cass River is in the

to the University of Michigan School of Art and

river effluent outfalls to wick up contaminates, and

Saginaw River watershed, which includes the Pine

Design. There was a very interesting collabora­

later were high-fired resulting in the contaminants

River where the Velsicol Chemical Corporation is

tive group called the ONCE group; an assembly

creating a unique perverse, and telling, glaze em­

located. Velsicol produced DDT and PPB and shit

of mixed media, multi-discipline and avant-garde

bellishment. So how much of my early living along

in their nests, creating a superfund site. Downriver

people. They taught me the poetry of conceptual

the Cass River impacted this work.

is the Tittabawassee River and Midland, Michigan,

collaborative actions, without the trappings of art.

home to Dow Chemical, the makers of Agent

My first paying job out of art school was creating

Orange. Rachel Carlson's book came out when

environmental art in an agrarian context, with a

JKG: And you made the plates there?

I was in high school, and I realized the loss of

team of other artists at the Woodstock Music and

BS: Yes, and eventually most of the plates were

birds was just the tip of the iceberg (a little climate

Art Festival in 1969.

sited in outfalls on what was once Salish First

publishers of Silent Spring, all in the watershed

JKG: The River Plates you produced in polluted

Salish and Kwagiutl saying, when the tide is out,

we shared.

environments were brilliant!

Nations tidal lands and estuaries in Seattle. The

change reference there). Velsicol tried to sue the

the table is set, has new meaning post 1855 col­ onization. These plates not only signify the col-

JKG: And how was art school?

BS: Tides Out/Table Set were first developed

lecting of oysters, crabs, mussels, and clams, but

at Art Park in Lewiston, NY; in 1978, at a large

the effluence of our affluence.

BS: I did not start out as an art student, though I

industrial landfill, a midden of our making. Later,

had always made things, it was more for the pro-

an ideal opportunity came when I was invited to

cess than the result. At Flint Junior College (yes,

the Kohler Company Factory in Wisconsin as part

JKG: Cause and effect?

Two Views - Twenty Interviews 53

ART SPACE ECOLOGY BS: The trickster's potluck potlatch ... dining on

under scrutiny, it requires the artist to defend their

has been a 20-year work in progress, as laboratory.

these plates including a banquet during my retro-

actions. In some ways, it is more restrictive; in

This effort has led to a community effort to save a

spective in 2013 at the Frye Art Museum.

other ways, the commission provides a site, fund-

7-block tunnel that the State Highway Department

ing and permeant post-production placement

wants to fill in. The tunnel happens to be in one

JKG: Where did you put the plates for impact from

and often because there is a site-specific rela-

of Seattle's densest neighborhoods where a civic

pollution in waterways?

tionship with the placement that includes social

utilidor could support a host of progressive sus-


tainable actions. So why fill it in when we need

JKG: Sustainability is built into your vision of pub-

on water consumption, a place that foster civic

under the Brooklyn Bridge, Pearl Harbor, and the

lic art, and your process and approach can be

cohesion and provides resilient strategies for the

Cuyahoga River. Each has its own embellishment and


coming climate disruption?

faces reminiscent of Salish Coast masks, they are

BS: For me, working in public is process-inten-

JKG: It seems you feel sculpture can have a practical as well as aesthetic dimension, a poetic utility

BS: At various outfall and superfund sites: the Duwamish River, Puget Sound, a raw sewage site

new infrastructure technologies that close the loop

historical consequence. Although the plates suggest patterned after the disposable picnic plate, which

sive and often is protracted over a number of

I saw being used at a potlatch in Alert Bay B.C. in

years. As long as the system allows the artist to

as you say. Art and design can work together... can

the early 1980's. The plates serve as eating utensil

continue to improve/modify the work, there are

we go beyond prototypes to mass innovation and

advantages. Getting in at the beginning and af-

production in public design?

as well as gargoyles expressing water and as masks.

fecting infrastructure enables more possibilities, JKG: Working in the public domain allows you a lot

and is often more efficient, that is if everyone is

BS: Two elements that I've been working with come

of room for innovation but there are constraints

engaged and comes with an open mind. Tempe

to mind in response to this: the repeated used of

as well. ..

Town Bridge public transit, Carbon Vale parking

figurative dolos sometimes called tetra pods, and

structure helical ramp, BrightwaterTreatment Plant

sand bags to function, pique curiosity and spur

BS: Only if you look it that way. Artists can be as

Bio Boulevard, are a few examples of complex col-


agile in public as they are in the studio, it only re-

laborative processes with the design team.

quires different skills. Publicly-funded art is always

On a more grass roots level, Growing Vine Street

Anthropocene Beach is a habitat enhancement artwork to compliment a new seawall in Seattle,

IT'S ABOUT HABITAT and serves as an amenity and metaphor. Two ele­ ments comprise this project: Anthropomorphic Dolos and Stacked Sacks. The intent of these two works is to offer multiple uses and intent. The one ton concrete Anthropomorphic Dolos rest on the promenade for seating and creative play objects while awaiting future deployment for their intended purpose as shoreline armor and habitat enhancement anchors. This strategy of intentional pre-siting makes room for issues that come up in public work; allowing artists time to sort things out such as permitting delays, political flare ups or timeline shifts. Stacked Sacks, sandbags cast in concrete, sug­ gest products offloaded by stevedores, a hand­ made civic effort in response to climate change. Some sacks will be embellished with the names of world port cities and draw common connections and concerns with all ports with rising waters. The Stacked Sack walls suggest a west coast version of the Jersey Barrier. In this case Seattle has the Secured Embrace, 2011-present. Cast concrete, tree roots, and stainless steel cable, 52 x 168 x 52 in.

Sea Barrier. I've worked with sandbags stenciled with poetic promptings often over the years to highlight rising waters. I have also pre-deployed a small team of Two Views - Twenty Interviews 55

ART SPACE ECOLOGY Anthropomorphic Dolos on the South Waterfront

Recovery was to consist of sixteen figurative senti­

Greenway, in Portland, Oregon. That project, called

nels of cast concrete, the dolos, arranged within a

Cradle, was installed in 2015. There, three dolos

32-foot grid. They were to be coupled with uniquely

hugging cedar root wads are stationed near the

shaped tree forms, each one anchoring and crad­

100-year flood line, ready for action as biomass

ling woody mass, poised to aid marine habitat en­

and bank armoring if the River rises.

hancement. The formation of the installation was

On another commission, for the Army Corps

to align with the east-west centerline of the build­

of Engineers Headquarters in Seattle along the

ing and the west boundary of the project site along

Duwamish River, I proposed a sculpture called

the Duwamish River. The sculptural figures faced

Recovery using dolos, which wasn't built but I still

the river with their concrete back to the east. The

feel is an idea worth pursuing. Recovery was a

pods rested at grade, some partially submerged at

transformative approach to building an artwork

times within the seasonal waters of the detention

that would have the potential to evolve from

pond and some on high ground. As a metaphor

sculptural object to be a functional environment­

of healing past practices, the tree forms would

al mitigaticn, Recovery is, in essence, a "poetic

evolve into nursing log habitats for meadow birds

utility." In other words, a tool designed to perform

and later, perhaps, habitat for salmon restoration.

a particular function that is, in itself, a work of art

Recovery exemplifies a new paradigm for contem­

as exemplified in the approach that dates back

porary public art, applying conceptual ideas to

to indigenous peoples' integration of art into life.

actual environmental problems, an aesthetic that

The artwork elements communicate the potential

identifies an active role for art in the environment.

to repurpose landscape elements to the riverside at a later date in order to continue the efforts of

JKG: You are right. Many social and aesthetic ap-

the US Army Corps of Engineers and community

proaches to public art aren't being explored. I real-

to enhance the Duwamish River estuarine reach

ly enjoyed your playful Vancouver piece, Brush with


Illumination (1998). You are using solar panels,

IT'S ABOUT HABITAT microprocessors, strobe batteries, and environ-

The brush, approximately 11 meters in length, con­

consumption. Add to this, the sculpture has be­

mental sensors. It floats, and responds to local

sists of a handle, a ferrule and a cursor. The handle

come a habitat for the Cormorant and I am fas­

conditions. Can you tell me about the conception

is an array of solar panels that powers batteries in

cinated by the prospects that a work of art can

of Brush with Illumination?

the ferrule. Within the ferrule, the batteries power

evolve into habitat.

data-accessing sensors, processors, and trans­ BS: Brush with Illumination is an interactive

mitters sending data. Transmitters send ASCII data

JKG: Often, it seems the idea of what public sculp­

sculpture that also functions as a data-gathering

and video to a land-based receiver and from there

ture is or can be is not flexible. Public sculpture

apparatus, drawing ideograms and sounds gener­

onto the Internet. At night, the cursor flashes the

can respond to site and history, use local resour­

ated from real time environmental conditions. The

code of the ASCII data, as if a beacon, streaming

ces and embody the context of a place. Sculpture

sculpture suggests a calligraphy brush, respond­

environmental conditions from False Creek. The

can include environment, and elements of land­

ing kinetically to real time tidal and weather con­

brush appears as a technical apparatus gather­

scaping as Recovery (2011) does. Public sculpture

ditions, in False Creek, Vancouver B.C., Canada.

ing an "inkwell of data." A plaque at the viewing

can be interactive in more interesting ways and go

The sculpture was commissioned by the Vancouver

station onshore offers the web site address for

beyond being a mere art object...

Public Art Program in 1994, installed in 1998, and

accessing this data and the resulting visual and

upgraded in 2009.

audio abstractions via the internet, either by mo­

BS: Definitely, I think the Cormorants would agree.

The sculpture has an armature of stainless

bile phone or computer. The data is transformed

steel pipe that rests on a girnbal, atop a pile

into a live visual and sound logic score based on

post installed in False Creek. The gimbal enables

the lunar calendar. The web site provides a dynam­

structure associated with Native Americans of

the sculpture to rotate and rock unrestricted to

ic and enjoyable audio and visual screen saver or

the Southwest, a kind of shelter long-vanished

tidal, wave and wind conditions. The armature


tribes from San Antonio made. The Kickapoo who

JKG: The term wickiup refers to a simple domed

connects two four-foot spheres with a three-point

Now in 2018 I am faced with an artwork that

are recent refugees to Texas, south along the Rio

"finger cradle" connection at the brush ferrule. The

relies on some antiquated processing and oc­

Grande River, still build the wickiup for ceremonial

spheres provide both buoyancy and counterweight

casional servicing. An iPhone can do the job of

purposes. Would you consider your recent Midden

to the "brush" as it cantilevers on top of the piling,

the existing 45 lbs. of data-accessing equipment

Mound Wickiups in Texas as sculpture, structure, or

responding to environmental changes.

and requires less transmission issues and power

a contextual link to eco-sensitive built structures? Two Views - Twenty Interviews 57

IT'S ABOUT HABITAT BS: All the above, Wickiup Encampment is perched

mounds to take in an interesting 360 degree

material creates a sun-reflecting presence, while

at the top of a manmade mound of a repurposed

view of San Antonio. The wickiup structures sug­

at night solar lighting transforms the materials

landfill site, now Pearsall Park in San Antonio. The

gest an overlay to the history of this site: a large

into illuminated lanterns creating shadow play on

wickiups feature "blankets" that present an in­

decommissioned city landfill repurposed into a

the surfaces below. The Trilateral Bench is com­

digenous approach through colored patterns using

contemporary City Park. The wickiups represent

prised of three interlocking ten-foot prism-shaped

woven and twisted wire mesh. Also, a Serpentine

the modest shade structures often used by the

pieces of polished Texas red granite, forming tri­

Bench, made from Texas limestone, provides seat­

indigenous peoples of the area. The landfill is

angular interconnected seating.

ing and is a recreational play object. The bench

our cultural midden; the artwork appropriates

allegorically references Manetoa, the great water

the site as a social and ecological commentary

BS: The reward for all of us who make art in any

serpent of the Kickapoo. The internal illumination

on consumption. At Pearsall Park, both Wickiup

context public or private, is to witness the en­

of the wickiup structure at night suggests the light

Overlook and Wickiup Encampment have substi­

gagement by others, and that they find it worthy

omitted from an intimate campfire.

tuted the typical wickiup construction of bent or

of their curiosity and study.

gathered branches with bent steel pipe. The blanJKG: These seats and the wickiup structures build

kets, which traditionally cover wickiups to protect

a dialogue with place, and eco-habitats that are

against the elements, have been replaced with

integrated and work with the ecology of place.

colorful woven wire mesh and geometric hexcell

Important and topical, even a prototype for build-

material. Solar panels supply power for nighttime

ers to consider in new developments...

lighting. The wickiups provide shaded gathering places, seating, and viewing experiences looking

BS: I produced two sets of wickiups located on

out over Lackland Air Force Base and the natur-

the saddle between two of the landfill midden

al landscape along the meandering Leon Creek.

WickiupEncampment&SerpentineBench,2016 . Ccmmissioned by the Department for Culture and Creative Development. Pearsall Park, San Antonio, TX. Steel, woven wire mesh, solar, LEDs. Dimensions: 14' x 28' x 60' Photo: Joe Freeman

Wickiup Overlook responds to the technology Of the large Cargo planes, Using blankets made from a hexagonal Structural material Often used in aircraft skin construction. During the day, this Two Views - Twenty Interviews 59

With Nature in Mind Peter Hutchinson

After being born in England, Peter Hutchinson has

(Madrid, Spain); Blancpain Art Contemporain

lived in the United States for over half a century

(Geneva, Switzerland); Galerie Bugdahn und

and has practiced art for nearly as long. Beginning

Kaimer (Dusseldorf, Germany); Edition Domberger

as a geometric painter, his close contact with min-

(Filderstadt, Germany); John Gibson (New York,

imal artists in New York such as Sol LeWitt and

NY, USA); the Mayor Gallery (London, UK); Torch

Tadaaki Kuwayama exposed him to conceptualist

Gallery (Amsterdam, Netherlands); Fabian

thinking at its inception. Peter Hutchinson turned

und Claude Walter Galerie (Zurich and Basel,

away from minimalism and conceptualism's rhetor-

Switzerland) and is included in renowned collec-

ical bent, preferring to follow a more overtly poetic

tions such as the Musee d'Art Moderne/Centre

and nature-oriented path. British-born Hutchinson

Georges Pompidou, Paris, the Museum Boymans-

follows in the path of the British poets and paint-

van Beuningen, Rotterdam, the Museum fur

ers who preceded him, and who also had a sense

Gegenwartskunst, Basel, the National Gallery of

of the land. The landscape orientation and physic-

Art, Washington and the MoMA, New York.

al commitment of Richard Long, Hamish Fulton, and Peter Hutchinson continues in the tradition of the great poets and painters of the 18th and 19th century England, who include John Constable, William Wordsworth, and William Blake. Peter Hutchinson has shown at Aeroplastics Contemporary (Brussels, Belgium); DNA Gallery (Provincetown, MA); Galerfa Helga de Alvear

Paracutin Volcano Project, January 1970 Paracutin, Mexico

300 kilos of read and mold on the rim of a volcano Photo: Peter Hutchinson

ART SPACE ECOLOGY JKG: Peter. I want to tell you how much I appreciate

PH:I feel there is some Romanticism in the land-

your taking the time to talk about your art and

scapes, but not in the underwater pieces. The

approach to art-making. Way back in the times

underwater interventions were a way to use un-

when art was a fable, a story, even a narration on

used space that galleries could not access. So

experience, Barbara Rose suggested the motiva-

nature was the gallery space ...

tion for working out of doors was not just a reaction to minimalism, but equally, "A dissatisfaction with

JKG: Some of the works from the 1970s, such as

the current social and political system results in

the Coastal Tubes (1975) at Ramatuelle in France

an unwillingness to produce commodities which

and God Saw I Was Dog, Dog Saw I was a God

gratify and perpetuate that system." Was it like

(1974) are close to being Neo-Dada or Surrealist.

that at the time, a great escape, or was it more

They show your process as being less dogmatic,

playful, naive a response?

less encumbered by some over-riding approach,

PH: Robert Smithson was the one who talked

ter way of living as an artist, than holding on to a

about getting out of the galleries, though he never

single method, approach, or theory?

and more intuitive ... I guess that makes for a bet-

did. I did not feel that way, but added outer space as a showing opportunity while always realizing

PH: God Saw I Was Dog is a palindrome. I must

that the galleries were necessary. Of course, in

say that a lot of my work is to do with language,

my case, there was no audience except through

although I may play with the rules.

photography. JKG: There is this sense you are almost an observ­ JKG: Was there ever a touch of Romanticism to

er of phenomena, someone who sets up a situa­

your early landscape and underwater interventions

tion to then observe the interactions with nature.

in the 1960s and 1970s?

It is definitely not object-oriented and definitely closer to Alan Ka prow's early performance pieces.

WITH NATURE IN MIND I believe you once commented that your art is

poets went through the country telling stories to

about "being in the present." A wonderful way to

the people.

less conversions. Denying life's conventions does

JKG: When you begin an art piece does perception

details. Likewise, conversation determines literacy.

PH: I liked Alan Kaprow and his work. I remember

come before the concept or do they occur simul-

Clair de lune can determine life's definitions." Is

specifically the house of ice he built, I think on a

taneously like spontaneous combustion?

there an aspect of mysticism, or the unanswerable in your art?

be! Could you expand on that?

"Constant determination lets creatures do limit­ lengthen character, defines logic, and confirms

city street, and when he sent his students into a winter forest to paint the branches green.

PH: I think both happen.

JKG: Can you tell me something about the Foraging

JKG: Can you tell me about the element of chance

cause I guess I don't explain it, although I do use

project (1970)?

in your approach to art? We see it throughout, as

the word "alliterative" in the title of these pieces.

PH: About this work, nobody understands it be­

with the Thrown Rope exhibited at the Stedelijk

Although I cannot place this one you give, it is

PH: Foraging was in a way a celebration of escape

Museum (1974), the Venice Biennale (1980), and

based on the title. So, say, if the title would be

from the city, where I lived in New York for so long,

Weimar University (1999) ... also in Arp Thrown

Fields of Grass, the text would have the first

although going to Provincetown most summers.

Rope (2001). You have no certainty as to the

word begin with the first letter of "fields": "f". The

The piece included exploration, love of nature and

outcome. After a throw, the lines become colorful

second word would begin with "o" and the third

botany and, of course, gave me the opportunity

gardens and drawings with flowers.

word with "g". This organization would continue

to make works in a pristine environment without

through the text. A bit hard to explain! This meth­

changing it. The film I made of this work was in my

PH: Yes, I see chance as very important, so that

one-man show at Freight and Volume Gallery in

the result is not entirely artificial. Some of it is

meaning, since I am thinking of words that begin

New York this April. I also wanted to mention that

beyond the artist's control.

with certain letters more than the meaning.

of that phrase made from lime dust in different

JKG: In one of your surreal and sublime, yet colour-

JKG: Can you tell me about your collaborations

locations of New England, is about those times

ful photo-collages that are so natural, you wrote

with Dennis Oppenheim?

when people could not read and the bards and

something I find as revealing as it is mystifying,

od brings a kind of subconscious process to the

my Narrative Art work where I place the letters

Two Views - Twenty Interviews 63

ART SPACE ECOLOGY PH: I met Dennis in the late 1960s in New York City

that sometimes seemingly easy ideas are the

PH: Like so many temporary installations, where

during his show of models atJohn Gibson Gallery.

best. This piece was featured in Lucy Lippard's

there was not even an audience when they were

He encouraged me to also show at this gallery.

Six Years: The Dematerialization ofArt. A few years

completed, they could only be shown as photo­

During my subsequent show at the Gibson Gallery,

later, when I lost my apartment in Spanish Harlem,

graphs. I found myself at odds on occasion with

John Gibson found a collector who was willing to

Dennis again invited me to stay with his family in

my contemporaries who made permanent earth­

back my underwater projects. Dennis joined me

Park Slope. This time spent with Dennis was to

works and therefore denied the legitimacy of

in Tobago, where he constructed one underwater

me very inspiring and meaningful. Few people are

photography in this medium. Tom Wolfe's book The

piece and others on the beach and sea surface.

aware of this but Dennis and I were very early users

Painted Word mentions a work that I did for the

Both Dennis' and my work from this trip were ex­

of color photography as art.

show at Loveladies (New Jersey Circa '69) where I

hibited in a two-man show at MoMA in 1969 called Two Ocean Project.

had prepared bags of bread mold, attached along JKG: What about this idea of an art that cannot be

a 15-foot rope. My plan was to swim out to sea and

The following summer we were both offered

seen - the underwater project in Tobago, Antilles,

with bricks tied on either end of the rope, to sink it

the opportunity to make art in Aspen, Colorado

where you set five gourds onto a rope nine metres

to the bottom, where it would form an arc. Dressed

along with a small money grant. We worked in the

under water. And you made other underwater

in a scuba outfit and all alone I began to back

mountains on separate projects. One of mine was

installations using oranges, onions, coal, roses ...

into the surf but had second thoughts because it

called Continental Divide, where I laid rocks in a

and more recently in 1996 in St. Barts, West

was very rough seas. So I paid two nearby surfers

line dividing a large snow bank. Dennis invited me

Indies. The environment and the earth becomes a

to take the piece out and drop it for me. Thus

to stay the summer with his family in Aspen where

kind of living museum or body you are dialoguing

there was not even a photograph to prove this ever

there were many exchanges of ideas and plans.

with. I find this idea is wonderful ... art cannot be

happened or existed. Wolfe considered this to be

always witnessed or put in a container/forum/

the ultimate example of the de-materialization of


art, though this may not be the exact term Wolfe

One of my works from that time is Dissolving Clouds, where I tried to dissolve a cloud with thought. Whether I caused it or not, the cloud did dissolve and I photographed it happening. Phyllis, Dennis' wife, was sitting nearby and I said to her. "... is this too easy for an artwork?" Her reply was

used in the book.


Foraging, (Detail), 1971

Peter Hutchinson Photo: Peter Hutchinson

Two Views - Twenty Interviews 65

ART SPACE ECOLOGY JKG: Did Virginia Dwan ever approach you for a

PH: The inception of the Paricutin Project is an

show or did she play a role in your art?

interesting story. TIME magazine had heard from John Gibson about my desire to take on this pro­

PH: Yes, Virginia is one of my best friends. We used

ject but as an artist with limited resources, I was

to go on scuba-diving trips in the Caribbean where

unable to get the project moving. TIME offered to

I would do some underwater photography. Virginia

fund it provided they were permitted to publish

also supported my Paricutin project and I was in

the photos. I agreed to their terms as this was the

several group shows at her Dwan Gallery.

chance of a lifetime.

JKG: It must have been quite wonderful to make art

fully planned and researched to find the best pos­

Actually the Paracutin Volcano Project was care­ in the land before Land Art had become a genre,

sible location. The volcano was dormant but still

as much as Mannerism or Impressionism. Your ap­

emitting gasses through fumaroles, allowing me to

proach to working outdoors must have suggested

get to the edge of the crater where I laid crumbled

an altogether different approach to the body and

bread for roughly 100 yards. The bread was damp-

land relation that so many have commented on...

ened by the volcanic steam and covered with thin

With works like the Paracutin Volcano Project

plastic to trap moisture and heat. I returned six

(1970) in Mexico where you brought 450 lbs. of

days later, removed the plastic and photographed

crumbled bread and set it up along the volcano's

the bread and mold that had grown on it. The next

perimeter to witness the interaction and mould

day I rented a small plane and photographed the

growth that resulted. Can you tell me about that

installation from the air. There was no sign of the

experience and how the piece was conceived of

installation when I returned one year later.

and guided along? Was the Paracutin Volcano Project a natural flow of ideas that evolved on the

1. Rose, Barbara, "Problems of Criticism V: The Politics of Art Part II", Artforum, January 1969.

spot in the here and now?

© Espace Art Actuel, no. 106, Winter 2013

Threaded Calabash, Tobago, Antilles, August 1969 Five gourds threaded on a rope attached to a coral reef 9 metres deep. From the exhibition: Ocean Projects; Oppenheim and Hutchinson, OMA, New York, USA, October 21-November 30, 1969. Photo: Peter Hutchinson


Foghorn Requiem Photo credit: Kristian Buus

Environments in Conflict Lise Autogena & Joshua Portway

Lise Autogena and Joshua Portway have worked

disappearing sound, performed by the Souter

together since the early 1990s, developing large

Lighthouse foghorn, three brass bands and fifty

scale performances, multimedia installations

ships out in the North Sea. Lise Autogena is a

and site,specific work, usually in collaboration

Danish visual artist and a Professor of Cross-

with organizations and experts across many

Disciplinary Art at The Cultural Communication

specialized fields. In their work they have sought

and Computing Research Institute (C3RI) at

to transform aspects of cultural and technical

Sheffield Hallam University. Joshua Portaway is

history, which typically remains below the level

an artist, musician and game designer. (Website:

of everyday consciousness, into a shared experi­


ence of open possibilities. They have an interest in how visual language, technological interfaces

JKG: I am absolutely fascinated by your Souter

and aesthetic form can affect collective process-

lighthouse project in the northeast of England. It

es, and thereby open up new processes of in­

engages community, and animates the public in

quiry; and the wider potential and impact of these

a way that captures a sense of place and identity

processes on society. Their recent work has ex-

while also being quite fun, and engaging.

Black Shoals; Dark Matter, 2015

Somerset House in London Photo: Lise Autogena and Joshua Partway

plored uranium mining in Greenland (Kuannersuit; Kvanefjeld, 2017), visualizations of the world's

JP: Yes. Foghorn Requiem was commissioned by

financial markets (Black Shoals Dark Matter

the National Trust to make a piece of work about

Stock Market Planetarium 2015/16), and real

this lighthouse, near Newcastle. It was the first

climate data (Most Blue Skies 2009). In 2013

electric powered lighthouse in the world and when

they developed Foghorn Requiem, a requiem for

we were commissioned I think they expected us to

Foghorn Requiem: Image of Souter Lighthouse near Newcastle

Photo: Lise Autogena and Joshua Partway: Souter Lighthouse

Two Views - Twenty Interviews 69

ART SPACE ECOLOGY make a piece about the lighthouse itself. But when

with memory and melancholy, and became much

elements in the landscape. The sound is complete­

we went there we talked to all the volunteers who

more interested in the foghorn than the light­

ly reshaped by the landscape it passes over, and

had restored the lighthouse and they all had these

house itself. We asked him to play the foghorn for

when you hear it, it's been kind of smeared out in

amazing stories about it. And one of the stories in

us - and it was an extraordinary experience.

time, and it contains the shape of the landscape

particular really moved me, from an engineer who

Standing next to a foghorn when it goes off is a

encoded within it. It's almost unique in that re­

had spent his life working on ships and when he

viscerally thrilling thing - we worked with it for

spect because other than explosions there are very

retired he dedicated himself to restoring the light-

months, and even after all that time I still would

few sounds as loud as a foghorn. We're not used to

house and the foghorn to working condition. At the

have the urge to run as soon as it was played. It's

hearing sound so much affected by the landscape.

time of his story, he had got the foghorn working

so loud that you can actually feel yourself vibrat-

again but it still didn't sound like he remembered it

ing in sympathy with it. But when I first heard it I

from his childhood growing up in the area. He just

was shocked at how different it sounded to my

couldn't work out what was wrong, but one night he

memory of hearing foghorns as a child. I grew up

was lying in bed, reading a book about foghorns at

in a fishing village, and my memory of foghorns

between the sound and the landscape, and the

three in the morning, and he read about this thing

was a very soft, distant, almost plaintive sound

sound and memory and the history of the place.

called the grunt of the foghorn, when the air stops

that seemed to come from infinitely far away. Up

And we decided we wanted to make a piece of

and the sound drops several octaves. He realized

close it sounds incredibly brassy and rough - like

music that incorporated this sense of space and

his foghorn wasn't doing that, so he jumped out

a really rude trumpet!

the sound of the landscape into the music itself.

JP: We loved this idea of the intimate connection

We'd never made a piece of music before, but

of bed and drove to the lighthouse and tinkered around with the foghorn and at about six in the

JKG: So the conception crystallized?

JKG: And what was the difference?

morning he thought he'd fixed it and couldn't resist

it seemed right for the context. There are these gigantic 4-metre high air tanks in the lighthouse

trying it out. About fifteen minutes later he got a

JP: The difference was the sound you generally

that power the foghorn - we got the volunteers to

text on his phone from a childhood friend of his - a

associate with a foghorn - the soft, distant, mel-

just play the horn until the tanks were completely

fisherman out at sea - that just said: "I hear you

ancholic one - is basically the sound of the land-

empty - which for some reason they'd never tried

finally got it right." We realized that the sound of

scape. What you're hearing is that brassy sound

before. It sounded amazing: as the airflow slows

the foghorn seemed to be particularly associated

reflected and echoed and refracted by millions of

down it goes though this amazing series of strange

ENVIRONMENTS IN CONFLICT resonant phases where the two horns beat against

economic catastrophe). We came up with this rath-

to travel that far, so they would ordinarily be com-

each other and create weird animalistic, guttural

er insane idea of trying to make a requiem for the

pletely out of time with the band. So we had to

sounds like the death throes of some enormous

foghorn - and through that a sort of acknow-

design a system which ended up with us building

creature. It was very moving, and we decided we

ledgment of the industrial past that the foghorns

special microcomputers to control the horns at

wanted this sound as a climax for the music.

represented. We had a crazy idea of ships out at

sea. These controllers had GPS modules on them

sea performing in gratitude for the years of service

and were getting updates about wind speed and

JKG: And was the local community part of what

of the lighthouse and the foghorn. And we ended

humidity etc. and continually calculating how long

made you arrive at an idea of how you were going

up with a plan for a piece of music that would be

the sound would take to travel from their position

to approach the project?

performed by fifty ships on the North Sea, three

to the shore; then they would offset the musical

brass bands and the two lighthouse foghorns. That

score and play the notes the appropriate amount

LA: Yes. So we realized that Trinity House, the

became a year's work. This is the place with the

of time beforehand so that the sound arrived exactly in time with the band

organization that runs all of the lighthouses in

most shipwrecks in the UK, which didn't help. It's

the country, was in the process of closing down

really dangerous to gather so many ships into such

We realized we couldn't actually write the music

the foghorns because boats have GPS satellite

a small area under the best of conditions. So we

ourselves, so we searched for a composer who we

tracking systems now. No one really needs fog-

spent months planning it, using a nearby maritime

thought would be able to compose with this sense

horns anymore. But it was just quietly happen-

training facility that had a ship simulator. The simu-

of space in mind, and we found a composer called

tng - no one really knew about it. And when

lator allowed us to recreate the landscape and

Orlando Gough, who was brilliant and brought a

we talked to people about it they became very

position the ships that formed our orchestra, and

lot of great energy to the project. In addition, Lise

upset - people have a real emotional connection

see what they would look like and how they would

had to recruit all of the ships, who were initially

with the foghorns. We also were interested in the

perform under different conditions.

very skeptical of the project, and convince the

traditionally a shipbuilding and mining area, but

JP: Because we wanted the ships to actually play

communities of people. It took a lot of people to

during the Thatcher years all of that heavy indus-

music in concert with the brass bands we realized

make it work on the day. There's actually a filmed

try collapsed and left the region with a profound

we had a problem: the ships were up to a couple of

interview with me shortly after the performance,

loss of identity (as well as, obviously, being an

miles off shore and sound takes several seconds

and I'm actually crying - partly because I was

recent history of northeast England, which was

harbour master and the brass bands and entire

Two Views - Twenty Interviews


ART SPACE ECOLOGY utterly exhausted, but mainly because I was also

more complex derivative trading products moved

glow momentarily slightly brighter - the strength

so moved by how people had come together to

the stock market ever further away from any con­

of the glow depending on the size of the trade. This

make the project happen - people we had never

nection with the physical world of blood and labour.

happens within milliseconds of the trade taking

met before had come in, with almost no notice,

If you read something like Wired magazine in those

place. So if you stand under the dome and look up

and worked for 48 hours with no sleep to help me

days it was full of excited articles talking about this

at the stars you're seeing a significant proportion

do a last minute rebuilding of part of the controller,

strange transcendence. It was also the beginning

of all the money in the world moving around, in

for instance. This whole piece of work was created

of the age of what we now call "big data" and we

real time. If you see a little star flash momentarily,

by the people of the North East, and it would not

were interested in the aesthetics of data itself, in

that's probably several million dollars of trading

have worked at all without these people.

the strangely seductive power of vast oceans of

taking place. It's a strange experience - on the

information and the experience of the sublime that

one hand you have a sense of power, being able

JKG: Some economists have described the stock

it engenders. So Black Shoals was a response to

to see all the world in a single glance - but on the

market, indeed investment in general as irration­

these things.

other hand, trying to comprehend the scale and

al, even animalistic, and its so-called science as

The piece itself is a large dome (about 5 m in

complexity of what you're looking at is profoundly

ridiculous, short-sighted and resource-ridiculous.

diameter) that hangs above the heads of the view-

overwhelming, almost terrifying. It's a feeling of

Your project Black Shoals presented a kind of plan­

er. In the dome are projected thousands of stars

vertigo: you feel tiny and powerless and insignifi­

etarium experience with a dome above the viewer's

which glimmer and pulse, and amongst the stars

cant. So we were interested in how systems like

head reflecting stock market activity, and bioforms

are these sort-of creatures, little single-celled or­

the global financial system and our new technolo­

eating into the schema. What inspired the project

ganisms that wriggle around. Every star in the sky

gies can produce this seductive paralysis.

and how was it received?

represents a stock traded on the world's stock

At the same time, one of the reasons that there

exchanges, and the latest versions of the piece

was so much excitement about the markets in

JP: Black Shoals was a piece we first worked on

have almost every publicly traded company in the

those days was that it was the time that complex­

in the late nineties. It was a time when the stock

world up there. The system is connected in real

ity theory and mathematical models of biological

market was booming, the beginning of the bloom

time, via Reuters's superfast data network, to the

processes were starting to enter the public con­

of the more complex types of financial instruments

stock exchanges - and when a company's shares

sciousness, and of course the financial markets

that ended up precipitating the 2008 crash. These

are traded the corresponding star in the dome will

are an interesting thing to study in those terms.

ENVIRONMENTS IN CONFLICT So people were applying theories that had been

capable of moving around, grazing amongst the

There are a lot of references in Black Shoals to this

derived from biology to the financial market - with

stars. Later on more complex creatures sometimes

kind of magical thinking about money: for instance,

great success. Now, there's nothing wrong with

evolve that actively hunt for food, sniffing out

over time the stars move about in the dome and

studying the markets using this approach, but

areas where the most trading is taking place. Just

form constellations reminiscent of the signs of the

it tends to lend more and more subconscious

as in nature you get different species with different

zodiac. Just as early people looked to the stars,

weight to the sense that the financial system is

survival strategies; sometimes you'll get very sim足

and felt they had some magical connection with

somehow a "natural" process that we can study

ple fungi-like creatures that can't really move but

their lives, we look to the iconic companies like

the same way we study other natural processes.

which will reproduce in their thousands when they

Apple and we monitor their waxing and waning and

But of course, the markets are very specifically a

can and throw their spores out; and most of the

try to predict the future harvest. Money is a power足

system that we have created and perform in a very

spores just die, but some might land on an active

ful magical tool. In our opinion language is at the

formalized way - there's nothing "natural" about

star and they will furiously reproduce, sometimes

root of our idea of magic, because language has

them. So the creatures that exist in the dome are,

creating huge blooms that swarm across the sky.

the ability to create something out of nothing (for

in part, a sort of joke about that. They're actually

Other species only have a few offspring, but they

instance in the act of naming we make something

pretty sophisticated artificial life forms, composed

are much more complex and will actively look for

that previously had no identity into a tangible thing

of neural network brains and physically modelled

food and a much higher proportion survive and

that we can talk about). We create something in

bodies made of muscles, joints, bones, eyes, no足

they tend to live much longer (though these are

a similar way whenever we give it a price: sud足

ses etc. They're based on the work of a brilliant

often the first to die in lean times).

denly it becomes part of a market, and exists in

researcher that we worked with called Cefn Hoyle.

We saw this evolution of the creatures as a

Whenever the exhibition is installed the creatures

kind of poetic attempt to understand and adapt

before. Now it can be traded and become part of

are reset, and initially start out as a kind of chaotic

to the weird world they lived in. We imagined that

the flow of capital. So all of these slightly strange

primordial soup of body parts - they aren't really

the creatures, with their primitive neural network

ideas about "nature" and our relation to it, and

coherent creatures at all. But the creatures can

brains, might develop something like a religion

our relation to the financial market, are reflected

a world where it can live in a way that it couldn't

breed with each other, and those that survive long-

to explain why suddenly Glaxo-Smith-Kline was

in Black Shoals. It's a bit of a dense piece of work,

er get to breed more, so evolutionary processes

so fertile, and why at other times a great famine

possibly too dense.

take hold and quite soon you start to get creatures

might fall upon the whole petrochemical region. Two Views - Twenty Interviews


ART SPACE ECOLOGY It's interesting how Black Shoals has been re­

have written about the project in relation to evo­

somewhat by their colonial relationship with

ceived. I think that, partly because it is so dense, it

lutionary theory and to its role as a critique of the

Denmark. But on the other hand they live in an

means different things to different people. It's not

aesthetics of data visualization, and we're always

impossible country, and unless they are prepared

didactic about trying to make its point; in fact it's

interested to read these different interpretations.

to go back to a primarily hunting existence it's

very much a research piece for us, we're still think­

very hard to see how they can build a viable econ­

ing about it and reworking it and trying to under­

JKG: I come from a country where uranium min­

stand it ourselves. And the world changes - so

ing has had devastating effects on the health of

a vast area (50 times the size of Denmark) the

we've adapted it over time to reflect that, and our

indigenous and local communities, both from

vast majority of it uninhabitable, with almost no

omy. They are 56,000 people, spread out over

relationship with it has changed too. Even people

mining, and the detritus of mining, so I found

infrastructure, and very very little land suitable

that work in the financial world often find their own

your Greenland project and film Kuannersuit;

for agriculture. At the moment they are tremen­

meanings in it; we had some people who felt very

Kvanefjeld to be of great interest, particularly

dously subsidized by Denmark. And so the only

strongly that the creatures represented predatory

as the Danish government has actively worked

way they can see to produce foreign trade (be­

high frequency traders, for instance. And that's ok.

against letting Green landers take over their own

yond their fishing industry, which is struggling to

Thomson Reuters who have supported the project

country for resource and exploration reasons. Can

cope already) is to sell their mineral rights. But

for years have been very positive about the project,

you tell me more ...

even though they know it's somewhat critical of

our feeling is that, compared to the rapacious savagery of international capital and the implac­

their world - which is very impressive of them. (In

JP: Well the situation in Greenland is really com­

able pressure of global geopolitics, the Danes are

fact, when it's running Black Shoals is by far their

plex, and in some ways our film is our reaction to

going to look quite benign. It's hard to see how the country and culture would survive the sudden

biggest consumer of data; amazingly it consumes

the difficulty of taking a position in relation to the

about three times as much bandwidth as a major

situation as people who stand, at least somewhat,

influx of mining money, or how they could protect

stock broker. When we showed it in Copenhagen

outside. When we first set out to make the film I

the demand was so high that Reuters had to up-

think we had much more certainty of our position

themselves legally (and possibly even militarily) from outside forces so enormously much more

grade the network connection of the Copenhagen

than when we finished. The Green lander's desire

powerful. Shenghe Holdings, the Chinese mining

stock exchange to cope - so their commitment

for independence is understandable, and their cul-

company who have shown interest in the mine fea-

to the project is not insignificant). Other people

ture is incredible and unique and is undermined

tured in the film, have an annual income greater

ENVIRONMENTS IN CONFLICT than the GDP of Greenland - how can Greenland

that can currently support any form of agricul-

it's at the heart of the debate about the future

hope to protect their interests? To be fair, many

ture (climate change may make a difference in

of Greenland, and in some ways emblematic of

Greenlanders realize this, but the reality of politics

the future). There have been sheep farms in the

broad questions about the future generally.

in Greenland are that nationalism and the fervour

region since the 1920s, and the farming industry

for independence wins votes, and once in power

has grown slowly since then and now there are

the government has to try to find ways to deliver.

about 20,000 sheep there. There's also a history

One of the things we felt during the making of the

of fishing in the area, but the fishing industry has

film was that it was important for Green landers to

declined in recent years and the prawn factory

develop their own systems of debate and decision

closed. As with many places in Greenland, young

making. We heard from many people that they felt

people are moving away to Nuuk or to Denmark.

that European style democracy wasn't culturally

A couple of kilometers outside the town is a

natural to them - several people in the film talk

geological wonder - the mountain of Kuannersuit,

about how hard it is for them to disagree in public,

also known as Kvanefjeld, has one of the richest

for instance, which makes civic debate very diffi­

seams of rare earth minerals in the world, and

cult. We've heard about some older traditions of

also huge quantities of uranium and thorium.

debating and dispute resolution which might be

There are minerals in the mountain found nowhere

adapted to help, and it would be interesting to see

else on earth. It's become the centre of the de­

if that might work.

bate about the future of the country. Some people in the area feel that a mine would bring money

JKG: Can you tell us what the film is about? JP: The film is about the debate surrounding

and jobs and revive a town which otherwise is

Greenland, Waste in Front of a Mountain, 2016

doomed to fade away; others think it will pollute

Still from the film Kuannersuit; Kvanefjeld. Photo: Lise Autogena and Joshua Partway

the air and water with radioactive dust and an

the development of a mine at near Narsaq, in

influx of foreign workers will destroy their culture

the southern tip of Greenland. It's an amazingly

entirely. It's a very emotional issue which has div­

beautiful area, and the only region of Greenland

ided the population of the town, and it feels like Two Views - Twenty Interviews


Sculpture and Ecolution Chris Booth Born in Kerikeri, New Zealand in 1948, Chris Booth

What is more remarkable are the various forms

has pursued an interesting line of sculpture, much

of sculpture he has gone on to produce, entirely

of it associated with the land, earth forms, and

unique. While Booth's sculpture sometimes draws

indigenous peoples of the region(s) he has worked

upon indigenous Maori and Aborigine characteris­

in. While he received his initial education at the

tics, they remain unique, and capture aspects of

University of Canterbury in New Zealand, he then

topography, natural history, and landscape forms

branched out to study with various sculptors in

already extant in the places he works. He categor­

Europe that include Dame Barbara Hepworth,

izes these works as Slabs, Earth Blankets, Boulder

Denis Mitchell, John Milne in England, and Quinto

works, Columns and Living Sculptures.

Ghermandi in Italy.

Booth has pursued an interesting line of sculp­

For over 40 years Booth has participated in

ture, much of it associated with the land, earth

numerous land art projects in New Zealand and

forms, and indigenous peoples of the region(s)

internationally in England, Netherlands, France,

he has worked in. A major current project is the

Denmark, Italy, Germany, USA, Canada, Australia,

Subterranean Living Sculpture (SLS) which Booth

Singapore, and the Canary Islands.

is developing in association with the Eden Project in Cornwall, UK. The major focus is to educate

Nga Uri O Hinetuparimaunga, 2005 incorporating the kakahu or 'earth blanket' Te Kahu o Papatuanuku (in collaboration with Diggeress Te Kanawa), Hamilton, New Zealand Stone, steel; 420cm x 10000cm x 150cm Nga Uri o Hinetupari­ maunga (installation of 21 elements) Nga Uri o Hinetupari­ maunga with the artist Photo by Jenny Scown

about the importance of lower plants and fungi for survival and the effect of climate change. Plans are underway to establish the SLS in New Zealand.

JKG: How did the nacflatalp Transformation Plant idea for Van Dusen Gardens, Vancouver, originate? CB: Weeks before departing for Vancouver to undertake the project, I felt it necessary to try to make meaningful contact with the Musqueam Indian Band leader and cultural advisor, Leona Sparrow,. of Vancouver. Her name had been given to me by the Director of the Van Dusen Gardens, Harry Jongerden, It was an honour that soon after my arrival in Vancouver, Musqueam Nation Treaty, Language and Culture representatives Dianne Sparrow, Larissa Grant and Jason Woolman gen­ erously came to meet me, to show their support and listen to my initial ideas that had been de­ veloped quickly from the discovery of a very spe­ cial isolated open site right toward the back of the gardens - partially overshadowed by a very old Acacia tree with a backdrop of mature red cedar trees and a small pond. I explained that the plan was to establish a five metre diameter partially open "flower" made of many high stone "petals" up to two metres high.

Transformation Plant, 2012, Van Dusen Gardens, Vancouver, Canada; collaboration with fungi and tree (western red cedar), stone, wood; 200cm x 500cm x 500cm. Photo: Chris Booth

Two Views - Twenty Interviews 77

ART SPACE ECOLOGY This centre will be tightly packed with twigs and

JKG: Tell me more about the exchange with the

ecology are an important part of the whole process

earth and within this we'll make a nest of twigs and

Musqueam Band.

with the Van Dusen Gardens sculpture in Vancouver.

be filled with organic matter into which a juvenile

CB: Following my arrival we were soon in com­

CB: Mycorrhizae and mycelia are under the ground

sacred Western red cedar tree will be planted. The

munication; this was a result of my earlier letter to

in all healthy forests and gardens, in fact everywhere

tree will grow down through the humus and com­

Leona Sparrow a few months before, asking if her

that there are plants there is a network of mycorrhi­

post. The stone slabs will be supported by over 16

band would be happy for me coming to create a

zaeand mycelia. They throw up fruiting bodies, that

cubic metres of reclaimed wood from the gardens.

work. The representatives of the Musqueam Band

is mushrooms, some of which we can eat. Right

leaves. The nest will be a beautiful thing and will

who initially visited me approved the site and the

where we are now under all of this is this network of

JKG: How did you find these sea wall stones for the

concept. They also offered to enact a customary

living organisms. Only because of them are these

Vancouver project?

ceremony at the opening. It was a fantastic ... and

trees so healthy because they have a symbiotic re­

humbling offer.

lationship with fungi. Fungi breaks down minerals

CB: I asked Harry Jongerden to start looking a month

The Musqueam people have lived for thousands

to feed the tree and the tree feeds them cardohy­

before I came. It was only after my arrival when Harry

of years in the territory that is now Vancouver and

drates. Of course fungi is the biggest organism on

io of which were useful - but

surrounding areas. The name Musqueam relates

the planet and the greatest recycler on the planet.

it gave us the beginning. Harry rang up the parks and

back to the River Grass and the story that passed

found some stones -

asked, "Do you have any more?" and they said, "Yes!

on of the People of the River Grass. It goes this

JKG: So this is an evolutive structure on what

We have a pile at Stanley Point, all covered up among

way: "It was noted that in some periods the grass

was once native land actually. It is a time-release

the brambles." After we cleared the brambles, we

flourished, and in some periods it could hardly be

piece that will change as the tree grows, the wood

found some magnificent stone. Incredible!

found. In some periods, the Musqueam people

decomposes ...

would flourish and in other eras the population JKG: They look like they were made for the piece.

would dwindle due to plagues or war. This was how

CB: Absolutely. Over at least thirty years. We have

the Musqueam people got their name.

all the wood stacked here and it's ready to be eaten

CB: It's as though everything that was meant to come together did.

by fungi. JKG: Chris, the forest undergrowth and forest

SCULPTURE AND ECOLUTION JKG: When one thinks about formal botanical

have had little contact. And the other part of the

gardens one thinks of formal sculpture. They are

complex weaving can be brought right through to

red cedar about her, over the work, Thelma Stogan,

kind of symbiotic in a way. And here we have a

the cultural aspect that includes contemporary art.

shaman - in a semi trance, chanted in h-un- q-uh­

it, and the formal idea of a garden as we know it.

JKG: Well your art is so far from Damien Hirst really.

eral times and honoured each point, east, north,

Some kind of communication between the colonial

Damien Hirst is all about consecrating the com-

west, south, again east. Finally she entered among

culture and the Amerindian First Nations culture.

modity of whatever the object might be, and here

the leaning slabs and the stacked wood to gently

de-formalizing of the formal sculpture, as we know

consecration followed. Wafting a sprig of western

mi-n-uhm - starting to the east, she turned sev­

we have the consecrating of the ecological value,

waft the sprig over the now revered juvenile west­

CB: It is the spirit of the land that is coming

and the contribution of ecological processes to

ern red cedar. She "blessed" the total presence

through. I think that in many ways this sort of

our lives.

according to Musqueam traditions. Quiescence

sculpture is more relevant to a botanical garden.

prevailed over the place and all who witnessed

Let's face it, all the people involved in running

CB: nacflatalp Transformation Plant is a col-

botanical gardens, those who are knowledgeable

laboration with nature and community - living

the ceremony. Truly a great exchange. This transformative living

know how important fungi is, and also how dan-

earth art. We are consecrating Gaia here. And on

art piece was gifted back to the Musqueum band.

gerous it can be.

August 2, 2012, Larry Grant, an elder of the tribe,

They then consecrated the land, and then gifted it

welcomed those that attended in h-un-q-uh-mi-

back to Vancouver's Van Dusen Gardens. Though

JKG: Also your idea of sculpture is less about the

n-uhm (Musqueam language) and in English. He

the ceremony was symbolic, it relates to the way

sculpture as object than about the evolution and

touched on Musqueam history describing how the

the Amerindian people see the land as part of a

devolution and the ongoing process.

great transformer changed their supernatural first

living culture, an ever-changing landscape. Our

ancestors who descended from the sky, wrapped

ancestors were not so different, though traditions

CB: Yes. It is a weaving in a complex way between

in clouds, into their present form as rocks, ani-

have been submerged, forgotten by other forces.

all sorts of different aspects of a place, from spirit-

mals and features of the landscape that remain

We view the land but we live in it!

ual through to weaving within a community; for

to this day. Musqueam thus do not simply belong

instance here in Vancouver I believe the gardens

to the land, the river, the living creatures here;

are very keen to have the Musqueam because they

they are those places and beings. The blessing or Two Views - Twenty Interviews


ART SPACE ECOLOGY JKG: Barbara Hepworth's remarkable Family of

is ridiculous spraying those beautiful insects." He

Man (1970), a bronze in nine parts now at the

knew of some of Rudolph Steiner's writings, and it

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, continues to have great

was enough to reinforce my father's views. Some

resonance as an outdoor art work. You studied

of that came through.

with Barbara, did she influence your approach to sculpture?

JKG: We know so little about traditional Amerindian culture, how evolved and in tune with nature those

CB: Barbara empowered within me the spirit of

diverse cultures were. Has the Maori, or New

humanity. I already had the spirit of humanity as

Zealand's vision of today's world changed? Art

a very young man, but Barbara reinforced it and

from places we used to call marginal in the main­

encouraged that first and foremost as an artist one

stream art world are now a source for peoples all

should be a good human being.

over the world, whether it is lnnu, African, Asian. In mainstream art, historical movements from the

JKG: Family of Man is like a prototype for environ­

past have become market-based phenomena but

mental sculpture and not recognized in that sense

cease to truly influence living culture. This is quite

back then, but it can be now.

ironic ...

CB: Absolutely, standing in the landscape.

CB: New Zealand has a very active artistic com­

However, my most profound influences came from

munity that in many ways is as you say. Like

more primal sources: the Bay of Islands in the very

anywhere else in the world ... vital social recon­

far north of northern New Zealand, the land where I

ciliation processes (that follow negative post-col­

was brought up. My parents were organic orchard­

onialization effects) are, however, directly and

ists, and my dad started an organic orchard in the

indirectly bringing about a profoundly powerful

late 1920s. His interest was not commercial but

human response throughout the various arts

for philosophical reasons. He thought "My God it

disciplines. One could mention Keri Hulme's The

SCULPTURE AND ECOLUTION Bone People, and the films Once were Warriors and

bound the work and the work team to the land

CB: Yes and no. The hunabeds housed genera­

Whale Rider, Black Grace in the world of dance,

and its forebears. The idea, in the end, was mine.

tions of human remains and were frequently vis­

or even the painter Ralph Hotere, the composer

However, to arrive at this final point involved con­

ited by relatives - the fantastic Hunebed Centrum

Gillian Whitehead, for sound and music Hirini

stant collaboration. Then, an invitation came from

museum explains the hunabeds brilliantly. In

Melbourne and Richard Nuns. We can almost use

the Director of the Hunebed Centrum Museum in

contrast to the open nature of these passage

our ignorance of indigenous cultures, whether

the northeast of the Netherlands. They knew I was

graves, no one will be able to go inside the struc­

in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, or other col­

an artist who works with communities, which you

ture I'm developing. The idea evolved into this

onized countries as an excuse, however as we

so perceptively have written of in the past. They

three-meter diameter 16-meter long woven tube or

know, before the Europeans came, there had been

said come on up and respond to these 4000 BC

tunnel whose ends will be sealed off from entry,

thousands of years of highly evolved culture that


continues through today.

comprising about 30,000 small glacier worn stones. The structure will be implanted into the

JKG: Mounds? JKG: And you made a piece for the Kriiller-MOller

ridge of a 100-metre long crescent-shaped dune that we are going to recreate. The Borger area was

Museum in Otterlo in 2005 and are developing a

CB: They are passage graves. They would have been

once covered in dunes. I have used the Barken

piece in the Netherlands, is that right?

mounds, but they are now skeletal stone structures.

sand dune form as my inspiration. A full grown oak

They are so beautiful, those passage graves and

will be transplanted into the ridge also.

CB: Echo Van de Veluwe (2003-2005), Kriiller-

they look almost vulva shaped in their plan. And

MOiier Museum, the Netherlands, came as a result

they do say they were a matriarchal society. It was

of intensive research into the geomorphological

a great honour to live in these villages, to research

and social history of the local environment. I used

and develop a piece of land art that reflects today in

310 erratic granite boulders from the surround-

comparison with these fantastic 4000 BC hunabeds.

ing area. From the outset through to completion,

I interviewed farmers and local people in the villages.

the process included the people who live in the nearby villages, the eldest of whom was 98. This

JKG: Did you come up with any direct connection

wise man, Peet Bronz, throughout the process,

with the hunabeds?

Following page spread: Wurrungwuri, 2008-2010, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, Australia. Stone, steel, flora, fauna; 400cm x 2300cm x 2200cm Photo: Richard Drew

Two Views - Twenty Interviews 81

ART SPACE ECOLOGY JKG: Why a tunnel idea?

to make a tube that no one can go into. People

JKG: And subsequent to Van Dusen Gardens in

were able to enter the hunabeds and lay flowers

Vancouver, at the Royal Botanical Gardens in

CB: When I spoke to the farmers, they said the

for instance. This piece will be uncontaminated by

Burlington, Ontario, you produced a work using

biggest challenge for farmers today as compared

people going through it.

natural and vegetable matter that was absolutely

to the middle Neolithic farming community is New

not about sculpture as being an object, more a

Zealand. I said "What?" They said "We have had

JKG: So different from Walter de Maria's Earth

work that symbolized the transformation of an aes-

to organize a consortium to compete with New

Room (1977) - the aesthetic commodification of

thetic in our times ... towards entropy, ecological

Zealand." My head had to stretch from local farm-

earth in an exhibition space.

ing problems to global problems. They said we

systems. It's so of our times, and cannot be quantified as art.

have to borrow from the banks, take huge mort­

CB: A symbolic mother earth sculpture in the form

gages. There used to be 30 farmers and now there

of uncontaminated air. Not so far from Borger

CB: Exactly, maybe along the lines of those most

are only three. They still love to farm."

Robert Smithson's Broken Circle/Spiral Hill (1971)

ancient of rock shelter artists of all cultures,

still is in place at Emmen. Smithson's is a very

h on ou ring/ ce I eb rating/revering/ mytho I ogizi ng

JKG: And are their cows genetically modified?

beautiful sculpture.

the ecology that sustained existence. Instead of

CB: No. Each of the cows has a computer chip

JKG: Yes that was Smithson's contribution to the

earth reeds sticks string fungi honors/celebrates/

around their neck ensuring they are fed exactly

Sonsbeek exhibition Beyond Lawn and Order.

reveres/mythologizes the organisms responsible

what they need. I asked them about the crops they

Sonsbeek was the European beginning of the

for the breakdown and return to life of dead matter.

have to bring for winter feed, are they genetically

Land Art exchange between North America and

Instead of a "sacred" rock shelter I choose as my

modified? They said definitely not. They said we

Europe just as Willoughby Sharp's Earth Art show

"canvas" a "sacred" earth site. The word "sacred"

portraying animals and mythological creatures,

have Monsanto breathing down our necks, though.

at Cornell had been in 1969. Land Art has evolved

here meaning a place of particular importance to

These farmers have huge global challenges such as

so much further now from Earth Art, to Eco-Art, to

me that emanates the spirit of life/earth due to a

Monsanto, the banks and climate change. I figured

Bio-Art and there are other manifestations of the

unique (to me) mix of the geomorphology, soil type,

that these challenges go far beyond the challenges

reconnecting with the earth.

indigenous flora and fauna. The structure and life/

their 4000BC ancestors had to face. So I decided

death/life process of the piece was inspired by

SCULPTURE AND ECOLUTION and emulates sympodial growth (putting it simply,

sea. A fungi-like spire, nine metres tall, was ere-

this is a Zig-Zag growth pattern) of the nearby (and

ated. The material is interwoven around a central

somewhat threatened) Sassafras tree. As the in­

ongoing mushroom action part of the art?

and unseen recycled local timber pole - a system

CB: Wood, Stone, Fungi has precedents in

stallation begins to return to the ground, a feather­

reminiscent of the old way of stacking hay. The

Tranekaer-Varder produced at Tickon on the island

like pattern of sticks that celebrates sympodial

tall spire is made purely from gnarly grape trunk

of Langeland in Denmark (1998). It was the first

growth and the work of fungus - the greatest

material. Now a home for fungi, the grape vine

full-scale living sculpture where I collaborated with

recycler on the planet - remains.

material and pole will over many many years be

fungi and its ability to recycle organic matter - a

consumed by this greatest of recyclers ... and re­

work that acknowledged the nearby ancient Viking

JKG: Can you tell me something of your most re­

turned to the earth. In turn sustaining, at its base,

graves and early farm structures- the coming and

cent piece on Waiheke Island, New Zealand?

a newly planted edible grape vine. This sculpture

going of generations of farmers. This Hungarian

will exist for many generations. The new owner,

living sculpture acknowledges the importance of

CB: My Kinetic Fungi Tower, which was on exhib­

Connells Bay Sculpture Park, has been encouraged

mycorrhiza to the fertility of the farms of the Great

ition at Headlands Sculpture on the Gulf, Waiheke

to top it up every 10 years, and for them to pass on

Hungarian Plain. I classify works like these as my

Island, has been purchased by a highly respect­

this ritual to their children too ... and so on ... One

kinetic 'living sculpture' aesthetic. With its series

ed sculpture park on the island, Connells Bay

day it could be surrounded by beautiful fertile soil

of radiating stone slabs that resemble the radi­

Sculpture Park. I'm excited that they have em­

with thriving gardens - all thanks to the recycling

ating gills of a fungi mushroom and the sections

braced my living work philosophy - the first to do

of the vines to earth by fungi.

of reclaimed tree trunks that will eventually be

Auckland, NZ, is famous for its white wines and

JKG: Wood, Stone, Fungi (2016), a piece ere-

slowly. As the wood rots the stones move towards

olive oils. As you know fungi is vital to the wine

ated on site for the Small Gestures show at the

the earth to join together at the centre and radiate

makers. I love to collaborate with fungi too. In

Mucsarnok/Kunsthalle in Budapest comprised four

on the ground like the gills of a fungi.

October 2016, a call went out to all the island's

huge stones and sections of cut wood. After the

so in NZ. Waiheke Island, in the Hauraki Gulf off

consumed by fungi, the stones will move, ever so

grape growers asking for pruned-off vines and

show it went to the permanent sculpture collection

JKG: Like so many of your ground-breaking pro­

trunks. About twenty cubic metres were donated

at Nadasdladany - Nadasdy Castle. Is there an

jects, the Kunsthalle piece is a model for an

and delivered to my site on a headland above the

aesthetic in your integrative action sculpture? Is

ever-changing sculpture, a slow motion kinetic Two Views - Twenty Interviews 85

ART SPACE ECOLOGY and three-dimensional drawing. With the help of

bring people back to the earth - the provider, the

mycelia (fungi) the sculpture will gradually lower in

essence of all life. Within the world separating

height and butt up into a radiating mushroom gill

Ranginui (the sky Father) and Papatuanuku (the

form. It's a slow-motion sustainability sculpture

earth Mother) we invite them to celebrate and

with mycelia fungi as co-artists.

cherish these living, often unseen or overlooked, walked by or swum by life forms: lower plants (fern,

CB: These elements exist beneath the ground in all

moss, liverwort, algae, lichen) and fungi - all so

healthy farms forests and gardens. Under all of this

vital to terrestrial, atmospheric and aquatic life, yet

is a network of living matter. Only because of these

all threatened by human activities. The sculpture

networks of mycorrhiza and mycelia fungi do trees

will comprise over 250 metres of sun-lit passage-

remain so healthy. Trees have a symbiotic relation-

ways set deep into converted WWII bomb shelter

ship with mycorrhiza in their roots. Fungi break

tunnels under Albert Park, Auckland.

down minerals to feed the tree and the tree feeds them. Of course fungi is the biggest organism on

JKG: We are all looking forward to those projects

the planet and the greatest recycler on the planet...

Chris. Thanks.

JKG: And you have plans for a Subterranean Living Sculpture in New Zealand? CB: We have all been into caves and inlets in Papatuanuku (the earth Mother), lined with un­ believable ferns, algae, and lichens, and felt the proximity of being at one with the earth. The Subterranean Living Sculpture, in association with the Eden Project, Cornwall, UK, attempts to

Transformation Plant nac 8ata p, 2012, Van Dusen Gardens, Vancouver, Canada Collaboration with fungi and tree (western red cedar), stone, wood; 200cm x 500cm x 500cm Photo: Chris Booth

How Big Is Here? Newton & Helen Mayer Harrison

Leading pioneers of the Eco-Art movement,

implementations both in the United States and

the collaborative team of Newton and Helen


Mayer Harrison (often referred to simply as "the

The agenda is created by the artists in discourse with the larger community. They stay only as

Their work process is singular. It begins with

long as the invitation continues, or until they

Harrisons") have worked for over forty years with

the question, "How Big is Here?" Here may be

deem that they have done all that is possible

biologists, ecologists, architects, urban planners,

a street corner, as in California Wash, or it may

for them to do.

and other artists to initiate collaborative dialogues

be a sub-continent, such as Peninsula Europe.

and uncover ideas and solutions which support biodiversity and community well-being. The Harrisons' concept of art embraces a breathtaking range of disciplines. They are his­ torians, diplomats, ecologists, investigators, emissaries, and art activists. Their work involves proposing solutions, not only via public discus­ sion but also extensive mapping and documen­ tation of these proposals in an art context. Past projects have focused on watershed res­ toration, urban renewal, agriculture and forestry issues, among others. The Harrisons' visionary projects have led to changes in governmental policy and have expanded dialogue around pre­ viously unexplored issues leading to practical

The Lagoon at Uppuveli, 1979

The Mangrove and the Fisherman, from the First Lagoon Painting on top of large sepia tone photograph, photographic paper on canvas. 8' x 12'.

JKG: How did the two of you begin working togeth­ er? Was the collaboration a way of enlarging the scope, the scale of engagement with the environ­ ment as artists? TH: Our collaboration in the domain of art-making began somewhere around 1970. We had worked together .in the anti-war movement of the early 60s and collaborated on other things aside from growing our four children. The collaboration began very simply with a decision that each of us made separately for somewhat different reasons to do no work that did not benefit the ecosystem or the life-web. It took several years for us to grasp how such systems worked, particularly how systems were nested within each other. We simply chose the ecosystem as our subject matter and one thing led to the other and continues to this day.

JKG: Is sharing always a part of the matrix of your art? If so, sharing as a reflection of ma­ terial culture, or spiritual culture, or a sharing of

Peninsular Europe, The Force Majeure, (Detail) 2007-2008


Two Views - Twenty Interviews 89

ART SPACE ECOLOGY TH: Sharing is always part of the matrix of our work.

many levels in mind. The first was that in the pro­

JKG: Sierra Nevada; An Adaptation (2011) part of

How can it not be, since we are sharing what we

cess of making it, it began to have the properties

the Force Majeure effort to encourage public and

have learned and how we have learned it and we

of a picaresque novel in seven parts. We had in

communal adaptation to ecosystems, is ingenious.

are sharing how we say it? Also, like a river or

mind that it would be the storyboards for a rather

The intention is to increase awareness of the way

watershed, it's pretty difficult to sign a meadow;

odd movie. When it was up, we often performed it.

things can go - positive or negative - according to

so many of our works develop a life of their own,

Also, the Lagoon Cycle became a story about our

the way lands and resources, and the environment

which is a separate story.

own development as artists and human beings.

are used. You do this through map projections of

JKG: As early as 1974 in San Diego is the Centre

JKG: Can you tell me about your recent Greenhouse

and public consciousness.

of the World, you addressed global warming. And

Britain project (2007-2009)?

land use scenarios largely missing from the media

in 1978 the Lagoon Cycle project (Sri Lanka) drew

TH: While it is true that the Sierra Nevada work

attention to the future global warming scenario

TH: Basically, we were interested in democratizing

and the Force Majeure works in general encour­

we are all now dealing with. Was working in an

global warming information in a very material way.

age public awareness and communal adaptation to ecosystemic change, we don't see ourselves

altogether different so-called "third world" con­

That is to say, everyone who looked at the model

text challenging, or was the context of nature, its

and saw the ocean rise and heard the text, could

as equipped to increase awareness sufficiently

universal commonalities, the real background for

get an idea of what would happen to their house or

to counter the global warming phenomenon. We

the Lagoon Cycle?

town if it was located close to sea level. Therefore,

suspect that our own work and perhaps several

everyday people would be able to plan accordingly.

hundred others will collectively change conscious­

TH: Working in the third world context, various

However, Greenhouse Britain had a number of parts.

ness, but in our opinion, not in time. Rather, from

countries in Europe and various parts of the US,

One, an amusing film, which posed the question:

our Force Majeure works, we have concluded

sort of infiltrated our thinking processes and are

what would happen to Bristol if the ocean rose

that tipping points have passed, or are passing,

the real background for the Lagoon Cycle. Topsoil

five meters? The concept proposed a barrier in the

and we need to begin an investigation of and

and grasslands are a theme in our work that start­

channel and diverting the Avon River. Another pro­

action toward adaptation at very great scale. By

ed early and continue to this day. So is global

posal took up the upward movement of people and

this, we mean something like the several million

warming. The Lagoon Cycle was invented with

where and how London might respond to ocean rise.

square kilometers of the Tibetan Plateau, not too


From Tibet is the High Ground Part IV, one of several done between 2006 and 2010.

Asmuthal equidistant projection mapping in scroll form with archival coloring. 7.5' x 7.5'.

Two Views - Twenty Interviews 91

ART SPACE ECOLOGY mountainous to grow things on. This is a very long

refer to the laws of physics as something we must

story. The proposal we have made begins with

tune to. We do this because any serious review of

Manifesto for the 21st Century, then lays out the

critical theory demonstrates the absence of ser­

Tibet work, the Peninsula Europe work, which may

ious attention to the physical laws which underpin

clear the requirement for adaptation, then includes

life. As suggested in our manifesto, too much of

the Sierra Nevada work and the experimentation

human activity pays attention to other human ac­

that it will do, where we set out to prove the con­

tivity. This is true whether we are looking at social

cept on the ground in what we call a "hybrid work."

justice issues, economics, entertainment, critical theory, and everyday conversation. All together,

JKG: In Force Majeure you intimate we are not

our attention is upon each other and not upon that

conscious of the physical, even invisible changes

from which we all have been born and that which

in the world, instead opting to read and inform

underlies the well-being and survival of all that is

according to traditional informational systems

ourselves and all life that we perceive is not our­

rather than watching the real world, the physical

selves. From the perspective of the laws of physics

world, the physics of the world in effect. And so

and our own self-interest, we have institutionalized

is physics a far more radical teacher than method

insanity. (Website: theharrisonstudio.net)

or ideology?? The Harrisons: You quote from our Manifesto for the 21st Century, where we define how and why we use the term Force Majeure. In it, we express our doubts about the value and power of diverse ideologies to resolve the stress coming about as a result of accelerated global warming in transaction with the culture of resource extraction. Instead we

© Espace Art Actuel, No. 101, 2012

First sketch for Meditations on the Sacramento River, the Delta and the Bays of San Francisco. 1976.

Drawing, handwritten text on canvas collage, 52" x 13.5'. Full poem is in the book.

Pilar Ovalle selecting wood, 2006

Pirigueico Lake, IX regi6n, Chile Š Pilar Ovalle

Nature in Peace Pilar Ovalle

Born in Santiago in 1970, and having studied

Ovalle uses a

less mutable material, namely wood. The wood she integrates is selected and gathered

Ovalle addresses the nature-culture divide challen­

fine art at el lnstituto de Arte Contemporaneo de

comes from a generation of

along lakeshores and in the forests. The weath-

ging our lack of awareness of holistic and physical processes. The parallel comparisons are often

Chilean sculptors with a sophisticated capacity of integrating material into an aesthetic language.

ered aspect becomes part of the language in the art form and is present in the final artwork. The

between the human body and nature as a body.

Many of them have made an impact, emerging

gathering of wood is a ritual for Ovalle that involves

and experience of life. Her art embodies an ethics

onto the international arts scene. The language

the experience of a living environment, provides

of human identity and reveals nature's cathartic

of materials, the interlocking natural wood forms,

a context in nature as a source for the art, and

and healing capacities, something central to both

sometimes juxtaposed with more linear elements,

requires an eye for an interesting tree limb, branch

our conscious and unconscious sense of self.

develops a dialogue with nature as material col-

or trunk. Pilar Ovalle's sculptures were the subject

Ovalle's process is exacting, a language that builds

laborator and voice in the medium. There is less

of numerous solo shows including her most recent

on nature's language. Entropy, holistic presence, a

conceptual control of the material, the process or

at AMS Marlborough Gallery in Santiago in 2017.

dialogue with time about the mystery of life, life's

Santiago, Pilar Ovalle

Pilar Ovalle's sculptures express the process

the conception. Experience and intuition are the

An earlier show was chosen because the artist

endless cycle are what Ovalle's process and art

vernacular essence of Ovalle's sculpturejust as her

identifies so readily with the indigenous woods

signifies. Pilar Ovalle is embracing, absorbing,

art is quintessentially linked to nature's processes. Ovalle's works reference the ancient South

of Chile. Some tree forms, intertwined with fig-

translating, building a co-aesthetic of the future.

urative human and tree forms, could be seen at

American tradition of weaving, notably the

the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes exhibition in

Mapuche of Chile who used llama or guanaco

2006. In her more recent works, such as Dead

wool in their weaving until the Spaniards arrived,

Matter Emergencies (2016) exhibited at the Small

whereupon sheep's wool was commonly used.

Gestures Kunsthalle show in Budapest, Hungary,

Two Views - Twenty Interviews 95

JKG: Pilar I wanted to know when did you begi working with wood? PO: I started with wood in my early years when1 was studying art, but in those years I could n~ find a professor that could teach me, so I w~ self-educated in learning how to work with woof I immersed myself in books about traditional ca~ pentry and assembly, and then I moved that int my sketches and ideas. Wood for me is a livi

r material, and I feel it is so malleable .... It givtl me endless possibilities to construct on. For

wood is a vehicle towards creative form, from i origins along river shores to driftwood and su underwater wood, to the sawmill slabs. Wood ge! erates a dialogue and allows itself to be heard a suggests first impressions of the emerging figure

Pulso: Maderas and recycled wood, 2014-2016 Galeria Ana Maria Stagno/AMS Marlborough 3.50 x 3.10 x 2.00 metres, Maderas wood Photo: Pablo Casals Š Pilar Ovalle

NATURE IN PEACE JKG: Did you grow up in an environment close to nature?

its final cause. Second, wood as a formal cause

PO: Well, "barca" in Spanish means, to be precise,

me from my own being.

a vessel, and a vessel has a symbolic link with

As a living material, wood has the power to seek

death and rebirth as an eternal cycle of which we

evokes deep feelings in

po: No, I did not. I was raised in an urban environ-

the cycles of life and it is linked to the human and

are not always aware. There is a double meaning:

ment, in an apartment. Confinement generated

nature's life cycles.

we can symbolically be the vessel itself or be co­

in me a deep anxiety. When I began to travel in

cooned in it as in a womb.

open spaces in nature in my early twenties I felt

JKG: Chile has a strong tradition of sculpture using

completely alive wandering in the woods and hills

wood and there are masters in the field...

and I felt overwhelmed, and marveled at the treas-

JKG: And Flow, commissioned for a specific architectural space in Oregon, has a flow form not un-

ures I found on the earth's floor or in and beside

PO: Chile is a telluric country with its earthquakes

like Tadashi Kawamaata's large-scale intervention.

the rivers.

and cordilleras and has a strong tradition of

Yours has an undulating wrapping that follows the

My personal practical experience in sculpture

sculptors in metal and stone, but wood has been

shape and form of this amazing organic architec-

has been for me the fundamental source of know-

relegated to utilitarian perspectives and has not

ture. It reflects or mirrors the Oregon landscape

ledge that accompanies me in my work. With my

been used as an artistic support in sculpture. Very


process in and around wood at its source point, I

few masters can be named, and very little has

discover the craft and technique I will use, and see

been done in the urban scale or out in natural

PO: In this sculpture integrated as part of a

it as a humanizing spiritual experience - nature

environments and spaces. Using wood to create

commission in an architectural space, I tried to

is the central axis. When choosing wood my field

a new language to express natural and embodied

achieve a visual and tactile manifestation of the

observations are mainly based on two aspects:

human tensions has been an exciting challenge.

Eternal Return Myth, which is from our human

first, wood's extra-sensory power transmits to my

perspective an endless journey to consciousness

mind the possibilities of artistic expression, and as

JKG: An early sculpture you made called Barca sug­

in everyday time or from birth to death time. Flow

a support wood imposes its shape but is extremely

gests a metaphorical journey. It has a vessel-like form

displays from this infinite pattern, expressing its


but it's also kind of autobiographical. With its integral

wonder and transcendence. The wood sections

to project in space with greater freedom than other

wood weave, shaping and fitting, it integrated a vision

that flow and interweave along the wall suggest

materials. Wood in this language is secondary to

that goes beyond mere contemporaneity. It's eternal. ..

time that converges finally in the matrix, which is

ductile and has structural qualities that allow

Two Views - Twenty Interviews 97

ART SPACE ECOLOGY at the same time, beginning and end, generation

accumulating in our environment. It also addresses

in an attemptto write a story that beats like a heart in

and completion.

the meaningless loss of vital time that emerges

the body of an aging material.

dramatically that is so evident in our day-to-day JKG: Dead Matter Emergencies (Ludwig Museum

life, as a fruit of a system whose cruelty we are not

JKG: Sarcophagi or Shroud Bodies (2016), in the same

Collection 2016) is like a clarion call. The corpse of

always aware of.

show, becomes a reflection on the thin veil between

feel the tensions of contemporary life in the awk-

JKG: Your larger than life Pulso sculpture, exhibited

Classical or Romantic. The sleeping body of nature

ward juxtaposition of the dead trunk and the finely

recently at Santiago's Galeria Ana Maria Stagno

exists in tandem with these approximate humans... As

carved and joined emergent wood forms emerging

AMS Marlborough, was remarkable. You enter it

signifiers they build a dialogue with our human history,

out of its centre. There is a clash of wood, refined

like the body of a whale. It is all made from re-

like the sarcophagi of the ancients, the medieval. ..

and rough. The tenga and Paquio wood inside you

cycled materials and holds a beautiful integral

collected in Patagonia and Amazonia. Like blood

sense of being, and place.

a tree communicates a sense of urgency. You can

life and death, the container and contained. It's almost

vessels or circulatory systems in the tree, the forms

PO: Here the work addresses another level of reflec­ tion about the body as a continent. The bodies can

could also be human, our blood vessels. How did

PO: In the game I have played over many years, using

be understood as boxes, and are defined by their

you come up with the idea?

found and accumulated materials and recovered

envelope, like housing or the footprint of an existence

chunks and pieces of wood from my studio, a dia­

of a place one dwells as intimate refuge. The boxes or

lectic emerges somewhere between enclosure and

coffins are vertically placed with their front and back

or conditions of the same material, wood - dead

protection, between the living body and the broken

both visible expressing the dualistic relationship be­

and living, old and new, scrap and manufactured

object, and it also refers to the limbo between life

tween life and death.

matter - expresses a duality that I want to show

and death. As out of a big womb, being thrown into life

just as the title, Dead Matter Emergencies, sug­

defies death in a cycle that is an image of an eternal

JKG: They have a totemic dimensionality, but are

gests. As a process, rescuing scrap wood evokes

PULSE. The fragments of this membrane no longer


the healing of the earth and becomes a meta­

refer to its origins, the only possibility to continue to

phor of eternal return. It has, for me, a dramatic

feel the pulse of the matter is to transform all these

PO: Yes. Between the emptiness and the envelope,

character like the dirt and scrap that is endlessly

fragments into the construction of a personal alphabet

I want these forms to address the relationship o~

PO: As you say, the meeting of these two realities

NATURE IN PEACE borders between life and death. It's a space that

in our minds, flowing ideas emerge from hidden

has resonance. The container and the contained

fissures to expand and conquer other territories,

reveal our inexact reading of our place in life, and

geometrical parts fit one in another in subtle com­

present the possibilities of realizing a total life.

munication codes. These sculptural gestures and

As signifiers they build a dialogue with our human

codes intend to reveal some of nature's rhythms

history, like as you say with those old wood and

and in so doing release the energies of our body

stone sarcophagi of the ancients, the medieval ...

memories and its entropy processes.

History continues, nature never sleeps.

Flow, 2008 Private Collection, Oregon. USA, © Pilar Ovalle

JKG: And the other Heads/Drawers' cube-like as­ semblages of wood, emergent elements, partial elements in the show are like burial containers. They feel ancient, but contemporary as well and that is unusual. They suggest a kind of natural in­ telligence, nature's own intelligence as mirrored in our bio-genetic memory... or something like that! PO: In a way the heads are also continents, an image of cosmic totality, in another scale - the main scale perhaps - of this discussion and the human condition. Heads are the womb for ideas and the open boxes of self-consciousness when we look or search in its inside parts. I intend to achieve a taxonomy or desiccation of these in­ ternal processes. Memories that emerge from it or can be stocked in individual or multiple boxes Two Views - Twenty Interviews 99

Best to Love Bugs Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas

Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas' art in its many incar­

After working for decades in the Haida Nation's

art, books, and speeches. Haida Manga offers

nations - as Haida Manga, sculpture, painting,

celebrated campaign to protect its bio-cultural

an empowering and playful way of viewing and

carving, mixed media, or ceramics - has been

diversity, Yahgulanaas began to play as a full­

engaging with social issues as it seeks participa­

exhibited in public spaces, museums, galleries,

time artist. A descendant of the renowned artists

tion, dialogue, reflection, and action. Yahgulanaas'

and private collections across the globe in such

Isabella Edenshaw, Charles Edenshaw and Delores

visual practice encompasses a variety of different

renowned collections as the British Museum,

Churchill, Yahgulanaas' apprencticed under ex­

art forms including large-scale public art projects,

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum

ceptional creators and master carvers of talented

mixed media sculptures and canvases, re-pur­

and Vancouver Art Gallery. His large sculptur­

lineage. In the late 1990s, after an exposure to

posed automobile parts, acrylics, watercolours,

al works can be seen on permanent display

Chinese brush techniques under the tutelage of

ink drawings, ceramics, and illustrated publica­

at Vancouver International Airport, the City of

Cantonese master Cai Ben Kwon, Yahgulanaas

tions. Exploring themes of identity, environment­

Vancouver, the City of Kam loops and the University

consciously began to merge Haida and Asian art­

alism and the human condition, he uses art and

of British Columbia. Yahgulanaas' highly success­

istic influences into his self-taught practice, and

speaking opportunities to communicate a world1

ful books include Flight of the Hummingbird, Red:

innovated with his hybrid art form called Haida Manga.

view that while particular to Haida Gwaii .:.... his

A Haida Manga and War of the Blink. Yahgulanaas

cestral North Pacific archipelago - is also relevant!

draws from his twenty years serving on the Council

Haida Manga blends North Pacific Indigenous

to a contemporary and internationally-engaged:

of the Haida Nation to travel the world speaking to

iconographies and frame lines with the graphic

audience. Influenced by both the tradition of Haida

businesses, institutions, and communities about

dynamism of Asian Manga. It is committed to hy­

iconography and contemporary Asian visual cul­

social justice, community building, communica­

bridity as a positive force that opens a third space

ture, Yahgulanaas has created a practice that is

tion, and change management.

for critical engagement and is woven through his

celebrated for its vitality, relevancy, and originality.


SEI, 2015 Perm anent collection of the Vancouver Intern ational Airport Stainless steel, copper, granite. W eight: 12 tons, length: 12 m eters, width variable Photo: Robert Keziere

Two Views - Twenty Interviews


ART SPACE ECOLOGY JKG: Michael, it's so good to meet you, and Charlie

Like so much of your work, it innovates with trad-

Yes, John, I take water from the same stream but

Edenshaw is one of your ancestors, so you have

itions, rather than merely repeating them.

brew up a different type of tea.

MNY: One important teacher for me was a paint­

JKG: And you have talked about your feeling of

family connections to the arts.

MNY: Yes. I am one of Charlie Edenshaw's num­

er from Canton. He spoke no English and I no

being in the middle somewhere in between cultural

erous descendants though he died long before I

Cantonese. It wasn't that he taught me how to use

viewpoints. It is something I can relate to. Does

was born. Art was a central part of his life as it is

a brush or see color in black ink. My brush skills

it provide a model for integration, creativity that

mine. Art was one of the very few spaces in which

are clumsy and black looks black. I am a poor

draws on and respects traditions while evolving

indigenous expression was welcomed or perhaps

student, but what Teacher Choi demonstrated was

them? Was it hard to develop new models for your

tolerated and reconfigured but not assaulted by

that art doesn't recognize all boundaries, it has the


Canada. This raises questions about what art

ultimate passport.

means when its formative cultural context is so violently shifted.

It is perhaps misleading to say I learned carving.

MNY: The model was always apparent. I was raised

Certainly then as now we continue to examine and

in that space. There were two grandfathers in my

My family was one of many lineages using art to

reapply the complexity of our inherited art theor­

life. Both grandfathers were kind and generous

record an ancient way of being in the world. Think

ies. During my years of exposure to carving at that

with their love and presented me with artistic in­

of this as notes in the margins of a textbook. There

monumental scale which is typical ofTotem poles,

spiration. My paternal grandfather was a Scottish

were relationships formed between my family and

I had already worked as a forest engineer for a

immigrant and apparently a ranking member of

the few foreigners that appeared to have a less

logging company deep in the planet's most threat­

Masonic Lodge No. 1 in Glasgow. He once gave

consumptive interest in our civilization and prop­

ened forest type, the 14,000-year-old temperate

me a British comic book. Comic books art at that

erty. Specifically the German anthropologist Franz

rain forest. No amount of respectful behavior could

time of my young life were rare. The colors were

Boas comes to mind.

erase the humbling personal understanding of the

vivid and strange and seemed physically weighty

distance between tree and log. Yet I saw the tem-

as well as conceptually significant.

JKG: And you learned carving from Robert Davidson,

plate and its application to a three-dimensional

My other grandfather was the 71aanaasuu of rny

Jimmie Hart, Don Yeomans, and others. Rivers

structure. The success of the template is how it fits

home village. A "71aanaasuu" is the town mother, a

was a public art piece produced for Kam loops.

such a broad array of conditions and applications.

title now typically called a village chief. His lineage

BEST TO LOVE BUGS was the first to carve a totem pole and that was just before the last great flood that covered the archipelago with around 200 meters of ocean water. A fresh water spring immediately next to my bedroom plays a significant geo-historical marker in the carving of this first ever heraldic column. Perhaps because my early years were spent mostly in the company of women, rougher edges were rounded and I came to understand that in life it is not necessary to name for or wish one team to be winner and the other loser. Objectively there didn't need to be a bad guy and a good guy. The game, the process and the movement of the dance is the collective achievement. The scoreboard is a distraction. The desire for a duality only making sense when understood as a functional part of a greater whole, as together they become sym­ metrical and create a greater multi-dimensional phenomen. JKG: You have developed a fascinating visual lan­ Yelthadaas, 2011 (Coppers from the Hood series initiated at Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver, B.C. 2007) Collection: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Toyota Tercel steel automobile hood, platinum leaf, paint, 132 x 92 cm, Photo: Christopher Fadden

guage of painting, and using the Japanese Manga style but yours is uniquely west coast, Haida Manga...

Two Views - Twenty Interviews



MNY: Manga or manwha is a huge word translated

JKG: It is a great hybridity you have developed

as "pictures without borders" from the Korean or

in Haida Manga, not European at all, quite

Japanese and perhaps even where it has its roots,

surprising ...

in China. Forty per cent of publications in Japan are Manga driven, obviously a significant genre in

MNY: The challenge of creating visual dialect is not

visual literacy. The connection between Asia and

so different than other ways that strangers become

the west coast of North America, or, as I often

friends. We find emotionally safe opportunities to

see it, as the East Coast of the Pacific Ocean, is

share stories. Early North American thought leaders

historical and personal. During the younger years

built on an inherited Eurocentric notion of elitism,

of Canada, family members traveled across the

where personal value was solely based on physical

Ocean on sealing fleets and returned with ac­

property. This created a terrible, self-serving wicked­

counts of their moments of sanctuary and per­

ness requiring mythic fabrication and factual dis­

sonhood in Japan. In contrast to state policies of

tortion as justification for the killing of millions of

internment and legislated racism and theft during

humans and seizure of their assets.

World War 11, stories of that sanctuary in Japan

Inoculation against repeating such morally stunt­

persisted amongst us. I didn't want to create a

ed genetic pruning might be a biological necessity.

body of work that was grafted on to an injured root.

Prevention of genocide requires that living individ­

No this was never just a comic book. The process

uals develop a more honest emotive understanding

became a reflection, a reminder that the Haida

of the common humanity and person hood of all.

Manga was in service of sanctuary.

Like jazz rising out of the merger of Euro and African musical theory in a new social petri dish, Haida Manga is inevitable, not surprising. Estuaries where

Original Hummingbird Banner for the Tokyo Art Fair

two types of water meet are always fertile places.

(Flight of the Hummingbird: A Parable for the Environment, Greystone Books, 2008)

Diversity springs out of such transitional zones. New dialects arise in dynamic spaces.


JKG: And there is no hierarchy in Manga, which is

MNY: Yes, the Flight of the Hummingbird is eas-

manga format is exciting, of interest to anyone, for

refreshing. The hummingbird has many symbolic

ily applied to global warming. Regardless of the

it is not trapped by tradition but instead informed

connections in ancient cultures; your Flight of the

challenge living individuals will continue to be the

by a tradition that enables great imaginative and

Hummingbird is a fable about the environment.

hummingbirds ... or not.

visual leaps of consciousness. The reading is non足

can you tell me something about this?

linear, like the way we seem to think these days ...

JKG: And you worked on the digital totem for the MNY: The hierarchy that isn't seemingly apparent

American Museum of Natural History?

in Haida Manga reflects the almost overwhelming

MNY: The graphic novel does present as a linear tool as page dutifully follows page. If you toss the Haida

dominance and chaotic aggression found in a wide

MNY: Likely as with all people who live in one

Manga title up in the air each time you have finished

range of contemporary cultural expression. This par足

place for long periods of time, there may be an

reading one page, and then only read the newly ex足

able reminds us that action is the best measure of

increased value placed on remembering rela足

posed page, you will have challenged linearity within

a lived life. It doesn't tell us life has a scoreboard or

tionships. If there are two willing minds, such

that bound universe. Fortunately there is an easier

that action "A" will result in "B", but rather that life

relationships are well-nourished. Haida and the

way for the reader to overturn linearity.

is engagement and that each of us makes choices

AMNH are both linked back to a time when Franz

War of the Blink and RED, A Haida Manga and the

including when we run away.

Boas and our own Charles Edenshaw were friends.

current project, The Carpenter's Fin, all start out as

I was the American Museum of Natural History's

large murals painted over numerous separate paper

It is seductive to imagine an ending to this short parable in which a small bird stops a forest fire. The

first ever artist in residence at the same time as

sheets. Carpenter's Fin, commissioned by the Seattle

parable does not say that. It ends before we know

they revealed the digital totem. I was fortunate to

Art Museum, will go on exhibit later this year. You will

whether the hummingbird extinguished the fire or is

be there but didn't make any distinct contribution

see a single six-meter long and two-meter high image.

carbonized in a failed effort. The core message is

to its continued success.

It is not obvious that it is designed into 108 different

not that the bird won or lost, failed or achieved but

subsets, pages that will be published as a book. The

that it tried. This is not the implied exhaustion of "I

JKG: And some of the characters in your latest

linearity of narrative is effectively challenged in the

do all I can" but rather "I do what I can."

graphic novel, War of the Blink, tell an ancient

mural. I discovered that as I followed my narrative

Haida story from the precolonial era. The fusion

script in the painting of the mural, surprising new visual

of Northwest coast art and the graphic Japanese

and narrative patterns appeared.

JKG: Is it a story of global warming as well?

Two Views - Twenty Interviews


ART SPACE ECOLOGY I encourage book readers to cut up two copies and

JKG: You have said that Haida art is about re­

re-construct the larger work by re-joining the pages

strictions, an alphabet of symbols. How did this

together, either duplicating my layout premise or

language transform your art into what it is now?

creating their own. Armed with knife and glue the reader loses the sanctuary of the observer and

MNY: Haida art theory does set up a seemingly

becomes complicit in the creative reimagining.

rigid and constrained set of regulations. At one scale these are a dance between compression and:

JKG: And the sea, the traditions of the Haida people

expansion, where the changing relationship opens

figure in your art, and the great storytelling traditions

up spatial and conceptual opportunities for new

of your people. The environmental sense is strong in

transitions. The tension captured in a successful

your work ... You worked in Japan on environmental

expression reflects the line between the two dy-

projects. Can you tell me about your projects involv-

namic forces. These may appear as oppositional

ing the environment?

but that relationship is the poetry. We all recognize that "cutting corners" is a

MNY: I have seen so many small groups of people

strategy to increase some desired outcome. We

overturn challenges that appeared vast, over-re­

also know that there can be collisions with these

sourced, influential and powerful, that the Biblical

corners, so judgrnent about the distance between

account of David and Goliath seems not to be the

the innovation and the reference should be rea­

exception, but a rule.

sonably well informed.

When the willingness to be actively engaged combines with the awareness that knowledge and Michael Nicholl Yahgulanaas, illustration from War of the Blink (Haida Mang a publication) Locarno Press, 2017

JKG: For you, is art part of nature - inseparable?

wisdom is not proprietary, much is possible. This boldness encouraged me to adopt a similar strategy

MNY: Art is the way we talk with nature. Without

in art.

these two creative forces humans would not have lives.

BEST TO LOVE BUGS JKG: We are a part of nature, and storytelling - its

cosmologically-significant scale there may be

wind slows people down. Makes us understand

rebirth may be essential for our cultural survival.

no noun. Everything is a verb. I asked my fath­

how insignificant we are. Humans are not the

Is transformation a part of this tradition, endless

er-in-law "How fast are we moving?" He made a

latest elegant hardware or the updated app. We

innovation and transformation?

calculation based on the rotation of the planet,

are the bugs. Best to love bugs.

then another incorporating the revolution around

MNY: What rebirth? Isn't rebirth just about good

the sun. Finally he considered the galactic motion

sex and babies? Diversity in coupling holds the

which required he create an imagined referential

best promise of survival. Cultural transformation is adaptation to vari-

state of zero. Then he said "Everything is moving."

ables. Variables are change markers. They tune-

JKG: I recently read that some of the doyens of

tion like waves of deep space radiation moving

Silicon Valley have forbidden their own children to

through our very being. If our traditional practice

use the media, encouraging greater involvement

is to walk up the mountain but the mountain is

with the physical environment. Is new media a

now a sand beach, the tradition will be changed.

threat to our communities?

Pretending I am ascending while walking level is a failure of observation, or a deeper reflection on

MNY: I wandered pushing words and thoughts

the core value of a tradition. If the mountain is

around the page like unloved vegetables in a bowl

firmly held to be the tradition, then the practice

of broth. It seemed that I was trying to be too

of walking on the grains of mountain scattered on

clever, fumbling with definitions of community (a

the beach may not be appreciated as adherence.

quality of feeling) or an aspirational state, or at

Tradition is how we observe the mountain. It is an

best a transitional phase. Community in Silicon

orientation tool. Tradition that doesn't absorb the

Valley is distinct from a community at home. I

energy of change is King Canute with wet feet.

do some work in such urban settings where time

Art is not a noun, it is a verb. But that might

rushes so quickly you are saying goodbye before

not be at all helpful, considering that at a

you can even say hello. Closer to the rain and the

Tell Tiles, 2015, Ceramicist Launette Rieb, Photo: Tobyn Ross Photography

Two Views - Twenty Interviews


Tapping Typography David Maisel

David Maisel is a visual artist working in photog­

depleted in order to bring water to the desert city

JKG: The performance artist Tadeusz Kantor once

raphy and video. Black Maps, his multi-chaptered

of Los Angeles, and which became an enormous

wrote, referring to painting, "Space which re~

project of aerial photographs depicting environ­

environmental disaster in the process. Terminal

mentally impacted sites, explores the aesthetics

Mirage (2003-05) uses aerial images made at the

tracts violently condenses form to dimensions of 1 molecules to the limits of the Impossible. In this

and politics of radically human-altered environ­

site of the Great Salt Lake as a means to explore

dreadful moment the speed of making decisions

ments, and frames the issues of contemporary

both abstraction and, as the curator Anne Tucker

and of interventions constantly grazes risk." Some

landscape with equal measures of documentation

has written about this series, "the disturbingly

of your aerial photographs are as abstract as a

and metaphor. Mining the aesthetic territory of

engaging duality between beauty and repulsion."

Richard Diebenkorn painting, beautiful and with

the apocalyptic sublime, and addressing themes

Maisel's surreal and disquieting images of his

an aesthetic that simply manifests nature's own,

of loss, elegy, and memorialization, Black Maps

series Library of Dust and History's Shadow delve

patterns, forms, encroachments, and there is that

captures the world of nature as it is being undone

into hidden archives, unearthing objects from the

dynamic of space, and of speed, a macrocosm

as a result of extensive intervention in the environ­

past and recasting them as potent, totemic im­

envisioned as if it were a fragment of a larger body

ment - open pit mines, clear-cut forests, rampant

ages. The scale of Maise/'s prints, at up to 48 x 96


sprawl, and zones of desertification. These pho­

inches, serves to convey the seemingly limitless

toworks posit an expanded definition of contem­

aspect of the sites from which they are made. The

DM: The quote by Tadeusz Kantor links the body

porary landscape.

forms of environmental disquiet and degradation

to the act of painting, and to being located within

His images of these environmentally damaged

function on a metaphorical level, and the aerial

the space of painting itself. Photographing from

sites, where the natural order has been eradicat­

perspective enables one to experience the land­

the air is like that, exactly: I become a kind of

ed, are both spectacular and horrifying. The Lake

scape like a vast map of its undoing.

disembodied eye, floating in a space-time con­

Project (2001-03) comprised images made near

tinuum. Aerial photography interests me not as a

Owens Lake in California, which was drained and

method per se, but as a way to see the otherwis~

Terminal Mirage 5, 2003

Archival pigment print, 48" x 48" Š David Maisel

ART SPACE ECOLOGY unusable and unimaginable, and as a way in which

autopsy. After I had been making aerial images

by a deep, obsessive desire to photograph cop-'

time and space can get strung together. From a

at Owens Lake for several years, I realized that

per mines. I spent hours poring over aeronauticali

moving plane or helicopter, naturally, I am never

this alien landscape was sort of an analogue for

maps and obscure mining publications, charting

in the same place twice, so no image can be

my mother's death. She had died during open­

a way out of wherever I was. I took to the air, again!

repeated - it is a stream of images and possible

heart surgery after a routine procedure went awry.

and again, photographing from a small plane the

framings that is not unlike the stream of conscious­

Despite, or because of, my conscious decisions as

ness itself. Motion gets dissected and reanimated.

an artist interested in the environmental disaster

display of copper-hued earth splayed out beneat~1 me, in mines in Montana, Utah, New Mexico, and

It is kind of like an altered state - leaning out the

being told through the story of Owens Lake, I was,

Arizona. It seemed that in the repetitive acts of.

window of a small plane, or leaning out the door­

unintentionally perhaps, processing her death and

research and circling over these sites and exposing

way of a helicopter, with the wind rushing, constant

my own grief by making these images.

frame after frame of film, I absorbed the copper

motion and sound, looking through the viewfinder of a camera, with the horizon obscured.


into my skin, into my blood. Copper gave

me a'

JKG: Do you intentionally set out to find forms,

reason; it posed me a challenge; it compelled me

At many of the sites that I choose to photograph,

textures, colours, things that exist, that awaken

to act. Copper offered me a process of alchemical

there is a sense of the landscape as a body inflict­

a sense of something personal, but from the the­

transmutation not unlike metallurgy itself, by which

ed by various traumatic events. This is perhaps

atre of the world that is our Earth? So surprising

my own identity as an artist was forged.

most clearly felt at Owens Lake, the site of The

in that it surpasses any art we would set out to

All of the aerial images from Black Maps cap·

Lake Project. I was editing film from my first aerial

create, and yet finds its parallels in our art, for art

ture a wide-scale intervention by humanity in the

shoot there when the Twin Towers were destroyed

surpasses the informational, the didactic.

landscape. From the aerial perspective I occupy,

on 9-11. For me, the blood-red waters remaining in Owens Lake were, from that point forward,


the views that I see of these zones - where hu­

DM: Yes, I suppose that I do respond to certain

man activity has replaced the natural order - are

linked to this moment in contemporary society,

kinds of visual splendours. I wouldn't call it beauty,

both beautiful and horrifying. But, there is also

when thousands of human bodies had just been

exactly, but rather a sense of dislocation - the

contained in these sites an ineffable sense that

destroyed in a moment.

unfamiliar, the threatening, the sense of beauty

they correspond to interior psychological states,

In The Lake Project, there is also the aspect

and terror combined - I suppose it is "the sub­

So, rendering the environmental impact of these

of seeing the landscape photograph as a kind of

lime," really. When I was in my twenties I was struck

zones in a deadpan, clinical, or didactic way has

TAPPING TYPOGRAPHY not interested me. I experience these tailings ponds and leaching fields as sites of horror that were reflective of something absolutely intrinsic to human nature. I am not attempting to make literal records of environmental degradation so much as 1 am seeking to reveal the landscape as an arche­ typal space of destruction and ruin that mirrors the darker corners of our consciousness. JKG: How did you choose to get into aerial topo­ graphical photography of water, mountains, the land? These works suggest a growing conscious­ ness or awareness that photography can extend to or encourage among its audience. DM: Working from the air allows me to see things that are secret. The deconstructed landscapes of strip mines, cyanide leaching fields, tailings ponds, and drained lake beds seem to me to be the contemplative gardens of our time; they are like subterranean dream worlds demanding to be brought into the light of day. I think of my pictures not simply as documents of these blighted sites, but as poetic renderings that might somehow re­ flect back the human psyche that made them.

Lake Project, 2003

Archival pigment print, 48'x48" © David Maisel

Two Views - Twenty Interviews


ART SPACE ECOLOGY I first experienced aerial photography when, as an

through that unearthly, magnificent colour, and

change in process, a slow change that few of us

undergraduate at Princeton University in the mid-

so I began to consciously work with that palette.

are aware of as we go about our daily lives.

1980s, I accompanied my photography instructor,

The aerial view and the scale of these prints (up

Em met Gowin, on a photographic expedition to the

to 48" x 48") and the colour combine to heighten

DM: I look at landscape from a conceptual point of

volcano Mount St. Helens. The 1980 eruption of

our sense of what it is we are witnessing visually.

view - it has fuelled my pervading interest in the

Mount St. Helens was the deadliest and most de足

The themes of seduction and betrayal inform my

work of Robert Smithson and Gordon Matta-Clark,

structive volcanic event in the history of the United

thinking and my work in a number of ways. We're

two artists who explored the undoing of things,

States. St. Helens released energy equivalent to

constantly seduced in our daily lives by whatever

the endgame, the absent, the void. I'm drawn to

350 megatons of dynamite, or 27,000 atomic

it is that is new, shiny, the next consumer object

aspects of the sublime, and to a certain kind of

blasts over Hiroshima, or seven times more than

to be desired - the SUV, the iPod, the widescreen

visceral horror, and in a sense I am using my land足

the strongest atomic bomb ever built and tested.

TV. And I include myself here, quite readily. And I

scape imagery in order to get to that feeling, as

What struck me at the time was the sense that the

think we're betrayed by these desires, and these

much as or even more than I am documenting a

clear-cutting of forests by the timber industry was

objects, because they can't, they don't, really

specific open-pit mine or cyanide leaching field or

a destructive force on par with that of the volcano;

satisfy us existentially, they just create more long足

clear-cut forest (and I'll readily admit that my work

it seemed absolutely biblical in scale.

ing. Simultaneously, we betray the environment

may not hold up very well from a documentary

as we thresh through it and use it up in a vacant

standpoint). In Smithson's Spiral Jetty, the land足

JKG: And colour is such a strong element in these

effort to fill those endless longings that cannot

scape is a sort of existential landscape, a place


be quelled. We are complicit in the destruction

that Becket might have invented. There is a sense

of these zones. The seduction yields the betrayal.

of being threatened, but also of being more alive. In Terminal Mirage, a body of work inspired bY

DM: Years ago, when I began my project on openpit mining in the American West, I was photograph-

JKG: When you first photographed Smithson's

Robert Smithson's writings on the Great Salt

ing exclusively in black and white. But the colours

Spiral Jetty at Great Salt Lake in Utah and cap-

Lake, I've sought out gridded sites around the

at many of these sites were really so seductively

tu red the environmental changes taking place,

periphery of the lake - among the thousands of

gorgeous and so awful, simultaneously. I realized

ongoing since Smithson originally made the piece,

acres of evaporation ponds, amidst the military

that their meaning and potency were transmitted

you must have sensed that you were capturing

zone of the Tooele Army Depot that houses and

TAPPING TYPOGRAPHY burns expired chemical weapons. There is no scale

Do you believe photography is linked to its own

DM: I think that is a generous view. I recall feeling

reference in the images, and the "facts" of the

traditions, or does it go beyond the traditions that

when I first viewed works from the work dubbed

photographs become instead a series of dizzying

it has evolved out of?

New Topographies that there was a kind of tone­

tropes. Terminal Mirage is also concerned with the

lessness to many of the images. Now, though,

limits of rational mapping. The grids of evaporation

DM: I'm motivated by the notion of discovering and

when I look at those photographs, I feel a kind of

ponds are a kind of architecture that transgresses,

revealing sites that might otherwise remain unknown

silent scream building in them.

a labyrinth laid endlessly over the surface of the

or unseen. In this way, there is a continuity between

I don't think that my work is positing any happy

lake and its shoreline. The project Terminal Image

the nineteenth-century exploratory photographers and

endings! I don't really think that we, the human

gets its name from the fact that the Great Salt

my work. However, my photographs are intended to

race, have much of a place left on this planet. If

Lake is, indeed, a terminal lake, with no natural

be reflective of some sort of internal psychological

you think about it from a geological perspective

outlets. The claustrophobic, no-exit, existentialist

state as much as they are documents of a particular

(as Smithson might have), we are just a flicker of

aspect of this fact sparked my curiosity. And the

site. And, I consider myself a visual artist first and

light that vanishes almost instantly. So, perhaps

word "mirage" seems to describe the entire hallu­

foremost- as opposed, perhaps, to a photojournalist

we might obtain some knowledge or wisdom about

cinatory quality of the expanse of the Great Salt

or a documentarian. I'm most interested in making

land use and abuse from my work (or that of other

Lake, the unflinching light that illuminates it and

images that have a kind of depth-charge, that have a

photographers), though I think we humans and our

that is reflected from its surface, and the manner

certain poetic or metaphoric impact visually.

fragile little history have a place in the cosmos, but

in which this body of work questions the nature of sight and perception.

perhaps it is a smaller place than we might like JKG: Ultimately your work exposes the conscious­

to imagine. We still tend to think in a geocentric

ness inherent to all human activity, and it does so

way - doesn't the universe revolve around us? -

JKG: There is a photographic tradition of captur­

by documenting landscapes in transition, much as

and the answer is, no, it does not.

ing the American frontier that extends back into

the New Topographies photographers did, but with

the nineteenth century, established by Carleton

a less antagonistic approach; as ifto say, "the situ­

JKG: The Lake Project pieces are all-encompassing

Watkins and William Henry Jackson, for instance.

ation exists, let's be aware of it, and start to work at

overviews and we read them almost as if they were

Our frontier is now one that involves transgression,

improving the land, with the distance and wisdom

parts of an organism. These macro-viewed images

transformation, and disruption of environments.

that we obtain from knowledge."

resemble the micro-view subjects we might see in Two Views - Twenty Interviews


ART SPACE ECOLOGY the cameras now used in medicine. When we are

pollution in the United States, emitting 300,000

satellite mapping. Everything in this landscape iJ

informed of the actual reasons for the colourations

tons of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, chlorine,

mediated - it is the most replicant landscape

and textures - pollution, algae growth, etc. - the

and sulphur a year. The concentration of minerals

can imagine.

subject that we potentially read as beautiful, for

in what little water remains in Owens Lake is so

The antagonism you sense - between the

all its aesthetic and transparent beauty, becomes

artificially high that blooms of microscopic bacter­

surface beauty of the images and the disturbing

unsettling; for there is a basic antagonism between

ial organisms result, staining the remaining water a

content that underlies them - is one of the rea

our reading of the work as a visual phenomenon

deep, bloody red.

sons the pictures are compelling. They don't give:



and our knowledge of the somewhat less measur­

While I was engaged with this project in 2001-

able, invisible causes for these effects. Can you

02, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)

or feel. In this regard, perhaps they work more like


and the Los Angeles Department of Water and

contemporary painting than photography. I'm com­

Power, urged on by the Great Basin Unified Air

ing to the somewhat terrifying conclusion, rather

answers, per se; they don't tell you what to thin

DM: Owens Lake, the locus of The Lake Project im­

Pollution Control District, began transforming the

belatedly perhaps, that my work is really about

ages, is the site of a former 150-square-mile lake

region yet again. In an effort to reduce the toxic

representations of modern-day, man-made holo­

on the east side of the Sierra Mountains. If you know

dust storms, a large area of the lakebed has been

causts. Of course, representations of holocaust

the movie Chinatown, then you are familiar with the

turned into a flood zone. It is infinitely complex,

and apocalypse have been part of the history of

history of the demise of this lake. Beginning in 1913,

like the lost city of Atlantis rising from the floor

art for centuries. What distinguishes this age from

the Owens River was diverted into the Owens Valley

of the lakebed. In fact, after I'd completed this

earlier artistic renderings is that the means for

Aqueduct, to bring water to the fledgling desert city

project, I got down onto the surface of the lake­

accomplishing the destruction of the self and the

of Los Angeles. By 1926, the lake was essentially

bed, and was able to gain access to the control

world is no longer in the realm of prophetic myth­

deconstructed, leaving vast, exposed mineral de­

room centre that maintains and measures the

ology. The human species has been technologically

posits and salt flats. Once the water was gone, high

salinity and relative moisture from the 60,000

capable of distroying itself for decades.

winds that sweep through the valley would dislodge

miles of irrigation drip tubing that criss-crosses

microscopic particles from the dry lakebed, creating

the flood zone. There, on their computer screens,

carcinogenic dust storms. In fact, the lakebed has

were these familiar shapes of the flood zone that

become the highest source of particulate-matter

they image with remote aerial photography and

© Giel Variable Magazine, June 2007

Oblivion 4N, 2004 California, 2004 Archival pigment print, 40"x40" Š David Maisel

Black Maps (Bingham Canyon, Utah 5), 1985 Toned Silver Gelatin Print.unique, lO"xlO" Š David Maisel

Two Views - Twenty Interviews


Culture Nature Alan Sonfist

Considered a pioneer of public art that cele-

death of soldiers, the life and death of natural

brates our links to the land, to permaculture,

phenomena such as rivers, springs, and natural

Alan Sonfist is an artist who has sought to

outcroppings needs to be remembered. Public

bridge the great gap between humanity and

art can be a reminder that the city was once

nature by making us aware of ancient, historic,

a forest or a marsh." Alan Sonfist continues

and contemporary nature, of geology, land­

to advocate, in his urban and rural artworks,

forms, and living species that are part of "living

projects that heighten our awareness of the

history." With a reawakening of public aware­

historical geology or terrain of a place; earth

ness of environmental issues and of a need to

cores become a symbol of the deeper history

regenerate our living planet, Sonfist brings a

or geology of the land. His art emphasizes the

much-needed awareness of nature's parallel

layered and complex intertwining of human and

and often unrecorded history and presence in

natural history. He has bequeathed his body as

contemporary life and art. As early as 1965

an artwork to the Museum of Modern Art. He

Sonfist advocated the building of monuments

hopes its decay will be seen as an ongoing part

dedicated to the history of unpolluted air, and

of the natural life cycle process.

suggested the migration of animals should be reported as public events. In an essay, Natural Phenomena as Public Monuments, published in 1968, Sonfist emancipated public art from focusing exclusively on human history stating: "As in war monuments that record the life and

Myself Becoming One with Tree, 1969 Photo Series Š Alan Sonfist

JKG: Here we are in Montreal after a visit to the

of the galleries. Actual nature had not much to do

land interventions in places where there was no

Laurentians. How are you, Alan?

with it. Landscape as real estate perhaps.

connection with the community.

AS: Great. It's a beautiful day and I am looking for-

AS: Exactly. The essence of my art began in my

JKG: A flight of geese could be celebrated instead

ward to a future in which people take up the fight

childhood when I witnessed the destruction of

of a war as a public event, and hence a living

against global warming caused by our dependence

the forest. I walked in the Bronx. I was and still


on fossil fuels. In Kain, Germany I am creating a

am captivated by the magic of the ancient forest.

sculpture about global warming and the rhythms

People in the community set fires and destroyed

of our planet. The sculpture will visualize, for the

the forest. I realized at that moment that my life

posed to wars. I propose to create within every

viewer, the fragility of our planet.

would be dedicated to educating people about the

community public art that celebrates its unique

value of natural areas within urban environments. My art is consistently about the environment,

natural history. An early quote of mine stated, "We

JKG: Water has also become a major environmental issue in our society. Are you working on any

and calling attention to natural events that

projects concerning water?

occur in urban and suburban environments. I

mark nature within urban and suburban areas." Since we are actively destroying the world's nat足

AS: We should celebrate natural events as op足

have landmark buildings, we should create land足

AS: I proposed in New York City to create a park where the original water source of the city would

see my art as a social discourse within a community. All great public art creates conversa-

ural heritage, I propose that public art be created to celebrate the lost natural environments of our

tion within the community. We have to make


be flowing. The sculpture would filter the ancient

a decision about how we create public art. Is

water and allow the public to engage in the historic

public art going to just be a decoration that has

JKG: Public art need not only reference architec足

streams of the city. I first proposed to expose the

very little meaning for the community or will

ture and the urban site, but it can also reference

natural springs of New York in 1971 for Earth Day.

it engage in a dialogue with that community?

nature. In that sense, you were ahead of the landscape architects.

JKG: To the early land artists there was nothing

That is the important difference between my projects and those of the early land artists ... I

ecological at all about their situational events. It

have always interacted with city residents while

AS: Yes, I was invited to MIT as an artist by the

was basically after Minimalism, it was getting out

other artists were involved in creating remote

architectural program to set up a dialogue with Two Views - Twenty Interviews



Circles of Time, 1986-89. 3 acres, Villa Celle, Tuscany, Italy. Photo courtesy of the artist.

the architects on how nature could be brought into

JKG: The Time Landscape you created in New York

CULTURE NATURE AS: The Dutch and English colonial diaries provid­

architecture. Collaboration with the community,

City near Washington Square in New York. How did

ed me insight into the native vegetation on the is­

architects, and landscape architects is a crucial

it all start? How did the project get going?

land in the earliest European period of settlement.

AS: I approached the community and said I had

JKG: In more recent projects such as the Florida

an idea to create a historical landscape within the

Natural Cultural Landscape in Tampa, you literally

historic boundaries of Greenwich Village which

create living landscapes that reference different

AS: I found at MIT an enthusiastic forum of scien-

is one of the earlier settlements in New York City.

geological and natural historical eras by planting

tists and architects who all wanted to work together with me to create large-scale civic projects. We

Immediately I got a very strong endorsement from

the various living species from those eras. It all

the local residents. Within that community there

becomes a composite and multi-layered natural

all worked together on an ecological project for

were two very strong advocates of creating green

history that spans centuries and reflects changes

the Charles River.

spaces - Jane Jacobs and Ruth Wittenborn. They

from human intervention in a landscape.

element of my work and it always has been. JKG: And what evolved from the MIT experience?

had not thought about the idea of history, but they JKG: So the crossover is very important especially

wanted to create more green spaces. To me, both

AS: The city of Tampa invited me to collaborate

in the realm of art at this stage, isn't it?

were pioneers. They were the ones who literally

with a landscape architect and an architect to

stopped Robert Moses' massive highway system AS: Over the years, I have collaborated with ex-

from going through Greenwich Village, and they sub-

develop a public waterfront area for the city. We had numerous meetings discussing with the

perts throughout the world. I am currently working

stituted my Time Landscape for what would have

community and the government about how the

with scientists and architects in creating a new

been the Moses Highway. The Time Landscape

area could be made into a unique public space.

section for the city of Florence, Italy. We are creat-

is a historical natural landscape showing the

My contribution was to create an environmental

ing a large environmental sculpture that will bring

juxtaposition of the indigenous people and the

sculpture with a relief mural carved into the side­

back the ancient vegetation of Tuscany. The park

colonials- how they interacted in the land using the

walk reflecting the historical evolution of the city.

will be surrounded by the evolution of the city's

context of a natural flora.

I juxtaposed the original natural landscape with the contemporary skyscrapers. It started with a

JKG: Is there some reference to the early Dutch set-

traditional Spanish garden leading to an ice-age

tiers in your plantings?


human history. Thus the collaboration will bridge the contemporary buildings with their ancient past.

Two Views - Twenty Interviews


ART SPACE ECOLOGY JKG: Was that in the Spanish colonial historical

has multiple layers, and impressions on the land.

commissioned by the museum to uncover the

JKG: Is there a link to the shoreline with the

tory, covered by concrete. By drilling in different

area of the city? AS: Yes, it is connected to the Spanish colonial

geological history of the city. It was a living hiswalkways?

areas. I paid homage to the early settlers by using

strategic locations of Kain, I was able to expose this living geological history. Then I laid the corings

the traditional Spanish columns and then creating

AS: It connects directly to the shoreline so that

out like a tablet, revealing the geologic secrets of

living versions of them. The sculptural columns

people can walk from the street to the water.

the city.

vegetation growing on them, thereby becoming a

JKG: And at Ludwig Forum in Aachen, Germany,

JKG: Journeys to the Centre of the Earth with

living testament to natural history.

you presented a natural history installation in the

apologies to Jules Verne ... And your Circles of Time

park area.

project in Italy, is one of your most innovative and

were living systems with ancient and Spanish

JKG: And the walkways are in the forms of leaf shapes ... Is that right?

fascinating. Very often in landscape architecture, AS: I was paying homage to Charlemagne, the

natural features or topography are referenced, but

Holy Roman Emperor. I was inspired by the ori-

very seldom do they build a narrative out of the

AS: Everything echoes the historical evolution.

ginal fortification of Aachen, which I miniaturized

intertwining of natural and human history as you

Each leaf form represents a different forest, or

and placed in the forest that would have existed

have there. Can you comment?

type of vegetation that existed in Tampa. It starts

during Charlemagne's time. Thus the fortification

with contemporary and then goes to a prehistoric

becomes the protector of the forest.

AS: The Circles of Time was an echo of the rings of

would have grown there several thousand years

JKG: In the art gallery shows you often reference

the earth, each ring or circle represents a different

waterfront landscape where I planted trees that

a tree. It became a metaphor to show the ages of

ago. So each little niche in the leaf creates another

your natural historical approach as well. You did

time frame. It starts out at the central core with the

form of the historical landscape ... The walkways

core samples under the city of Kain, I believe, for

original forest that existed in Tuscany, then moves

themselves are not just walkways. They mimic the


to the Etruscan use of the land, where they would

movement of the trains through the area. They

plant various herbs and forms of vegetation forl

mimic the footprints of the indigenous peoples of

AS: In Kain I was invited to do a commission for

their own food sources. The environmental sculp'

the area, the movements of the colonial people. It

the opening of the new Ludwig Museum. I was

ture then continues through the eras of the place

CULTURE NATURE Each stone was laid into the site, as if this were

world. Tell me about that...

a geological history of the area, and the layout

completed construction of in New York. My space in Dokumenta was a series of cubist photographs

mimics the hills of Tuscany. The last ring was in an

AS: I spent several months observing the top­

representing the ancient forests of New York. He

agricultural area, containing olive trees and wheat

ography of Denmark. I observed ancient burial

spent much time in my exhibit discussing the

fields. The local farmers actually would collect the

grounds that contained stone ships. I thought,

ancient trees of New York. I feel we had a very

harvest, thus it became a truly public sculpture.

"Why don't I create a stone ship and instead of

common bond in our understanding of the environ­

paying homage to the humans again, pay homage

ment. We also talked about our childhoods and

JKG: So these last elements have a function. The

to the oaks that created the ships?" Again, as with

our connection to nature. I think if he had lived we

olive trees and wheat fields establish a significant

so many human events, the Danes over-cut the

would have had a collaboration.

role, by linking with the agriculture and the local

timber for the ships, so this particular oak used


for the Viking ships was almost extinct. The lands

JKG: As the landscape is becoming increasingly

became deforested. So here I am, again, within

transformed, imposed upon, and so on, by human

AS: Exactly. So that is the crucial element for all

this stone ship planting over one thousand oaks

intervention, do you believe the role of the artist,

my projects, and they do not disconnect from or

of this endangered species, so now the stone ship

and the public artist, in particular, could be to

impose on the community. The public art inte­

instead of protecting a burial ground, becomes a

reinvigorate an idea of nature, as much as the na­

grates with the city. I was pleased that the workers

life force, and a protector of the forest of the future

ture itself, within the public art project? Nature is

and community on the Italian project had a picnic

of Denmark.

all around us, transformed, but often doesn't look

party afterwards to celebrate the public art, as they did after my project in Denmark.

like nature. Do you think it should look like nature? JKG: Did Joseph Beuys influence your work? AS: I agree with you. That is why I called my work

JKG: Yes, let's get to Denmark. At Tickon on the is-

AS: I was always a great admirer of his work. I will

a Time Landscape, because nature is constantly

land of Langeland in Denmark, which has a number

never forget, we were in Dokumenta 7 together. I

changing. We are going into global warming now,

of major works by Andy Goldsworthy, David Nash

shared a space next to him. Beuys was exhibiting

and we had various ice ages. Nature is not a fixed

and many other artist who work with nature, you

his classic, wonderful Fat Machine and I had my

object, it's in transformation, existing in a continu­

made a work that references that bio-region of the

presentation of my Time Landscape that I had just

um. I select different elements of time in these Two Views - Twenty Interviews


ART SPACE ECOLOGY Natural Cultural Trees of Aspen landscapes. I am

the Waterworks people and the community, so this

the original natural limb or branch was worth

now working with the city of Florence. The team

is where the integration comes in. Immediately the

3,000 dollars and the bronze was worth 3 dollars.

and I are creating a Time Landscape, visualizing

Waterworks people said it would cost us over $20

We must place more value on our natural heritage.

the ancient olive tree.

million USD to remove the rubble. They said, "We

JKG: What does "Integration" mean to you?

can't do it. Can you come up with a solution?" I

JKG: How important is the visual in these assern-

came up with using indigenous plants, which need-

bled public art landscapes?

ed minimal care. It cost less to do my project and it AS: It means that I am working with the corn-

created a beautiful nature walk. The public schools

AS: I am an artist first, so the visual is important,

munity, the landscape architect, and the architect. Furthermore, the art piece itself interacts with the

as well as nature groups are now utilizing the park.

but the message is equally important. It has to:


JKG: I think of those early bronze tree forms you

Knox Museum said that my work is quite beautiful

made that were assemblages of various trees spe-

and people enjoy it. So I wrote to the critic who

cies spliced to form one tree.

wrote that, and I said "Thank you." He called me

JKG: I am very excited about the la Quinta,

be beautiful. A review of my art at the Albright¡

California nature trail you created in 1992. You

up and said that he meant that as a criticism.

are actually designing and creating the walking

AS: Again it was about endangered trees. Similar

And I said, "To me it is not a criticism. Art should

paths and routes in the landscape at la Quinta, as

to my original statements saying we have to ere-

bring a sense of life and a positive force in the

well as reintroducing indigenous species.

ate nature monuments, I thought who are the


heroes of our society but trees? So trees are AS: The Waterworks part of the government had

monuments we should pay homage to. The bronze

JKG: And so a work made at Three Mile Island,

built a one-hundred-year trench that was intended

sculptures were all relics of trees that I collaged

Pool of Virgin Earth made at Lewiston, New York.

to prevent flooding in the community. The trench

together. They are exact replicas of fallen limbs,

was simply dumped on the desert. The community

paying homage to the endangered trees of the

AS: That was done in the early 1970s, before they; understood the technology of how they could see]

was up in arms because they could see this dump

earth. At an exhibition in the Ludwig Museum in

area from their windows. So they demanded all

Aachen, I created a series of natural and bronzed

a toxic area. I worked with scientists on that pro¡

this material be removed. I was invited to work with

copies, or limbs. They were displayed together,

ject. They actually expanded it, and it became aJ

CULTURE NATURE whole landscape. They then grew a forest on the

JKG: The forest and nature influenced you positive-


ly. Nature can be something that can move us in

JKG: The motor car seems to be part of the prob-

a positive direction, and public art projects using nature as well.

lem. There is no accounting for the transport and

cubist photographs of time. JKG: There is a strong link between performance art, with artists like Allan Kaprow, yourself and

resource costs for these new developments with

AS: Swedish sociologists did a study on urban na-

many others, and an art that embraces ecology. Performance art was very much one of the key-

no future vision.

ture, and they asked the citizens whatthey liked. And

stones for an art working with nature and the pub­

an overwhelming percentage of respondents said,

lic earth art that came in the future.

AS: I think these are some of the causes that need

"We want more trees." This became the essence of

to be addressed by artists. Walking and observing

my planning projects for Sweden.

is one of the crucial elements that I use in my work. My original proposal for the city of New York in

AS: I agree with you. Kaprow to me was a very important artist, because he tried to integrate art

JKG: Your photo collage works exhibited in art galler­

back into the community in a performance manner.

1965 was to create a series of integrated historical

ies are so different than the work of Hamish Fulton

In some ways, you could say these photo collage

landscapes in every community throughout the

or Richard Long. They aren't concept-based but are

landscapes open the door for people to walk into

city, and they would be connected by a path repre-

like multiple moments in a walk through a landscape.


sented by the ancient pathways of pre-European Manhattan.

These are not individual views of a forest interior, but multiple time-sequenced views that exist together,

JKG: So you believe in a social or cultural context

like a metaphor for the continuum nature exists in.

for art.

AS: That is what I am trying to do. Each one of

AS: There has to be a social commitment. People

JKG: And I believe there was a forest that played a major role in your work. AS: I grew up in the south central Bronx where

these collages is not formulated. It is more my

have lost the idea that public art means public and

body movement in relation to the photograph, my

that is the crucial element. For my projects to be

there was a hemlock forest, which has been totally

body as it moves through the forest. The photo­

successful they have to involve the enjoyment of

destroyed. The city is actively trying to restore it.

graphs are an active element, and present the way

the public, not just the art community. One of the

I observe the forest. The photographs become

most important comments that was said of my first Two Views - Twenty Interviews


public project was a local baker who came from across thi street to see my Time Landscape. He said, "I don't knowi this is art, but I like it!" JKG: A lot of your art moves us away from the idea of a as object, even from the idea of image as object in


electronic era of data communication. The image as obje( does not go much further than the physical object reall Integration in a living community of art and nature, ani people in a society could be the real art. AS: I think that, for art to function in the 21st century, it ha: to be involved in the community. I call it the markers of timr or markers of understanding one's environment. The Timi Landscape was not conceived as just one element. I want~ it to be integrated throughout the entire city. I wanted itt1

an1 contemporary architecture - a dialogue - and this is whil be a balance between historical nature and vegetation

the function of public art is. JKG: C.P. Snow talked about the links between science anl art, and their creative connectivity. Do you agree with thiS

Trees of Aspen, 2008, Aspen, Colorado. Burnt trees, natural earth, organic resin, steel, concrete, indigenous seeds, IOxlQxlS ft. series. Photo courtesy of artist Š Alan Sonfist _

CULTURE NATURE AS: Absolutely. One of the crucial elements of our

into consideration global warming on how I create

society is trying to understand ourselves. Science,

these landscapes.

like art, is one of the measures of how we become

looking at the French or English landscape, which is very much what the American landscape is about. It is an offshoot of that. In that sense what

aware of who we are. I utilize that in my work all

JKG: With a view to where things will be in the

I do is totally not referential to either Japanese or

the time.

future, and climate, and water.

to the European landscape. What I am using is scientific knowledge to create these landscapes.

JKG: I am thinking of the survival of civilizations

AS: Water becomes a crucial element in these

Science is what dictates the actual landscape and

as Jared Diamond describes in his book Collapse.

landscapes, as well as climate change and how

not formal or aesthetic landscape design. Formal

Don't we have to consider the relation between

it affects the vegetation. I am currently working

design comes secondary to the actual scientific

nature and society, in the way we build, invent,

on a global warming sculpture for the city of Kain,

understanding of the land.

design our lives?

Germany. The sculpture captures the past, present and future rhythms of our planet.

JKG: With the Trees of Aspen piece (Aspen Ark) which I witnessed and participated in firsthand,

AS: One of the classical examples was Ephesus, a

you seem to be exploring the effects of shifting

city and one of the eight wonders of the world. They

JKG: Do you think there is a cultural specificity

had a choice, whether to build more sculptural and

to the way cultural landscapes are designed, as

climate and ecological zones. In a way Trees of

religious icons or to clean their harbour. They didn't

for instance with the Japanese Garden, which is

Aspen (2008) is a performance action as much

clean their harbour. All they did was build more

severely orchestrated and has its own aesthetic?

as a sculpture installation. It involved bringing the

and more religious icons and sculptures. And now

Do you think there is a particular aesthetic with

blackened and burned remains of trees from the

historically the city is abandoned and it's twenty

North American land art and landscaping?

miles away from the ocean. That is where you have

Great Divide to a golf course in Snowmass. What was it ultimately a response to?

to take time into consideration as you are creating

AS: I admire the Japanese landscapers. They have

your environmental public artworks. That is why in

a very absolute view of a landscape. I find it to be

AS: The Trees ofAspen were created out of a series

my recent landscape projects I have been taking

challenging and magical as it equally would be

of devastating forest fires surrounding the city. The

Two Views - Twenty Interviews


ART SPACE ECOLOGY ravaged trees of fire become a visual marking of

traditionally conflicting forces. A decaying indus­

AS: All my art involves a clear understanding ofi

environmental destruction as well as a symbol of

trial complex serves as the artistic platform for

environmental issues and their unique relationship

hope. The charred trees are sealed with the seeds

new sculpture created exclusively from recyclable

with the local community. Within the 21st cen

placed within so that in the future they will become

and re-purposed material. This relic of the once

tury, we have to redefine the role of the artist as

a forest once again. As for the golf course itself,

vigorous era of labor-intensive industry is now

an individual who is actively seeking solutions tol

the charred trees that were placed on the edge

transformed to display the vigor of natural life

improve our world.

provide a firm transition between man and nature.

and echoes the Earth's repossession of the man-

JKG: And in Italy where you worked worked quite

fauna from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

often, your latest project Island of Paradise

will feed migratory and local birds, bridging the

(2018) again will deal with issues of our

Island of today with the history of its surrounding

made. Regionally-indigenous ancient flora and

times - the decline of habitats for animals and

environment and the culture of the Renaissance.

birds, and reuse of former mining, extraction sites.

The Island of Paradise forms a crucible which

AS: The Island of Paradise is a floating green land-

tion of organisms, fauna, times, ironies, ideas and

scape which blends green and industrial, natural

histories. It is the Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise

and man-made, earthly and divine. It embodies

conjoined to become a union of the Divine, the

the nexus of nature, organisms, histories, art,

Universal and the Human.

melds past and present to display an arnalgama­

culture and industry. Constructed upon an abandoned mining quarry, the skeletal remains of this

JKG: For young land and earth artists involved in

operation have been filled to create the lake in

the public sphere, would you recommend to try

which the Island floats. The Island of Paradise

venues outside the art world, natural history mu-

is built upon the bedrock of the quarry and is

seums, and botanical gardens as you do?

designed to capture a symbiotic relationship for


Island of Paradise, ltaly, 2018. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Nature Protector, 1990, Musee d'art contemporain de Montreal Stainless steel, tree, natural earth, 25xl5 ft. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Two Views - Twenty Interviews


Dark Matter, 2016, wood and screws,© David Maci


David Mach's collages, sculptures, and instal-

was accidentally set alight, the results added

lations use both the imagery of Pop consumer

something to the original sculpture - so much so

many years. In fact we met over 20 years ago when

society and the actual mass-produced objects

that he has continued to set them alight as a kind

you made an installation at the British Now show

themselves. Whether magazines, vicious teddy

of performance art.

bears, newspapers, cars and jeeps, TV sets, ca-

JKG: David, I have been following your work for

in the Montreal's Muses d'Art Contemporain. Even

Mach has produced a great range of public

then, I could see your art was connected to society,

noes, or any other range of objects, Mach's instal-

artworks including Out of Order in Kingston upon

through the recycled materials, the Pop references,

lations are landscapes drawn from his abundant

Thames; another, the Brick Train, was inspired by a

and the way you put together an installation. You


LNER Class A4 Mallard steam engine and is made

remained connected to broader things than just

Adding Fuel to the Fire, an early installation

out of 185,000 bricks, and his Big Heids can be

the art world.

piece, was assembled from an old truck and sever­

seen from the MB on a stretch of highway between

al cars engulfed in close to 100 tons of magazines,

Glasgow and Edinburgh.

OM: Well, you are either a believer or you aren't

individually arranged to create the impression that

Collage is another facet of Mach's art. It came

and I'm not really! From early on, I have been a

the vehicles were being caught in an explosion of

about in part because he often had thousands of

kind of material junkie. I like a fresh approach,

flames and billowing smoke.

magazines full of imagery from after his installa­

unplanned, and I get a direction as I work on a

Mach's Polaris installation exhibited outside the

tions were to be taken apart. Experimenting with

project... I move from one object or element to

Royal Festival Hall, South Bank Centre, London in

collage continues, and one of the largest ever

the next, back and forth and gradually it tells me

1983, recycled 6,000 old car tires into a 1:1 scale

made was National Portrait, a 3 m by 70 m collage

what shape it will become. It's a bit like being a

recreation of a Polaris submarine.

made for the Millennium Dome rife with images of

giant wasp, buzzing back and forth. I am driven

British people working, playing, living.

to do that.

By the early 1980s, David Mach had started to produce some smaller-scale matchstick sculp­ tures of heads and masks. When one of the heads

Two Views - Twenty Interviews


ART SPACE ECOLOGY JKG: How did you start making art?

and connections made with the people of Fife. Your

the public. Were you at all aware of Joseph Beuys

father who was a miner, joined in 1941 after serving

coming to Edinburgh?

DM: It was largely by mistake. As a kid I grew up

two years in a POW labour camp in Siberia. The brig足

in a furiously industrial landscape - also a beauti足

ade trained at Largo House before being dropped

DM: I was aware later on when I came to art col足

ful country as it was part of this beach and coast

into battle at Arnhem.

lege. Before college I heard about Dali, cause you

line. Everything was happening at the same time

could buy a poster at Woolworth's and I'd been to

- mining, oil rig platforms, brickworks, whiskey - I

DM: The memorial is made of stone and bronze

museums. I was more interested in sex at that age.

thought it was the centre of the universe. Everybody

nails hammered closely together to form a kind of

At college I had fantastic drawing classes that ex足

worked pretty hard and the name of the game was

shield or scaly skin.

hausted you. We were taught by masters in the good

effort. What you put in was what you got out of it.

old-fashioned sense. They all taught you how to see.

As a kid I was good at art in a small town. An art teacher, Mr. Barclay, I see him still, advised me to go

JKG: And your first show was in Edinburgh, Scotland?

to art college, but said, "You won't get in, you do not

DM: My first show was at the Alison Gallery in

strange dichotomy between the new technologies

have enough in your portfolio." So I worked at it for

London, and was followed quickly by the New 57

and the physical and material is something young

a couple of weeks, and got into art college. I didn't

Gallery and the Galerie t'Venster in Rotterdam. I

artists are trying to deal with now.

know much about art and didn't for a long time but

had just left art college. For the New 57 show I put

JKG: The physical world is so important but this

I enjoyed myself incredibly. Silversmithing, jewelry,

up some drawings and six people came to see the

welding and all sorts of things. I knew there was a

show. It was raining and I vowed never to have an

walked into that thing along a beach cause and I

possibility of making art, but I had no idea how to

opening on the same day as a National Holiday

was not looking it could hurt me. I would notice it

make money through art. I discovered I had some ability and if I had a crazy notion, I put it down to

event like Guy Fawkes. I have had quite a few since then.

was heavy, and had a presence. If it's virtual you

JKG: So there is this strong hybridity of the industrial

JKG: Incoming at the Griffin Gallery in Notting

DM: There is a strange virtual reality menace. If I

don't get that.

wildly eccentric parents. JKG: And you made a memorial to the 1st Polish

and natural and it's all done with an immediacy.

Hill is like a kind of surreal admixture of Baroque

Parachute Brigade based in Leven and friendship

It's a kind of language, and a point of access for

landscape with recycled magazines, and an actual


Adding Fuel to Fire, 2017 An installation in Griffin Gallery, WestLondon. 20 tonnes newspaper, Jeep vehicle, other elements, ©David Mach

Two Views - Twenty Interviews



Incoming, 2017. Installation, Griffin Gallery, West London. 20 tonnes newspaper, Jeep vehicle, other elements, © David Mach

DISRUPTOR Jeep. It's the product and refuse mix that we now

Jacket is what I will call that one, giving it a jacket

all these details like the Tower of Babel and a man

live. We feel the scale of production, and the unreal-

using carpet tacks ... Other pieces are made from

with a donkey pushing a TV up a hill. It's like being

ity of scales of production. It's as surreal as a Dali,

120,000 drywall screws. It is the slowest way known

a film director making them. Bring in the horses,

this re-purposing of media materials and product.

to man making these sculptures. The thing is the

bring in the hippopotamus, bring in almost anything.

After the show you return it all to recycling from

colour like gun metal, and it gets a kind of sheen

Collage is fantastic. You can do anything!

whence it came. It is all so temporal.

to it. It is quite an odd thing, just from carpet tacks. They are like tiny bits of shrapnel you are covering

DM: The installation uses fantastic groinwood from

the whole tree form with.

the south coast, a Wrangler Jeep. We have got up

JKG: And with recent shows like Alternative Facts at Dadiani Fine Art in London (2017), the range in the collages is infinite ... You are rebirthing the collage

to 20 tons of newspaper... It grew into the space.

JKG: The narrative you are developing is already

Usually there is half a plan, I get the materials in and

there in the tree trunk, worn by time. Then you bring

art form.

build the forms, newspaper by newspaper. When I

a human layer to it, and, over time, find a human

DM: I have done incredibly well out of collage.

started making these things there were not even

voice to add to the nature layer. You are adding a

Postcard collages, collages that illustrate ideas

story-telling aspect with these covered tree pieces.

for my sculpture, and the large-scale which are

The story is an ancient one, this intertwining of nat­

independent works of art. The biggest show I ever

mobile phones. JKG: These new works - you are working from found

ural and man-made. It's all in the flow. Your new

made was 80 of those self-contained pieces. Some

tree trunks, wood forms found along the beaches

collage works have a stop-action type feel to them.

were ten feet tall and twenty feet long. It took some

in Scotland - are so powerful. They may be your

The scenarios are comparable to the epic Hollywood

five years to make all the works in the show. The

best works!

films and they're full of humour!

collage show was in City Art Centre at the old station

DM: I walked by this piece on a beach for five years,

DM: The collages have accelerated into enormous

site. It has travelled to Galway, to Italy, and it is

and then decided to make a sculpture out of it. It

things, in the scale and scope of Cecil B. DeMille's

still travelling.

comes from life. I like the accessibility. It's corn-

films. From one or two items put together they be-

mon currency. Inside is this wooden form and you

came like films. The collages are on PAUSE. You

JKG: On the south bank you produced a piece Polaris

are covering it with thousands of nails. Full Metal

press PLAY and all the elements MOVE! You get

recycling tires, even before Earth Ship architecture,

in Edinburgh. It had a studio and we worked on

Two Views - Twenty Interviews


ART SPACE ECOLOGY a comment on the threat of nuclear war. Did the

JKG: That unusual Brick Train work you made in

making sculpture, collage, these new pin works feel

public respond to that?

Darlington is not an easy piece. With its billowing

incredibly rounded-off and more complete than I

smoke, and tunnel, all made of brick, it's an un­

have produced for some time. There is a beach In

DM: The public response to Polaris was fantastic.

usual homage to iron horses (not Clydesdales) of

Scotland, and sometimes I see I am just evolving

I learned at art college to get out in the street or

the industrial era.

what I have seen there. There are these concrete

the park and produce art for the public. The reac­ tion out there was no BS. People approached me

blocks on the beach, some of them have fallen

DM: It's an image that I like.

with deep suspicion. What the hell are you doing? I liked it. It pared things right down to a core of

down. I have to bat the ideas off with a stick, there are so many sources for art there on that

JKG: The public probably likes it.



DM: I am used to making things that seem

JKG: Nature is the art we are a part of. The denial

JKG: Artists who have questioned globalization as

impermanent but I consider I make permanent

of nature goes back to early industrialization. The

you did with Out of Order at Kingston upon Thames

works of art. It's not built to fall down. Bricks are the

scale of your works with magazines is quite remark­

with the sequence of old red K6 telephone booths.

hardest material I have used. You are supposed to

able, like Landseer's Scottish scenes, but always

They are animated like fallen dominoes and you

build things with bricks, but it's a material I struggle

this Baroque flow to it all. ..

also had empty containers at another location.

with. I can find a magazine or a coat hanger and

Now we have a post-industrial dilemma with ro­

make art with it, but working with 185,000 bricks

DM: I'm into industry in a big way and I like the

botics, and out-sourcing to Third World, threatening

in Darlington was never so easy.

common currency of work and accessible materials.


These are things all people can understand, that JKG: And the pin pieces you make for a show at

they feel are part of their experience, part of life.

DM: I do feel like I am riding on a horse on a ridge

Forum Gallery in New York are kind of like perform­

If you put yourself out, it always brings something

outside the village. Looking down into it I can see

ance pieces. You can light the match pieces up.

what's going on. Sometimes I can come down from

new. I always considered my work a kind of Baroque minimalism. The physical world is sacred to my art

the ridge ... and get into the thick of it. I'll end up on

DM: I made the urns with pins, based on patterns

the ridge again and make other forays down. I seem

from nature. Very colourful, connected because

to exist, creatively, quite happily there.

of the nature of the material. After thirty years of

as is work.

Tow er of Babel l, 2015. Precious Light exhibition, Turin, Italy. Collage, 427 x 244 cm, © David Mach

Contemplating Nature Haesim Kim

Haesim Kim is one of Korea's more adventurous

sculpture west of Seoul in Korea, John Grande

sculptors. Having studied at Chung-Ang University

seeks to understand the motives and motivations

in Seoul, she went on to the Chelsea College ofArt

in these intuitive searching sculptures.

and Design in London in 1999. Haesim Kim's par足 ticipation with the art nature group Yatoo, and the earlier manifestation of Yatoo known as the Four Seasons, led to some very innovative sculptures that related to performance within the theatre of nature. Many of Haesim Kim's performance inter足 actions with nature and sculpture occur in remote island and mountain settings, but she has also exhibited in Japan, Germany, and England. Many of her sculptures are interactive and invite the public to use them as resting places to experience na足 ture; alternatively, she will invite the public to her interventions in nature as participants. This blend足 ing of performance, interactivity, and sculpture as an element that adds a social dimension to nature within nature is quite unusual and unique. In this interview, conducted near the site of her recent

The artist, Even Trees are Sick, 2017

JKG: Here we are at Yeon-mi mountain, 2008, with

Haesim Kim. Haesim you have a long history of working with Yatoo. Can you tell me how you first got into working with art? HK: When I grew up I often looked at the moon

JKG: So do your sculptures relate to performance or the event in art? Can you describe what you are working on at this moment in time? HK: Yes, I can say that the process of my work in nature is like performance without visitors. It is based on the place I choose... the siting. The performative aspect is in the interaction between visitors, the environment, the site and my sculpture installation. It's in real time.

and thought a lot about the movement of the heavenly body. When I just started making art, I was looking for the way to show my concern with time. While searching for the way, I found that nature is the best place for me to work and I started working on and within it. A sense of space was JKG: I very much like Embodied Nature (2004) revealed through the works I made in the early made in Janggungbong where you set large chunks beginnings of the Four Seasons' workshops at of earth in contrast to the landscape. And then you Yatoo around or soon after 1986. As an example, embroider with leaves and make a grass covering? The Progress (1987) was a drawing composed with white lines that followed the shadows on a HK: Janggunbong is a mountain that has a valley. tree trunk. This works related to the progress of Halfway up the mountain, we can hear the sound time. The distance between the shadow and the of water and see a field of reeds. I constructed a white line grows wider as the earth rotates. This structure with earth where we can see the field changing distance is like a nature performance. As of reeds. The earth I used was from a hole that l explained I began working with subjects related another artist dug in the ground for his project. to nature such as the passage of the heavenly way, The pile of earth is momentarily liberated from tree roots and gravity. The structure is created through time, gravity. this process of deconstruction and reconstruction

of the earth. While visitors exist in their physical bodies on earth, I hope my installation helps them to question their relation to nature and its origins, even to time. Reeds, which love water, expand their territories on the ground beside water... While sitting on this earth and watching the shining reeds, people might contemplate nature and their own spirituality. JKG: So you are symbiotic with the other artists, and there is quite literally an exchange of materials. For the work at Geumgang Nature Art Biennale this year, the title is Between Eyes. Is there some idea of the human in this new work? Can you tell me something about this piece? How did you come to this idea? HK: Whenever I go for a walk along the stream at

my village, I recognize that even a small amount of water is enough for birds to get wet, which allows them to cool down. My new work at Yeon-mi mountain is making two pools for birds. There is very little water on this mountain. The birds have no place to clean their feathers and few places Two Views - Twenty Interviews 137


Beyond the Mountains, Across the River, 2018, Dumulmhery. Bark and branches.

. .~-r-""~--· • _., ......



- •

Two Views - Twenty Interviews


ART SPACE ECOLOGY to drink. So I made these two holes, and at that

trees start dropping their leaves in my village, I

checking out the veins of the leaves, people who

time I can easily imagine that wildlife is gathering

collect the leaves and bring them home. At last, all

pass by start looking at the leaves the way I do.

here. Between Eyes is a metaphor for the distance

the leaves piles up on the road, then people are

between human and nature. As each human being

swinging their feet in them. It makes me think of

JKG: I very much like this movable structure you

has a sense of balance that is achieved through

all the trees on the earth and their leaves as they

made from an arrowroot tree near your studio. You

our two eyes, I hope that we can enter into a new

fall down. I pile these leaves one by one carefully

recycled nature by taking these vines and building

harmony with nature. After one month, there are

on top of one another emphasizing the edges of

them into a structure to collect leaves.

bird droppings and traces of small animals. Here,

the sawleaf. Countless leaves are piled up and soil

they created a new ecosystem!

permeates between the leaves. The layers that I can't imagine are created by the process.

JKG: And I saw a frog right next to it yesterday!

JKG: So in a way your sculpture has a function in

learn of the diversity of nature through my sculp ture made of natural elements. Above all, I wished

JKG: Do you see this work as a design or an HK: Yesterday, one person saw a bird in the water.

HK: I wanted people who enjoy art in nature to

to break a stereotype of art. My intention was that

action? Or both? I feel it is not so much an object

people move freely and use the sculpture made

as an action that you do to place them ... Is this a

of the vines. I gain more than I expect if people

healing action?

nature, and serves more than an aesthetic pur-

recognize the drying process, the alteration of volume, the change of the weather, the variation of

pose. It is also in the scale of the place. Often large

HK: "When the earth expresses itself, it becomes

the color, and the changing conditions due to the

works stand out from the context of nature. For me

a form of leaf because it is the prototype of the

participant's interaction with my sculpture (nature).

this is very humble. And in 2002 you made Layer

earth." Henry David Thoreau talks about leaves in

of Sanglok Village, a very intimate leaf sculpture...

Walden. While working with leaves, I get unusual

JKG: Contemplating the Water, the sculpture you

ideas for form. It has richer meaning than the leaf

carved in situ at Geumgang Nature Art Biennale in

HK: Leaves pile up in fall. As you know, the leaves

itself. Arranging, cleaning, grouping leaves is a

2006 relates to the body. It's like a sculpture for

pile calmly on the ground in the forest like soil

way of connecting with the world. I was acting out

the body to be in nature, literally carved out of two

does. However, they are swept along with the

this work all along. When picking up leaves and

tree trunks. The piece is sited where the tree youl

people in cities as they fall down. When Zelkova

smelling them, looking at them through sunlight, or

carved grew so it has not lost its context. People


Floating Land, 2014, Hwasung Clay and chairs, 450 x 90 x 70 cm

Two Views - Twenty Interviews


ART SPACE ECOLOGY walking along the paths can rest there, on your

HK: Yes. I decide the scale and the content not

with nature and contemplating nature, people could

sculptures which fit the body, and in nature, they

only by the landscape but also by the topography.

experience that we are a part of nature.

look up and sense the space, the air, the sky, just

When I find the place, I let all the natural elements

what is around you in this nature.

determine the character of my art work. In other

JKG: Is your artwork about history and nature, in

words, the site generates the sculpture. My way

time? This is not a common approach for a sculptor

of making art might be similar to the way our an-

to take. With a work titled White in Black you creat

HK: I believe that people can perceive nature's procreative process when they look at the nature

cestors build architecture. The traditional way of

ed a line of stones at Naenara island. Did you seek

calmly. So I made this piece as an invitation for

architecture was very flexible. It rather changes

to make this piece decorative, or is it performance

visitors to lean on the sculpture and contemplate

the design by the shape of the material instead of getting new material.

art in a natural setting? What was your intent?

JKG: Again this is like a perceptual sculpture. We

as a gesture in response to a direct dialogue with

the relation among them. I made this sculpture

put our bodies in physical relation to the sculp-

nature. Here, the black pebble beach spreads wide.

with the hope that people and the world would

ture and then have a place to perceive nature at

pebbles condense by the action of the tide. I can't

connect to each other. With this process, people

a distance, and close. The relation between body

imagine how the island formed there. I just look at

might communicate with not only the sound of the

and environment, individual and nature. Are we

this long black beach with its traces of tidal water.

water, but also other natural contexts.

just interacting, leaving a memory, or a physical

I picked up white pebbles and lined them up in the

action? When you make art in nature is it a species

ocean's direction as a dialogue with nature. The

inter-action, inter-species communication?

white pebbles revealed the unique shape of the

nature. When the wind hits the rocks and trees, people can hear the sound of flowing water al­ though this hill has no water. They even might see

JKG: This is a very calming and contemplative

HK: This piece is performative. It can also be seen

piece. Again it has a function as well and provides

island by contrasting with the black pebble beach.

a place to relax, to rest. Does the scale of your

HK: I try to make my sculpture become the bridge

works change according to the landscape you are working in? Each work seems to respond different­

connecting man and nature and awakening our

JKG: So direction or motion is part of the piece? Is

lost spiritual senses through audience interaction.

memory of place a part of your initial intention with

ly according to the place.

That's why I created projects that people can physic-

this piece?

ally contact or can alter the shape of the art. Staying

CONTEMPLATING NATURE HK: This piece has combined direction, motion, and memory that you mentioned. Combination of my intuition and my impression of the island's top­ ography and character sublimated to my perform­ ance piece. This piece is my response to the long history of the island and invisible but important natural elements of this place. I set white in black and left there. JKG: And can you tell us about Beyond the Mountains, Cross the River, your latest piece on a lake in South Korea? What is the process and reflection? HK: This place is where two rivers that form the center of the Korean peninsula gathered. I worked thinking about the territory of water with the sur­ rounding mountains. I used the bark peeled off by another artist as material for this piece. Just as the two rivers meet in the landscape, two parts of the work installed on the frozen river meet. Between Eyes, 2008,

JKG: Thank you so much Haesim.

Water, lotus and stones, 125 cm diameter each, two elements

© Sculpture Magazine, May 2010 (earlier version)

Two Views - Twenty Interviews



Sella Nest, 2008 Spruce trunks, white marble. Pigment print 113 x 150 Ed.8, ©NILS-UDO


Two Views - Twenty Interviews


ART SPACE ECOLOGY from materials found in nature, such as ash stakes

JKG: For the Van Dusen Gardens Earth Art show

N-U: This work is yet another attempt at finding a

and beech twigs, which, pointing to itself, simul-

in Vancouver, you effectively painted with palm

metaphor for our connection to and dependence

taneously leads specifically and metaphorically back to nature.

leaves, selecting and placing them on a huge

on, ultimately our one-ness, with nature.

Douglas Fir. There is a layering, and a sense of the

JKG: In Cannes, Sur l'Eau was effectively a frame,

visual work of art as a living and very temporary experience ...

JKG: What role does photography play in your art, either your paintings or your installations ...

or visual construct made with natural materials to see the Mediterranean coast, and setting. Can

N-U: My Sequoia piece. The giant sequoia tree.

N-U: An experience in nature leads either to an

you comment?

Presenting it. Its branches, its twigs, its form.

outdoor installation in a natural setting or to a

N-U: Correct. A window onto the Mediterranean

Enclosing its circumference, flying up to it, raining back down ...

outcomes is identical, one and the same. The

JKG: Like Christo Jeanne Claude your works are

fers the subject and intention of the work to the

Sea erected on Sainte Marguerite with materials found in nature on the island.

painting in my studio. The starting point for both photograph of an installation in nature trans-

often temporary, never intended to last, almost

medium of photography: a photographic work of

JKG: Often your installations worldwide awaken a sense of the ephemeral, and they embroider on

events of perception.

art is created. Limited, numbered, signed.

a natural context with what I would call poetic

N-U: My work is part of life. An intervention in na-

JKG: Do you pre-select a site, or is it very much

utility - a way of working materials in nature to

ture is subject to and focuses on the subject of

about being in a place, feeling it, and then deciding.

heighten our sense of and interaction with place.

temporality. I am ephemeral. You are ephemeral. Life.

N-U: I set foot in a given landscape without any

JKG: For Peter Gabriel, you made a piece with a boy

work is always a reaction and response to the

phenomenon in nature to be defined precisely. All

in a nest construction off the coast of Vancouver

situation in nature I encounter.

elements not belonging directly to the subject are

Island. It is intriguing, almost fairy-tale like, an

left out.

inspiration to project a story onto this artwork.

N-U: Every work is a response and reaction to an encountered situation and takes as its theme a

preconceived notion of a project concept. The

La Belle au Bois Dormant, 1999

Jardin des Plantes, Paris, France. Rose plantation, parfum "Paris" d'Yves St. Laurent ŠNILS-UDO

Two Views - Twenty Interviews 149


La Mousse 1, 2015,

Foret des Vosges. Pigment print, 155 x 200 cm. ©NILS-UDO

TOWARDS NATURE 1KG: I believe you made a piece in an old bunker,

like opening a door. Suddenly, from one day to

JKG: Thank you, NILS-UDO, for your gift exchange

reawakening a painful memory of war, and of our

the next, I had found my field of work. The living,

to nature, a nature that we are all a part of!

relation to these experiences. What was that work

inexhaustible reality of nature. Life! Since then,


discovery after discovery, constant, without interruption, from installation to installation, from

N-U: My commission was to create a work in a

site to site, from landscape to landscape, from

forest in the French Vosges mountains. I discov­

country to country. I could work several lifetimes!

ered the remains of World War I bunkers during

And then, decades later, I began painting again

my first visit to these forests. And I even found

(while still continuing with my work in nature).

empty cartridges! I had to react to it. It was

Painting suddenly opened up another, sensation­

the first time I took as my subject the historical

ally open area of work: nature as a subject of

situation of a landscape. My humble, personal

painting. Over and done with? Far from it! It's

homage to the fallen of both sides of this battle

also inexhaustible! The state of nature, its ex-

of World War I in the Vosges. The madness of

ploitation and destruction worldwide. For my part,

time, buried under green moss.

I can only plant and paint against it.

1KG: Is there anything you want to say about

JKG: Can you tell

the evolution of your art over time, about the

tion at Chaumont-sur-Loire next February, 2018?

me about your latest installa­

remarkable neglect of nature in our world, in the

art world .... Vjhy?

N-U: I will be realizing my project VOLCANO for the

N-U: I started out as a painter in 1971. I stopped

the crater of the cone of a small volcano sur-

Chateau park at Chaumont-sur-Loire in France. In painting and, in 1972, I began leasing land from

rounded by a planting of seven small hornbeam

farmers around my village. I no longer wanted

trees and resting on dark volcanic gravel are

to paint trees. I wanted to plant them. It was

eleven large white eggs made of Carrara marble. Two Views - Twenty Interviews


Photo Actionism Gyenis Tibor

Questions of historicism, modernist aestheticism,

Gyenis Tibor participated in Photography in

because we can reach below the surface. Either

photography as social event and avant-garde

Hungary, a survey show at the Neue Berliner

because the veil is not perfect, or because we

actionism (land art and situationism) from the

Kunstverein and he has won awards and prizes

want to touch what is inside.

point of view of cultural anthropology on the one

for his photography internationally and nationally.

hand and of human ecology on the other. Many

JKG: With a photo like Countryside Excursion

of Gyenis Tibor's photographic projects could be

(2004) you place what you call a "filter" in the

qualified as "photographic enabling" and have in­

JKG: Nice to meet you Gyenis. How can we explain

centre of the composition, a canoe set in the

volved a kind of actionism, a fabrication of event,

the interest in intervention in the landscape, the

snow covered field of a landscape view. A kind

scenario, and raison d'etre of the photographic

photographer as anthropologist of the present...

of set up of manipulation of the photograph as

subjects he produces. His photoworks touch on

your approach is surprising!

subject, not so unlike what Jeff Wall did in his

body art, and land art, as much for the intervention aspect, as for the way he views landscape, or

GT: With big cities you can have bad situations.

photo work. It's a kind of painting with objects, a reinsertion of meaning into an otherwise neutral

photo subject in an objectified way. In this inter-

Most cultures of our times are influenced by big


view John K. Grande learns about Gyenis Tibor's process and pragmatic and evolving approach to

concentration any more, rather than about emis­

GT: Yes. I put an active element in the land view

photography, something that places his art in the

sion from the centre to the rural area. This is the

with each of these photos. In these series, filters,

current of today's evolving scene.

Global Warming Group, 2003 Lambdaprint 70 x 100 cm.

cities. We do not talk about accumulation or

breeding ground of high culture. The agricultural

which otherwise influence the way we perceive

area and the village is overwritten and scrubbed

the pictures decisively, are aggressively placed

by the pictures. All of these technical pictures

in the centre of these images. At the first glance

are specified and defined in metropolises. When

these collage-like applications of incompatible

we go to the country it becomes very strange,

segments evoke surrealism. Nevertheless, the Two Views - Twenty Interviews


ART SPACE ECOLOGY objects in the centre of the pictures gain their

JKG: Rather like land art ... but compositional

shapes through the attitude of the observer; they


turn real, become photographable as parts of the landscape.

JKG: You again add an element, a red-and-whitestriped tape to bring closure or an end to this historical "end-product", no longer really a building,

GT: I see the landscape as a construction that

and more an idea of what was a structure. And

is ever changing ... The changing construction is

there are photo works like Area (2004) and Tool

JKG: In another, 9th January, you situate a toiled

an arena. The stronger or the more sophisticated

(2005) where you recycle found clothes, plastic,

square, not unlike Jean-Pierre Raynaud's sculpture

context controls the viewer. In other words, it is

and the like and they become active, somewhat

work in a streambed. It acts as a visual device,

about the touristic point of view. The images of our

surreal displacements, arrangements in the land­

not only photographical but in three-dimensions,

imagination are multiply preformed.

scape. They are a comment on the nature-culture

as a catalyst for interpretation. Landscapes are

divide, and the human presence in the landscape,

manipulated, altered by human actions, and now

JKG: The window or visual framing ... Some of the

how we alter it. Do you see these works as activism

your photos do the same, but introduce a cultural

elements are ambiguous like this floating part

or simply aesthetic choices?

element that is abstract, dissociative ... the photo­

float, part foil form in September 17th ... We get a

graphic process is inverted ...

sense of disembodiment or disconnection ... In a

GT: I connect the feeling of the romantic action

photo like Cult Property (2008), what strikes one

films and the guerrilla art. I work as a cultural

GT: In our digital environment, people perceive

is the decay in the statement but there is "graffiti"

Rambo, but the end station is very soft and meta­

these works as manipulated. These are in fact

on the walls, yet another cultural layer added to it

phoric. It can also be perceived as an experi­

real things, but we do not know exactly. I actually

by today's kids.

menting answer. For example, an attempt to give

dig into the ground, I place elements or I change

critical-aesthetic answers to the global climate

the situations. Why? The questioning of the viewer

GT: Once, this church was transformed into a cul­

is an important part of the mechanism of action.

ture house in the socialist era, however, now it is in

I work like this, because I am interested in the

ruins. Being sensitized to this kind of schizophrenic

specificity of the economic and political power

history, I changed the positions of the fallen beams

techniques, which are hidden behind the surface

and boards.

of the picture.

problem. JKG: And how did people perceive the work? GT: At first there was a rejection. People said, "We did not face these issues, this was not America."

PHOTO ACTIONISM However, later my approach got more attention, due to the intensifying phenomena of gender and environmental issues. A couple of my works got place in university curricula, as well as in mu­

~r~r:?f/.fjl'; T.,~.~- -

seums. Now I teach photography at the university.

I' ttl.;...:;.._'1_;: ~;;.., ,;·:.~~....-

'! 1·



JKG: How do you see yourself in relation to the older generation of Hungarian photographers like Cappa, Kertesz, Brassai ... so many. It must be strange..

r .· GT: It is very separate. There is no point of connec­ tion ... They worked with a very different attitude. For me, the literature as well as the Hungarian concept art of the late 1970s and early 1980s is more important.


JKG: That is part of what I like about Hungary, so much history has passed through Hungary. And now we are in an altogether different present. What a long view, a memory so complex and rich. It is kind of like you went through history with a capital H. Hungary was a great Empire, it disintegrated, the Communist era, and now the present. You have a different perspective on the cycles of empires


:·- .· :.~. ::~f.~









Countryside Excursion, 12th January 2003, 80 X 100 cm

Two Views - Twenty Interviews 155

ART SPACE ECOLOGY and you have a distance. You can be observers of

permanently in storm. I felt connected to Ana

JKG: Before you were arranging elements in the

these things with a perspective that is deep. And

Mendieta and her difficult assimilation. One of the

landscape to then photograph them, and now

you see the PhotoScape, whether urban or rural,

art critics called these early works of mine as the

you are altering the photograph as object. It is

as a stage, with fields, people, buildings ... and so

first Hungarian feminist works.

almost like a kind of woodcut. Where do vou see

on. More as a theatre where elements and props are set up ...

JKG: Again a comment on one-sided view of the

GT: I do not know where this will go in the future ...

GT: Yes very much. The Global Warming Group

Mother Earth connection - it can be for both sexes ... And your upcoming photo projects include

photo project was a set up. Life becomes the process. If we take more air and burn more fires we

these manipulated works...

JKG: Thanks for this. I hope we can collaborate on future projects.

can see the end of this global warming process.

GT: Yes. It is a new approach which I have to phys-

The same goes for the Limited People project,

ically cut elements out of some of my photos. Here

which dealt with overpopulation. We can build a

is the original photo and here is what I cut. This is

photograph like an illusion, or a dream.

not a real photo, instead it is a relief work.

JKG: And you also did these body performance pieces ... One is even titled Homage to Ana

JKG: You carve into the photos like a sculptor.

Mendieta (1999)

the future?

GT: Yes, I use a kind of chainsaw. I only cut the sur­ face of the photo. I also change the landscape, but

GT: It was a male expression; a response to fem­

not in reality, only in the picture or the photograph.

inist actions like Mendieta's In Compassionable

The intervention is rougher and more obvious. We

Exercise II (2000), the man is fused with the

can feel the tension of the iconoclasm.

tree - inseparable. In Eastern Europe it is not simple to exist. We have very deep roots, but our heads are

In spite of this gesture, I hope the picture will be stronger with more contexts and layers of meaning.


Hommage a Ana Mendieta I, 1999, Lambdaprint 50 x 60 cm

Homage a Ana Mendieta Ill, 1999 Lambdaprint. 50 x 60 cm

Two Views - Twenty Interviews


Putting the Public Back into Public Art Dennis Oppenheim

An icon of contemporary art, Dennis Oppenheim had his own way of doing things. As eclectic as he was, his art always took concepts further. Experimentation, a sense of the sublime, and a sculptural language that engages the public dir­ ectly, characterized Dennis Oppenheim's public art works. Device to Root Out Evil (1997) with its upturned church, steeple in the ground, was exhibited at the Venice Biennale and raised ques­ tions about theology and art with a wry sense of humour. Extremely active recently in public art, Oppenheim has produced Reconstructed Dwelling (2007), Electric Kiss (2009), Multi-Helix Tower (2007), and Journey Home (2009) to name a few. Dennis Oppenheim explored the relation be­ tween body and land in his videos, land art and public commissions. For Oppenheim, the early works were more specifically linked to taking art out of the gallery, a challenge to the minimalist aesthetic. Dennis Oppenheim along with Robert Smithson, Hans Haacke, Michael Heizer, Jan Fabre

and others, were developing a dialogue on scale, with space and the outdoor context as variables. Dennis Oppenheim took concepts further than Marcel Duchamp would have imagined. Just as en­ vironment extended the metaphor, enabled art to engage in an extra-cultural dialogue in a seemingly endless context of the land, likewise Oppenheim drew on the land and the body to extend the ways in which art was framed, contained, engendered by its interpreters. In a series of works produced between 1970 and 1974, Oppenheim used his own body as a site to challenge the self: he explored the boundaries of personal risk, transformation, and communication. Distance was notjust physic­ al but critical as well. Far from the galleries, site, space, and mass of matter became variables to extend the metaphors. Preliminary Test for 65' Vertical Penetration (1970) involved Oppenheim actually sliding down a mountain to trace a line. The challenge was to that mind-body affirmation that contemporary art often seeks and entraps

Spiral Scarecrow, 2009, Royal Botanical Gardens, Burlington, Ontario. Canada © Dennis Oppenheim. Photo: John K. Grande

itself in, ultimately building its own container, its confines, its "property." Landslide (1968), enacted on Long Island near the Exit 52 of the Expressway, involved setting a series of horizontal wood mark­ ers to designate and demarcate a hillside land area as a space of intervention. The sense was of a mapping of site and rationalization of space that is otherwise undeclared. While Robert Smithson was a true advocate of the site - non-site duality, Dennis Oppenheim viewed the two as an exchange. Dennis Oppenheim has exhibited his works internationally in galleries and museums includ­ ing the Tate Gallery, London; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Joseph Helman Gallery, Whitney Museum of American Art; and The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; and Galerie Pro Arte, Germany. Oppenheim's commissions include Ballerup Kommune, Copenhagen; Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; The Whitney Museum ofAmerican Art, New York. Two Views - Twenty Interviews 159


Still Dancing, 2010, Mill Square, Distillery District, Toronto, Canada Š Dennis Oppenheim Photo: Dennis Oppenheim Estate

PUTIING THE PUBLIC BACK INTO PUBLIC ART JKG: For the most part, public artists have to learn

on their own through trial and error; educational institutions have only in the past few years begun to address the multi-faceted aspects of public art and the skills needed to become "professionals" and compete in this field. The lack of education­ al opportunities and limited support for emer­ ging public artists are perhaps the two greatest problems facing the growth and development of professionals in the field. If you've never done a sculpture commission, how are you going to get one? How do you get your foot in the door? The third greatest problem is the lack of critical writing and intelligent media coverage. Most public art is reduced to a photo op or a human interest story in the metro section. DO: For me, involvement in public art came after a long evolution in the art world; beginning, as many do, within the gallery and museum system. Even though I was engaged in non-conventional art methods like Land Art and Body Art then, which resist art world conventions, the gallery and mu­ seum system asserted itself almost like a mold that one's operation was forced into. You realize

there is much to the system that you don't like, but if you're young, you conform to it because everyone else does. The early complaints are usually leveled at the elitist characteristics of the art world and its focus on the marketplace. Attitudes of dealers become bothersome leav­ ing you silently looking for options. I really am going back to the late 1960s and early 1970s when concept-based art was just beginning. The theoretical environment was quite charged. The negative effect of the art world at large became tolerable because the art was so dynamic. It's interesting though, back then, 35-40 years ago, one only occasionally would think about tak­ ing up public art. Actually the context was very undeveloped and problematic in those years. Many commissions were relegated through an architect's office and architects were definitely not as liberated as they are now. An architect would be inclined to let an artist get away with a small abstract work in the corner of the plaza; a generic work, not threatening to the building. There was very little camaraderie between the two; the architect being gravely uncomfortable with the sculptor's indulgences. Collaborative

work was practically unknown; this was before the term "site-specific" was used. The term "plop art" could be injected here, it was the kind of work one found usually in the public sector. We have a much different landscape now, in which sculpture and architecture have evolved into a highly inspired union; one has fed ideas to the other and vice versa. Characteristics usually found in architecture are now common in sculp­ ture. One clue is how often sculptors use the word "design" to reference their work. Also, artists are not as afraid of function as they were. Working with teams of people is now quite common. These conditions all came from the architect's world. Regarding the skills needed to become a "pro­ fessional" and practice public art, people have speculated on the need for entrepreneurial skills and the ability to work within a bureaucratic system. These skills however, have also been mentioned in connection with fine art. The studio artist often does well if capable of an aggressive attitude in combination with entrepreneurship. Within the public art context, accepting de­ layed gratification is quickly acquired. Projects take years to complete and parallel the long Two Views - Twenty Interviews 161

ART SPACE ECOLOGY time- frame in an architect's world. Studio artists,

however, can obtain results in minutes. JKG: How do you integrate your own artist's vision

into a public artwork successfully? DO: Public art is still in formation; even at the

high levels, which it is now approaching. A cata­ lyst caused by the combustion of sculpture and architecture, it is still fermenting. An individual artist's method of approach can be in process, at least mine is. Lately I pursue the site, its loca­ tion, history, temperature, list of conditions, and then apply the reality principle. Once I feel I have included all the dimensions in a sphere, a ball, I toss it in the air and let it bounce. The trick is to be off guard; don't be predictable; given the facts, now find the inspiration. I test the cornponents of inspiration against what I think I know about art and its practices. It must, however, be a uniquely enlightened inspiration. JKG: Do community values, the context of the cul-

ture and the geospecific place you are working in ever play a role?

DO: You want the combustion of the site and the artistic idea to produce a spark of clarity that people can interpret. For public art, the community and what the community feels is important. In fine art, community is usually ignored. Coming from fine art, I used to feel that viewers should not be targeted when developing a piece. Public art is dif­ ferent, but you don't want to drag down the work. You want to elevate it; that is a new factor for me. JKG: Are sculptures as public art works a greater

challenge than art in the galleries for you? If so, why? DO: I've kind of touched on that, but perhaps not

enough. The public art sector is a volatile arena. All you can do is jump in as it mixes up. It's like a giant blender.

intelligence. We have the vernacular and the grandiose visions of public sculpture. Can you comment? DO: Moshe Safdie's aspirations, although conventional, are nevertheless noble. But they won't get him into the pantheon of enlightened bliss. We need new belief systems; with the computer there to serve the architect and artist, the ante must be upped. You can't buy inspiration in a bottle nor can you purchase the strength to topple norms. These are the attributes we look for and remember. It's hard for an architect or artist to surface ideas that seem to threaten their comfort zone and security. But isn't that what we want them to do? Do we really want them to operate forever in a safe zone? If you look at some recent furniture designs, especially works put into a furnace and burned but later introduced as finished objects, it stimulates your trust in arts' constant pursuits.

JKG: An architect such as Moshe Safdie would per-

ceive the role of architecture as to serve a social and public space, whereas others prefer the Shock and Awe approach. There are similar schisms in public sculpture. Some dumb down the audience, while others attract them by engaging with an intuitive

JKG: How difficult was the transition to public art? DO: You can certainly call my experience a tran-

sition because it took 40 years. Actually dolng anything for 40 years is difficult but for the sake of your readers, I should be clear about the

PUTIING THE PUBLIC BACK INTO PUBLIC ART difficulties. It's like being deprogrammed after a

Perhaps the extreme focus of public art on the

resonance, and fine arts slow usurping of more

long duration of brainwashing. But like followers

site (with often clear spatial limitations) creates a

democratic beliefs. No longer are artists a mere

of cults, you can't de program everything. At least

different mental atmosphere than a studio artist's

decorative irritant to the architect. In fact the word

the important things you use in making studio art

uncensored immersion into pure theory with no

"architect" is often used by the artist to describe

remain when making large-scale public work. For

givens like "including the presence of people."

themselves. The artist may find her foot in the

me, it's especially important to retain the mental

Effect upon people is held to a much higher co-

door in public art through a clearer context; pre-

process and its reliance on language as an entry

efficient in public art than in fine art, where it often

viously not informed, but now more informed by

into an idea.

seems non-existent.

the interface with the architectural vernacular and

Permanence, durability and the use of non-fraJKG: How does an artwork relate to the public or

gile materials, very necessary considerations for


architectural space? How difficult is it to seize that

public circulation, are not issues for studio artists,

JKG: Some 55 million viewers experience pub­

idea and make it work?

protected by the security of private galleries and

lic art firsthand every day - 1,000 times the

museums. That security which allows an "anything

audience for galleries, museums and theaters

DO: Nowadays there's a lot of information avail­

goes" attitude is also felt by scientists as they

combined. The Vietnam Memorial is seen by over

able about how physical spaces act on people. It's

enter a laboratory knowing that in pure states,

10,000 people daily, and subway and airport

really a science. But science, like all disciplines,

thoughts do not need to be concrete. A negative

public works are witnessed by some five million

is often side-stepped by art and its paradoxes.

reaction and a feeling that studio artists are dab-

travelers daily. Does this affect the way a public

Thoughts on the psychology of perception and an

bling in fine art, not confronting the rigors of the

artwork is perceived before creation, production

interpretation of public awareness can give you

real world, makes a good candidate for entering

and manufacture?

a headache. Yet many artists have been working

the inter-sanctum of public art. Architects now

with these elements, exciting these conditions for

armed with the computer have created a major

DO: These kinds of facts make one wonder why

years. But some conditions of studio art will never

movement equal only to a few seminal movements

one shows in galleries at all. I don't like the physic-

cross into public art, and many artists do not care.

in art history's past.

al ambiance of galleries or of museums. I feel that

Their thoughts start with the piece and not how it can be reacted to spatially.

So public art can be found reverberating be-

they are pretentious, as if the art needs protection

tween these two points: architecture's escalating

for credibility, which it often does. You have to be Two Views - Twenty Interviews


ART SPACE ECOLOGY careful here. If a cure for cancer were exhibited in

Home allows people to experience a kaleidoscop­

1968 and earthworks. I am constructing Thinking

a protected chamber, I would enter and marvel at

ic visual treat as they wait for the bus to bring

Caps, a group of hats up to 25 feet in diameter,

the phenomenon. However, the fresh outdoors is

them home, the end of their journey. Wave Forms

with images projected onto their surfaces for the

where the coming breakthroughs will occur. Even if

in Philadelphia is truly a work experienced by the

Civic Center in Pasadena. For Earth Art at the Royal

60-70 percent of the public is not an art audience,

people walking through it. This is an extremely

Botanical Gardens in Canada, an impromptu piece

all the better, you can change their behavior. JKG: What would you consider some of your most

desirable feature because it moves away from the

Spiral Scarecrows. Dancing Still at the Distillery

sculpture as object to be viewed, it is sculpture a

District in Toronto will incorporate projections,

journey to be experienced.

solar panels and LEDS. In a highly trafficked area,

successful public artworks? DO: The pieces I often go back to are Jump and

Dancing Still will astonish people as they approach JKG: What ongoing projects would you like to

it, and can be entered and will function on you



Twist for Albert-Ludwig University of Freiburg, Germany in 1998. Drinking Structure executed at

DO: Presently I am working on many commissions.

Europos Parkas, Vilniaus, Lithuania. Bus Home in

Two for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, one

Ventura, California. Wave Forms in Philadelphia,

will be in front of the Herzog and de Meuron build-

Pennsylvania. I am fond of these works for all

ing which you will be able to enter like a pavilion.

different reasons. Jump and Twist goes through

Light Chamber is a large work for the courthouse in

the curtain of the micro-technology building at the

Denver, Colorado. It takes its clues from the judge's

university. It then completes a metamorphosis into

chamber, a room within which life-changing issues

a spinning mental structure, very much like the

are weighed. There are several more projects out

students' activity inside. I like Drinking Structure

west, a gateway for the arts district in Las Vegas,

because it imbues architecture with physiological

plus a large distributed work, out in the middle

form; it has a kidney shaped pool in its interior.

of nowhere in the desert, called Tumbling Mirage,

It's also not fixed, it invites movement, something

which can tumble like a weed, reflecting and dis­

architects would like to have in their work. Bus

tarting objects, which surround it. It reminds me of


Bus Home, 2002 Buenaventura Mall Transit Center, Ventura, California, USA Painted steel, perforated steel, structural acrylic, colored roofing material 36' X 100' X 50' Photo: Focus on the Masters Š Dennis Oppenheim Estate

Drinking Structure with Exposed Kidney Pool, 1998. Collection of Europos Park, Vilniaus, Litbuania. Painted welded steel, corrugated fiberglass panels, vinyl siding, galvanized steel, concrete, ceramic tile. 30' X 2 4' X 35' Photo: I. Raimanova Š Dennis Oppenheim Estate

Two Views - Twenty Interviews 165

Ars Memoria Robert Polidori

Robert Polidori's photography has been published widely, including in The New Yorker, and shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We look into his photographs as if we were visual archaeolo­ gists plumbing the highly detailed content and scenes. As a result, these works evoke a sense of tragedy, or of history - but, above all, of place. Their analytical quality is combined with his selec­ tion of places ancient and contemporary, always topical, including Cuba, Lebanon, New Orleans, Pripyat and Chernobyl, the Levant, Versailles, and Libya. Numerous popular books have resulted, including New Orleans after the Flood (2006), Metropolis (2005), Zones of Exclusion: Pripyat and Chernobyl (2003), and Havana (2001). Polidori has twice been awarded the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award for Magazine Photography (1999 and 2002), and has won the World Press Award for his coverage of construction of the Getty Museum in 1998.

Madame Faxas Salon, Havana, Cuba, 1997 ©Robert Polidori

JKG: Here we are in Montreal with Robert Polidori,

JKG: More than a single truth, in other words.

who was born here in 1951. Do you have memories of childhood here?

RP: Yes; I have become a kind of polytheist as far

RP: Yes. I remember those summers in the

Laurentians and farther north, and hearing the wind through trees with no sounds of internal combustion engines. I like that sound of wind. JKG: We have so much nature in Canada. The theme of the power of nature enters into your work, as with the photographs of the flood in New Orleans. There is something ironic about that - the way you have all this built civilization with the nature entering into it.

as what signs in a photograph can mean. Twenty percent of the image is going in one direction as if editorializing in one way, but then another part of the image is going in another direction, editorial­ izing in another way; it is not through distance but through layering. JKG: Your approach to composition is influenced by

your experience working in film with the Anthology Film Archives in the 1970s. Can you tell me about your early projects there? RP: I was attending university - my freshman

RP: If you are fishing for what is Canadian about my

work, I would say it is a kind of conscious approach to objectivity, and also trying not to editorialize. I like to have multiple simultaneous truths.

year - and I was in Tampa, Florida. Annette Michelson came as a visiting professor. She gave a lecture in Tampa where she showed the film Wavelength by Michael Snow. That was a very in­ fluential experience. I quit college after that. Two Views - Twenty Interviews 167

ART SPACE ECOLOGY So, for me, that was a seminal shock. As you

bedrooms, and parlours, not omitting statues

School in Crotone, Calabria, the students were not

know, Wavelength is really a film about tempor­

and other ornaments with which the rooms are

allowed to speak for the first two years and had to

ality; Michael Snow has called it "a monument to

decorated. The images by which the speech is to

memorize rooms. It came more from that side. So I

time." It was a certain way of looking at, but also of

be remembered are then placed in imagination

began to photograph empty rooms. People tend to

feeling about, time. I made films in the late 1960s

on the places which have been memorized in the

place in rooms objects of personal values that define

and early 1970s. What were they like? I would call

building. This done, as soon as the memory of the

them as whom they are or want to be. Somewhat like

them like lyrical poems. Perhaps they were closer

facts requires to be revived, all these places are

the Freudian concept of the super-ego. Also another

to Jonas Mekas's films in some ways, and then not

visited in turn and the various deposits demanded

reason I left film was because I found it too expensive.

in other ways. Some were shorts, and some were

of their custodians. We have to think of the an­

I really look at film now as being a social privilege. I

45 minutes long. I really didn't think about length

cient orator as moving in imagination through his

think that anyone who is even middle class can afford

as determining a priori structural form .

memory building whilst he is making his speech,

a digital camera and can take a picture. Even in India

drawing from the memorized places the images he

now people have cameras; it has become almost a

JKG: And what made you turn to photography from

has placed on them. The method ensures that the

birthright. Essentially I was influenced by that book,


points are remembered in the right order, since

the Art of Memory, as a new way of looking at rooms,

the order is fixed by the sequence of places in the

seeing them as metaphors of memory.

RP: When I turned to photography it was really

building. Quintilian's examples of the anchor and

because of The Art of Memory by Frances Yates.

the weapon as images may suggest that he had

JKG: And when we look at these rooms arid houses

in mind a speech which dealt at one point with

in your book New Orleans After the Flood, we are

JKG: About ancient mnemonic systems. Yates

naval matters (the anchor), at another with military

looking into people's very personal lives, a person-

describes how the ancient Greek rhetorician

operations (the weapon)."1

al world turned upside down, the ravages of time. I

Quintilian explains the process to his students in

One thinks of the art of memory when looking at the

Ad Herennium (86-82 BCE): "In order to form a

corridors in the Versailles photographs that you took.

series of places in memory," he says, "a building

think of Byron and Shelley- the Romantics - who looked at ruins as metaphors for past civilizations, traces of lives long ago vanished. There is this thing

is to be remembered, as spacious and varied a

RP: The students of the art of memory used to have

about God, the hand of God in your work. And

one as possible, the forecourt, the living room,

to memorize these empty rooms. At the Pythagorean

then there is the aspect of time. Your New Orleans


5417 Marigny,

New Orleans, LA, 2005 ©Robert Polidori

Two Views - Twenty Interviews



Salle de Crimee Sud, Aile du Nord - first floor,

2007 ©Robert Polidori

A DIALOGUE WITH PLACE IN TIME and Lebanon photographs present an aspect of

this metaphor for time that can be romantic or, alternatively, tragic. What is ordinary one day can be something else the next... and what remains? RP: When we are looking at the photographs of New Orleans, these rooms are not the cadavers of people's bodies; these are the exoskeletons of an interrupted life. I would think that the majority of the inhabitants of these rooms are living some­ place else. They are still living today, living another life now. So, much as the way that snakes shed their skins, these are exoskeletons that have been shed. These are all the clues you have left to track their prior trajectories. JKG: I do believe that your photographs have the aspect of social commentary and the idea that the photographer can influence society, even through media. When I look at one of your Havana photo­ graphs, the one of the Countess's former house, and the walls now repaired - indeed, covered with all those tiny boards. It is truly a comment on colonialism and indigenous culture, a powerful statement.

RP: The thing is that people often will call me an architectural photographer. I bristle at that. I do photograph interiors and buildings, so I am not saying they are completely out of line. But What I am saying is that architectural photography is basically about making a product shot for an architect or a developer. I like to say that I am a habitat photographer. I photograph the way a society uses and even alters a space. JKG: You have said that there is no fiction stranger than reality. I think you have hit the nail on the head there, especially after seeing the photo­ graphs on view at the Musee d'art contemporain de Montreal. They bear witness to transformations in many places around the world. Do you believe that photography can play a role in influencing so­ ciety in a world in which there are so many visual cues, in which so many visuals are being fed to us all the time? RP: That is an ongoing question which came up some months ago in a conversation with a photog­ raphy curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

We were discussing the art of Sebastiao Salgado, whose work I really admire. There are some purely technical aspects of his work which don't always coincide with my opinions, but, regardless, I feel the iconographic power of his work is undeniable. What the curator objected to in his photography was the notion that photography can save the world. I never thought about it like that. I guess it's true, to ask and to believe that a photograph can change the world is asking a lot, but I think that you can contribute to some changes in consciousness that later contribute to bringing about change. JKG: Your works are very hands-on and close-up, not industrial at all in scale, and very human. They reveal the human details. RP: I think that is because I lived in New York for several decades. It is hard to escape humanity there. I guess the places I choose to live in are highly urban. In the urban environment, one is very close to other people. But ultimately a balance has to be achieved. If you are too close, and are sud­ denly too influenced by your subject, you lose your objectivity, which means the work lacks a certain Two Views - Twenty Interviews 171

ART SPACE ECOLOGY truth, or if too far we lose the emotional context and connection.

my pictures. I thought about it for a moment and had to answer "nothing". The truth is - I feel before and after I take the pictures. When

JKG: Do you set up your photos, or is there an

I am taking them I am just trying to accom­

element of accident to the way you enter into the

plish all the technical tasks of photography

scenes you photograph?

and basically just concentrate on that task in such a way so I don't commit technical errors.

RP: What do you mean by "set up"? I use tripods

Before I take the pictures, whether it is months

and so on. Or do you mean whether I stage it all?

or minutes before, then I reflect and feel what

I don't stage anything, the most I do is perhaps

the scene and its captured image can possibly

remove some object that hides the scene from me,

mean or evoke. Later when I review the images

such as opening a curtain, or opening a window

I have photographed I can see whether they

to let light in. But I try not to change the "nature"

corresponded to what I had pre-visualized and

of the phenomena before me. I try to acquire my

felt about the scene at the moment I took them.

images in a kind of aesthetic anthropological way.

Corrections and amendments to my judgrnents

1. Frances Yates, The Art of Memory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966), p. 3. Although Yates credits Quintilian with the authorship of Ad Her­ renium, the authorship is in question and has been attributed to Cicero, or maybe even Confucius. © Ciel Variable Magazine, Fall 2009 (earlier version)

after reviewing the photographs essentially pre­ JKG: How do you set up the image in your mind?

load my immediate reactions to new images I

Is it a matter of walking around, getting to know a

would choose to take at a later time. When I

place, following your instinct?

take a picture I just want to execute it in one

RP: Yes, basically I follow my instincts, but I

should be executed or not in the first place. The

quick take, and not worry about whether it have strong predilections for certain types of

act being a medium requires one to suspend

subject matters. I often observe them for some

judgment and perform the tasks necessary for

time before I even decide to photograph them.

accurate psychic reception.

Once I was asked what I felt when I was taking

800 Block of North Robertson, New Orleans, LA, 2005 ©Robert Polidori

Being and Form Henrique Oliveira

Henrique Oliveira was born in Ourinhos, Brazil in

complicated the artist's vision is the separation of

our lives. Our behaviour became standardized, our

1973. He graduated after earning a Masters in vis­

physical and material world from what we call art.

taste is supposed to follow certain patterns, even

ual arts at Universidade de Sao Paulo, in the city

Can you comment?

our image has become a consumption product in

of Sao Paulo, where he lives and works. Presented

the social media.

as wall reliefs, free-standing pieces, or walking-in

HO: In the last decades our lives have become

When we stop to think that we take all inforrna-,

environments, the works of Henrique Oliveira are

so mediated by images. Everything we see, our

tion that arrives via a mediated computer screen:

always hybrid forms - organic structures that

communication, all forces that operate in our so­

or printed on paper to be true, then we can begin

merge with architecture, or objects crafted to

ciety act through a system of pixel combination.

to understand why it is so important to see things

blur its limits into nature and destabilize codes of

It's a tendency that started with the invention of

alive. I'm not saying that art works escape this

visual perception such as space, surface, and con­

photography. If, as Walter Benjamin observed in

system, on the contrary, the media has, more than

sistency. Rather than making judgments over the

The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduc­

ever, been used as an instrument of power. This

disequilibrium of today's human relations, they are

tion, the process of multiplication of images would

development of image reproduction and manipu­

presented as "growths" nurtured over the deterior­

make art lose its aura as it became accessible

lation, did not, as Benjamin predicted, destroy the

ating residues of society, images that couldn't have

to everybody in a socializing process; what we

aura of art. On the contrary, art became a kind o~

been thought of beforehand but can now appear as

see today, by contrast, is that this technological

investment. A commodity, but a commodity that

a side-effect of the contemporary world.

process can be an instrument of political control

is associated with status, fame, power, seduction'


over society. We live a paradoxical situation; if

- values that structure (as fragile as they can be)

JKG: Henrique. I appreciate your taking the time

it's true that there was an image revolution in the

our present world.

to answer a few questions. I believe the artist has

20th century, it's also true that this revolution was

But this problematic side of contemporary art

a certain responsibility to their own experience, to

co-opted by capitalist system. The logic of this

also unveils a need for the real object. More and

their vision, and to society. What has increasingly

system has been incorporated in every instance of

more people need to have, need to see, something

Exterior of building Tapum es - Casa dos Leoes, 2009

VII Bienal do Mercosul, Porto Alegre Photo: Eduardo Ortega

ART SPACE ECOLOGY concrete and real amidst this frenzied flux of

just in the machines, it is also inside our heads.

immaterial images. The more a virtual world in足

JKG: I see your interest in painting evolved and

creases its participation in our everyday life, the

then jumped right into sculpture. Are the two com足

more we will search for its material compensation.

plimentary for you?

People had to leave the fields and rural places

HO: Yes and no. They are complementary to the extent

and move to the big cities to start seeing value in

that painting offers me a momentum when the intense

nature. The same is happening to an increasing virtual culture, people need to go to


art in

search for ideas and new projects cease and then I can be absorbed into a language that flows in a lighter

museums, to go out in the city, to go to the beach.

and more immediate way. In this liquid medium I can

I'm not saying that art needs to be material, a lot of

see images appearing in front of my eyes as I work.

important things are happening virtually, mentally

The timing is different with painting as compared to

only, and will continue to happen more and more.

sculptures and installation. The latter usually needs a

But we will always have to test the resistance of

previous sketch and days of hard work to make them-

new ideas against the hard matter of the world.

selves visible. I know it seems a prosaic statement,

People in general tend to understand technology in its literal sense - machines that change the

but many ideas for 3-dimensional works are conceived when I'm in the process of painting.

way we communicate, the way we produce and

In another way, my sculptures have helped me

transport things, etc. But it is much more than

to orient the choices I've made in painting. They

that. Technology is present in us all the time, even

share some common elements like surface, gesture,

if we are naked in nature. It has already changed

layering, color, organic forms, and so on. Working on

the way we feel the world forever. I don't see a

sculpture and installation is a way to maintain a dis足

distinction if we 3-D print, if a factory produces

tance from painting and, later on, return refreshed to

something, if we re-arrange industrial objects,

the canvas.

recycle them, or if we craft an object - they are all products of today's technology. Technology is not

Though they clearly influence each other, some足 times painting and sculpture installation

seem to

Baitogogo, 2013 Palais de Tokyo, Paris - France, Plywood and tree branches 6,74 x 11,79 x 20,76m Photo: Andre Morin


HO: We can use terms like "painterly" for a var­ corresponding similarities, sometimes they behave iety of objects and surfaces, but painting, strictly like oil and water. Even if I force it, they don't mix. speaking, is something quite specific. In my first When I started painting, before attending art installations, I used a combination of patches of school, my production often relied heavily on my used plywood to obtain a continuous object com­ early drawings, which are the basis of my sculp­ prising a variety of textures and colors. Once put ture. Another part of my art-making followed an together on a wall, that material would make it experimental path ... I would use materials as possible to speak of a painterly experience being diverse as newspaper, earth and pebbles, tree "perceived" in other "non-painterly" media; this barks, labels, even materials collected from trash similarity causes us to change the way we see the orthe fields. A few years later in art school, my world, and increases our sensibility when looking painting became focused on its medium as I learn­ at ordinary places and objects. ed various techniques of sculpture, photography, Later on, as my production evolved in a variety printing... It was good to have had that moment. of directions, as I followed this "pictorial" orienta­ It helped me to have a clearer vision of the next tion, it was transferred on to hanging objects. The steps I would take towards a production less easy move was from flat installations made directly on to classify. the wall, to three-dimensional panels. The meaning and limits of such media and their These three-dimensional pieces are made implicit language have always guided my work. It through a process of construction that often ref­ is true that it has become less and less important erences the sculptural, but the result is an object to refer to traditional categories of contemporary situated somewhere between sculpture and paint­ art. More important than denying categories in art, ing. Some people refer to them as reliefs, as they is to overcome them in the work I make. start from a particular kind of oil impasto technique that is the model due to its tactile dimenJKG: Is making sculpture a way of "painting sionality. Seen from this point of view, what once the environment?" derived from a representation technique: painting insist on being parallel practices. Though they have

materiality, becomes a universe unto itself. Taking a close look at that kind of textural effect, we start to see a vast "landscape," which is neither a result of the force of nature, nor totally intentional. From that moment, it became possible for me to begin thinking of a kind of "three-dimensional painting". The sculpture installations became a kind of en­ larged paint paste representation. And they had a "cover layer" made out of bits of jagged laminates that overlay to form a visual dynamic, generating a feeling of movement. The colours, applied as a kind of translucent filter or watercolor, don't change the material surface's natural patina - instead, they interact with that given surface in a dialogue with the lower palette of particular tones and nuances characteristic of this material itself. Colour and material... but as it is virtually impossible for that construction to be a painting, the final result is a visual object that didn't exist before and couldn't have been thought of beforehand. JKG: Does using plywood and found materials in­ crease the point of contact with community, at the same time as it also transforms the plywood into a new metamorphoses as art... an excitna process...


HO: I don't think it does, but it certainly provides a

of contamination of the process.

architectures, spaces, as a kind of eco-Baroque,

possibility of thinking about communities who don't

In site-specific works produced for public places

usually participate in the art world. Continuing with

like Tapumes - Casa dos teoes, or Alley Abscess,

for in art the decorative and ecological can com-

the example of the relief artworks I already men-

I propose a parallel between the disorder of the

tioned, great monumental painting is what first

human body and the social disorder inherent to

HO: You will never find me using the adjective "eco" in relation to my works. I don't use only second­

pliment each other... How do you see it?

comes to mind when one sees it. But if you look

exploited developing societies. Signs of decay

more carefully, you will realize that the size of these

are everywhere, in old rotten wood, rusted metal,

hand materials. I also use a lot of new wood, new

relief works is deliberate, and not at all by chance.

dirty soil and materials taken from fields. Used in

materials, sometimes PVC tubes, sometimes foam,

Plywood is produced and conceived for use in the

construction, these materials can be seen to be

and so on. Even where you see salvaged wood, it

scale of architecture, or at a minimum the scale of

tumorous formations, or symptoms of negligence.

needed to use gas driving around and collecting

the human body (as furniture). Once the spectator

The metaphor is of the sick body in the scale of

it. I use paint, I use screws and all sorts of things.

has realized what the actual material is, one is able

architecture that contaminates a culture where the

Often there is no destination for my works after

to establish connections that go beyond mere vis­

spectacle is so prevalent. These installations are

the shows and they end up in the trash. Second,

ual qualities. One is able to think of situations and

in the scale of the big signage that shapes our

I think that the label "eco" today has very little to

places that are at the other end of the spectrum of

cities, and it contributes to a feeling of discomfort.

do with its original meaning. In our society "eco"

abstraction as it is represented in the canons of art.

It brings out a curiosity that may lead to deeper

is intended to add value to products and services.

The plywood medium can be seen in the materiality

layers of interpretation.

In other words, "eco" sells better.

of construction sites, in shanty towns, and is often

Many people collaborated in the making of such

When I was an art student I had a great interest

found in derelict areas - on the peripheries of big

works, but this is not as important as the power of

in the Baroque, especially the Brazilian Baroque,

cities, of society, of the art world.

the resulting material image. The metamorphosis

that gave us great artists and beautiful colonial

This series of works, which I've grouped under the

of those materials interests me. I want these ma­

architecture. Today, we still can talk of some of

title of Xilempasto, allows this material to enter

terial metamorphoses to be the correlate of the

my works using the term Baroque, but in a more

surreptitiously in the realm of the great artistic

changes in the way we see the world.

general way. Baroque as opposite to classical, or

JKG: I would call the way your sculpture fits into

the Dionysian in opposition to the Apollonian ... In this way, you may see my works as tending more

canons. It doesn't fight against the institution, it just accepts it and while doing it, works as a kind

Two Views - Twenty Interviews



Transarquitectonica, 2014 Museu de Arte Contemporiinea, Sao Paulo - Brazil. Photo: Everton Ballardin

BEING AND FORM to a Baroque mood. Going still further, you could

tends to be autonomous of the site. Everything is

would exist outside of any context of time, made

also bring up the Portuguese origin of the term Baroque - the imperfect pearl. My handmade art

possible and nothing stands in the way.

in opposition to something that, like my sculpture

is very much born out of this imperfection.

JKG: In looking at a work there is always this push足

Realistic is close to perfection - its referent in

So many adjectives have been used to describe

pull effect between reason or design and the flow

painting- and could be said to look alive. In sculpture,

my works ... I have received invitations to show in

of nature's systems ... A hidden message in many

however, you know a figure or object, although it may

radically different contexts that include land art,

of your pieces is that we are participating in an art足

look real, is made of another material. In my wood

street art, architecture and design, etc. Talking

work, merely adding another dimension or layer...

constructions, the wood does not represent anything.

installations, is aglng, is in the flow of time.

about my production, people have used terms

It presents itself as wood. My sculptures never have a

such as surrealism, formalism, soft art, Art Povera

HO: If I understood, you mean that apart from

precise design, and are made out of a freestyle hand

and in your case now, eco-baroque. As I keep

those obvious works that you can enter, in many

crafting process. And this also contributes to the per足

relying on a variety of different sources, I won't

of my works the spectator is placed on a point of

ception or Baroque feeling of a weird, imperfect thing.

be concerned about the labels. I will only start to

view of witnessing something that is happening, or

Such imperfection brings life to the work.

worry if everybody starts using only one adjective!

that has happened already, or something that is changing, growing ...

JKG: Do you choose the sites or do they occur by accident?

I think that this weird sensation, that sometimes people report to have felt, is a consequence of

JKG: And the power of nature is evident in all of your sculptures ... was there an influence or inspiration for this?

the combination of a construction process with a HO: The places I work come mostly by invitation,

natural or apparently natural material. As the wood

so I usually have a limited choice. Many times the

you see in my works is used, it makes you feel that

life. I grew up in a town where I could go swimming in

site is a challenge, other times just white cubes,

the works are alive, or were alive before dying. Even

a river or walking in the woods almost everyday. And

seen to be "neutral" spaces. This last kind of situ足

if these sculptural works are designed and crafted,

even after moving to Sao Paulo when I was 16, I kept

ation makes the work less site-dependent and less

because they are not made of new materials, but

traveling on weekends to go kayaking, to go trekking,

site-specific but more site-oriented. Often, the site

materials with a history, they exist in a context

to go to the beach. A biologist friend and I used to pay

doesn't impose conditions, but likewise the work

of time. If they were made of new materials they

a lot of attention to the environments of nature during

HO: Nature has always played a central role in my

Two Views - Twenty Interviews


Transarquitectonica, 2014

Museu de Arte Conternporanea, Sao Paulo - Brazil Wood, bricks, mud, bamboo, PVC, plywood, tree brunches and other materials, 5 x 18 x 73 m, Photo: Everton Ballardin



Two Views - Twenty Interviews


ART SPACE ECOLOGY those trips into the fields.

medium, Paulo Whitaker was an important influ-

JKG: The language of nature is seemingly infinite, while

When I started working with used plywood, I spent

ence on my early work. I used to attend his classes

the manufactured product is limited in its variability. I

much more time in the city than I had ever done in my

and show him my production, and he kindly paid

feel your sculptures walk the line between the two in

life. Though I was using a material associated with

attention every time I asked to go to his studio.

such an interesting way...

an urban context, I think this influence of nature ap-

Today we share a space and still talk a lot about

peared naturally as my works evolved.

art. Artists' group formed around this studio over

HO: I would say that the availability of difference is

the last nine years with younger artists like Chico

unlimited in nature if compared to what is available

JKG: Have any other artists or teachers inspired you,

Togni and Rodrigo Sassi who collaborated in my

in terms of human production. As part of nature him­

stimulated your direction as an artist?

projects, and I still listen to their opinion. I've been

self, man has also a potential capacity of producing

lucky to have the help of a great team.

infinite difference. At the same time, humanity also

HO: When I was in art school, artist Carlos Fajardo

knows that this is a potential that can never be fully

was one of the veteran teachers. His career developed

JKG: Can you tell

in the 1960s and 1970s in close association with


me about upcoming projects or

achieved. As much as man can project and create, he can never grasp that horizon of infinitude that 1

the Italian Arte Povera. He talked about how ordinary

nature occupies in the human imagination. At the

surfaces have a tactile property; it somehow contrib­

HO: At the moment I'm working for my second solo

same time, it is perhaps this kind of "oceanic feeling"

uted to open my mind to see such surfaces as ready­

show at Galeria Millan, Sao Paulo, scheduled for April.

(to borrow a term used by Freud in Civilization and

made "paintings." Together with the support of other

It will be different from the first one I held there, more

its Discontents while describing the religious feeling)


like a compilation of many researches which I have

that keeps us moving. It is this infinite curiosity that

move in the direction of my first plywood collages.

dedicated myself to over the last few years. It will

makes it possible for us to talk about humanity and

have two and three-dimensional works and others in

nature as being somehow different.

teachers from a younger generation, it helped

In general, the art school context at Sao Paulo University helped

me to choose construction-re-

lated materials for my art. Before art school, when painting was my main

between, made out of materials like wood, foam and metal. The show will be an exposition of my recent ideas and experiments. © Espace Art Actuel, June 2017 (abridged version)



Transarquitectonica, (interior view) 2014 Museu de Arte Contemporanea, Sao Paulo - Brazil. Wood, bricks, mud, bamboo, PVC, plywood, tree brunches and other materials, 5 x 18 x 73 m. Photo: Everton Ballardin

Two Views - Twenty Interviews 185

Also available from Black Rose Books by John K. Grande

In this collection of over 40 essays written on the theme of landscape and technology, Grande relates a variety of artistic endeavours under four headings to illustrate how the "intertwining" of these practices can be reinvested with a broader sense of social, cultural and ecological relevance.

Believing that artistic expression can and does play an important role in changing the way we perceive our relation to the world we live in, art critic John Grande takes an in-depth look at the work of some very unusual environmental artists in the United States, in Canada, and in Europe.

Paperback: 978-1-55164-110-2

Paperback: 978-1-55164-006-8

Hardcover: 978-1-55164-111-9

Hardcover: 978-155164-007-5

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John K. Grande: ART SPACE ECOLOGY / Two Views – Twenty Interviews  

John K. Grande: ART SPACE ECOLOGY / Two Views – Twenty Interviews

John K. Grande: ART SPACE ECOLOGY / Two Views – Twenty Interviews  

John K. Grande: ART SPACE ECOLOGY / Two Views – Twenty Interviews

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