The Wave at the
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

“Flash” Wave

On July 12, 2014, Elena and I installed The Wave in the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, CT for a period of three hours as part of the Education Department’s monthly Second Saturdays for Families program. (Founded in 1842, The Wadsworth is the oldest public art museum in the United States.)  During that short window of time and with the participation of several hundred enthusiastic museum visitors, we created a three-story, cascading waterfall that spilled into an undulating river flowing throughout the museum’s storied Avery Court. Then, in the same way that ‘Flash Mobs’ come and go quickly to effect an intensity of artistic expression, we removed all evidence that it had ever been there.

Alltogether, it was an amazing experience to watch children and adults touching and shaking the installation to hear it roar like a waterfall, looking up and around the space with a new understanding of its majestic design and taking pride in participating in an interactive, national art project. The installation was funded, in part, by a micro grant from The Awesome Foundation CT.

 Avery Court, Wadsworth Atheneum


Before: Avery Court, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT

 The Wave installed in the Avery Court of the Wadsworth Museum of Art, July, 2014


After: The Wave installed in Avery Court, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, July 12, 2014

 Participants Gazing at The Wave in Avery Court, Wadsworth Museum of Art, July 12, 2014. Photograph Courtesy of Diana Guay Photography.


Participants Gazing at The Wave in Avery Court, Wadsworth Museum of Art, July 12, 2014. Photograph Courtesy of Diana Guay Photography.

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The Wave in Avery Court, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, July 12, 2014

 The  Wave 'Waterfall" at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, July 2014


The Wave ‘Waterfall” at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, July 2014

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The Wave ‘Relating’ to a Jean Arp Painting on the Walls of the Wadsworth Atheneum, July 12, 2014

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The Wave at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT, July 12, 2014

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Participants, The Wave at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT, July 12, 2014

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Participants, The Wave at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT, July 12, 2014

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Faces of The Wave, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT, July 12, 2014

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Participants, The Wave at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT, July 12, 2014

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Participants, The Wave at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, July 12, 2014

Science Fiction and Water

Science Fiction as a Speculative Genre

As a visual artist, I’ve always loved science fiction. I am drawn (pun intended) to the highly imaginative worlds that science fiction authors create. By definition, science fiction contains inventive settings and other-wordly technology that take place in the future, including alternate universes, time travel and extraterrestrial life. American, Robert Heinlein, (1907 – 1988), often considered the ‘dean of science fiction writers’ and author of such classics as Stranger in a Strange Land and Starship Troopers, defined the genre as “realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method.” Good science fiction challenges us to consider the physical, moral and political consequences of scientific and technological inventions, social structures and human behavior.

 Cover Image of Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein


Cover Image of Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

Science Fiction Writers = Prophets of the Future.

As speculators about the future, science fiction writers have often predicted and influenced real-world technological inventions. In 1950, in his I, Robot short stories, Isaac Asimov (1920 – 1992) described a new world in which man-made machines called robots carried out routine, human tasks. In so doing, he foresaw the development of what became an entire scientific field of study called robotics and inspired generations of readers to embrace his vision.  Similarly science fiction writer, Jules Verne, (1828 – 1905) realized the potential for the components of water (hydrogen and oxygen) to be used as fuel and predicted the technology of fuel cells that are currently being used to power clean energy, hybrid automobiles. The Science Channel has created a fascinating series entitled, Prophets of Science Fiction, that features 10 science fiction writers, including Jules Verne and Isaac Asimov, who imagined future scientific ideas that have become reality.

 Cover of I, Robot by Isaac Asimov


Cover of I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Why Bring Up Science Fiction in a Blog About The Wave, Water and Public Art?

Right now I am re-reading the epic classic, Dune, by Frank Herbert (1965), considered to be one of the best science fiction novels of all time. Dune is set on a hostile desert planet called Arrakis that is populated by the Fremen, a native, human population. The Fremen have complex rituals and systems that revolve around the value and conservation of water. The preciousness of water to them is so critical to their consciousness and their very existence that they consider the acts of spitting and shedding tears as signs of reverence to the receiver because those who respond in this way are willingly releasing what is desperately needed to live. The Fremen even make what we would consider to be harsh life and death choices based on how they see the survival needs of their whole community: they do not waste water on the wounded or fatally ill.

Reading Dune this summer, while severe drought conditions in the American west are reported daily on the news, has made me wonder whether or not Frank Herbert created such an extreme scenario about an almost waterless society in order to force our attention on the very real threats that exist should we not: conserve the dwindling water resources we have on Earth right now; eradicate the pollution that poisons our oceans, lakes and rivers and provide potable water more effectively to water-scarce areas of the world in order to prevent future wars over water. To me, the novel is another powerful example of how art can bombard our senses and focus our attention as a society on addressing critical challenges with clarity and resolve.

 2014 Drought in American West


2014 Drought in California

 

The Wave as Placemaker, #3

Faces of and Words on Water and The Wave in Willimantic, CT

The fourth and final Wave installation of our Connecticut Office of the Arts, Art Catalyze Placemaking Grant, in partnership with the Connecticut Library Consortium, was held on Thursday, June 19, 2014 at the Willimantic (CT) Public Library. (See the May 21, 2014 and December 13, 2013 blog posts for more information on the grant, it’s goals and the definition of placemaking) In addition to the Willimantic Wave, installations completed by community participants are now hanging for varying lengths of time during the summer months at the Ferguson Library in Stamford, CT, The New Haven Free Public Library in New Haven, CT and the New London Public Library in New London, CT.

In order to document the impact of the Wave as a community engagement public art project in a typical community, Elena and I engaged Nild Sansone, a Connecticut-based videographer to interview library staff, town officials and other community participants of all ages and background in Willimantic at the Wave event. Nild posed a series of questions, including: How is water important to you? What concerns do you have about water? How does water make you feel? What kinds of water issues do you have here in Willimantic? and How does The Wave help you think about water?

 Wave Participants at the Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014


Wave Participants at the Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014

Listed below is a sampling of responses that I selected from two hours of raw footage. Although individual references and memories about water were as varied as the pieces of Waves that they contributed to the installation, the common thread running throughout all of the answers was that water evokes feelings of calm, joy and refreshment; it impacts all of the senses (sound, smell, touch, taste, sight) and, although it’s taken for granted here in Connecticut, it is vital for individual and community health. Respondents also confirmed that participating in The Wave was not only creative and just plain fun, it helped them to focus on the importance of water in their lives as a community in the library, the community’s hub. Stay tuned for the The Wave Video.

 Jennifer Keohane, Executive Director of the Connecticut Library Consortium and Willimantic Public Library Volunteer, June, 2014


Jennifer Keohane, Executive Director of the Connecticut Library Consortium and Willimantic Public Library Volunteer, June, 2014

Jennifer Keohane, Executive Director, CT Library Consortium:

The Wave has made me think about the importance of water. Water is a way that I relax, feel connected to the world and the universe. It’s an important resource that I realize we might have to go to war over. I hadn’t thought about it until I was involved in this project and saw and heard everyone’s different reactions to water and The Wave. I think water helps me put my problems and my issues in perspective.

Drusilla Carter, Director, Willimantic Public Library

The Wave is a visual representation of the community. We have everybody here today: young mothers, fathers and children, teenagers in flocks, seniors and people we’ve never seen before in the library. We are water based. This town would not be here if it were not for water. The mills brought people here and were powered by the river. This is a textile town. Pollution is a problem in this small city. It’s a constant balancing act between using the water for industry and having a clean, unpolluted source.

 Teen Participants, Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014


Teen Participants, Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014

Ernie Eldridge, Mayor and Town Manager, Windham, CT

What isn’t important about water? We take it for granted here and shouldn’t. It’s a resource that’s very fragile…The word, Willimantic, means swift running water.

Chris, Librarian, Willimantic Public Library

The sound of rain is one of the most beautiful sounds on earth… Water is the thing that is both inside and outside of me. This project brings attention to the fact that it is something we all share. You can talk about water as a concept but seeing it as an art form transforms the discussion.

Loretta Waldman, Writer

Cutting a piece of The Wave (in the way I did) was spontaneous from a lifetime of experiencing water.

Gail, Participant

I think what the artists are doing is incredible and I want to thank them for bringing this community project to our community and other communities that share common waterways. 

Megan H., Participant

While I was cutting The Wave, I was inspired by choppy waves in the middle of the ocean on that boat I go fishing in.

 Participant, Willimantic Wave, June, 2014


Participant, Willimantic Wave, June, 2014

Kayla, Participant

Water is moveable. Water is spontaneous so I cut it spontaneously. Water is outgoing and feels good.

Nate, Participant

Water represents doing whatever you need to do. Water feels powerful. It’s always changing: it can feel cold and you hate it and then comforting. We’ve got to find a way to spread the water out more where there isn’t enough water. You shouldn’t have golf courses that take up so much water. This is a big thing to raise awareness for the community.

Brian, Participant

Water makes me feel like I’m part of nature. Without water, we’d die. A bunch of animals live in water.

 Wave Participants, Willimantic, CT, June, 2014


Wave Participants, Willimantic, CT, June, 2014

 Wave Participants, Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014


Wave Participants, Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014

 Wave Participants, Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014


Wave Participants, Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014

 Wave Participants, Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014


Wave Participants, Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014

 Wave Participant, Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014


Wave Participant, Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014

 

The Wave as Placemaker, #2

Community Conversations on Water in Connecticut Libraries

As recipients of a $10,000 2014 Arts Catalyze Placemaking Grant from the Connecticut Office of the Arts, Department of Economic and Community Development, and in partnership with The Connecticut Library Consortium, Elena and I have been conducting installations of The Wave in a series of Connecticut libraries. The installations serve as a catalyst for the establishment of ‘Community Engagement Hubs’ in the libraries, or centers for on-going community dialogue, and will remain for several months as visual documentation of the project and as a visual reminder of the shared community responsibility for local, regional, national and international water resources. (See the December 13, 2013 blog post for more information on the grant, it’s goals and the definition of placemaking)

Wave installations are currently hanging in the Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT, The New London (CT) Public Library and the New Haven (CT) Free Public Library. The fourth and final installation will take place on June 19, 2014 at the Willimantic (CT) Public Library.  In addition to the excitement and fun of making pieces of The Wave and celebrating as The Wave is hung in their own library, patrons have engaged in meaningful conversations and participated in additional programs about water including lectures, children’s story hours and the opportunity to interact with leaders from community organizations working to protect local waterways.

 The Wave over the central staircase of the Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT.


The Wave installed over the central staircase of the Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT.

 The Wave viewed from the street outside the Children's Department of the Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT


A second Wave installation in the Children’s Department of the Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT, viewed from the street

 The Wave cascading over the balconies overlooking the main entrance to the New Haven Free Public Library (CT)


The Wave cascading over the balconies overlooking the main entrance to the New Haven Free Public Library (CT)

 Young library patrons engrossed in 'making a wave' at the New Haven Free Public Library


Young library patrons engrossed in ‘making a wave’ at the New Haven Free Public Library

 Proud Library patron with her piece of The Wave. standing in front of display of books on the oceans


Proud library patron with her piece of The Wave. standing in front of a display of books on the oceans and water in the New London Public Library

 "I did it!" Participant in the New London (CT) Public Library Wave installation


“I did it!” Participant in the New London (CT) Public Library Wave installation

Sample Programming

As part of the The Wave installation at the New Haven Free Public Library, Carol Brown, Manager of Programming, developed a series of questions on water for patrons and posted them at the main entrance to the library. As visitors continue to add their comments to the questions on note cards, they take into consideration what has been written previously and contribute their own thoughts. Samples of the questions and community responses include:

How does water make you happy? 

“The sound of waves is so soothing. I think it reminds us of being in the womb.” “The sound of running water calms my soul. Cool water quenches my thirst.” “It is something cold on a hot summer day. We are mostly made of water.” “A hot bath every night!” “I love all kinds of water. It’s most beautiful in the sun.” “Using water to cook our food.” “A wet dog.”

 What are your thoughts about water?

“Water is an amazing force, so strong that we can’t understand.” “Water is life. Don’t spoil it.” “Water is splendid.” “People pollute is a lot.” “People should not waste it. They should use it wisely.”

What can you do today to use less water?

“Don’t wash your car!” “You do not have to buy water. You should use sink water.” “Flush less.” “Don’t meditate in the shower.” “Don’t leave water running when you brush your teeth.”

 A map showing one of the issues involving water in the New Haven, CT community


A map showing one of the issues involving water in the New Haven, CT community

 Community comments on water in the New Haven Public Library


Community comments on water in the New Haven Public Library

Ode to Jennifer Keohane and Libraries

Elena and I would like to thank Jennifer Keohane, Executive Director of the Connecticut Library Consortium, for her enthusiasm and endorsement of The Wave and her creativity in using it as a catalyst for building community in library settings. Many thanks also to Leah Farrell, her able assistant, and to all the staff members, volunteers and hundreds of patrons of the participating libraries who made the project so successful. We remain impressed by everything that libraries do to educate, enrich, inform and entertain the residents of our cities and towns.

 Jennifer Keohane, Executive Director of The Connecticut Library Consortium (right) with a wave-making library patron at The New London Public Library


Jennifer Keohane, Executive Director of The Connecticut Library Consortium (right) with a wave-making library patron at The New London Public Library

 

 

 

The Brooklyn Wave, Continued

On Monday, April 7, glass was installed over The Brooklyn Wave, our first permanent Wave site, located at 40 North 4th Street in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. After the scaffolding was removed later in the week, The Wave was newly visible throughout the three-story atrium of the 90 unit-luxury apartment building. With its brilliant colors and playful shapes that represent a series of ocean swells, The Brooklyn Wave has begun to engage passersby on the street and has become a focal point for construction workers within the building itself.

The Brooklyn Wave, Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman, 2014


The Brooklyn Wave, Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman, 2014

 The Brooklyn Wave, Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman, 2014


The Brooklyn Wave, Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman, 2014

 The Brooklyn Wave, Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman, 2014


The Brooklyn Wave, Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman, 2014

 The Brooklyn Wave, Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman, 2014


The Brooklyn Wave, Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman, 2014

 The Brooklyn Wave, Detail


The Brooklyn Wave, Detail

 The Brooklyn Wave, Detail


The Brooklyn Wave, Detail

 

 

 

The Brooklyn Wave

Ode to Scaffolds 

For many centuries, artists have completed large scale paintings, frescos and murals while perched atop precarious scaffolding. A few notable examples: Michelangelo famously strained his neck looking up from scaffolds while he was working on the ceiling of the magnificent Sistine Chapel from 1508 – 1512 in Rome; and 20th Century Mexican artist, Diego Rivero, boldly executed scores of wall-sized murals that routinely involved spending weeks and months on scaffolds.

 Diego Rivera on Scaffolding.


Diego Rivera Working on his Rockefeller Center Mural in 1933

On April 2nd and 3rd, Elena and I climbed onto our own scaffolds at 40 North 4th Street in Brooklyn, New York to create our first permanent installation of The Wave. Located in the atrium of a 90-unit luxury apartment building that Elena herself designed, this version of The Wave spans three floors and overlooks a bar area on the lower level, the building’s lobby on the entry level and a floor of apartments on the second level.  Here are some photos of the work in progress.

 Elena Kalman Working on the Brooklyn Wave, 2014


Elena Kalman Working on the Brooklyn Wave, 2014

 The Brooklyn Wave in Progress, Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman, 2014


The Brooklyn Wave in Progress, Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman, 2014

 The Brooklyn Wave in Progress, Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman, 2014


The Brooklyn Wave in Progress, Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman, 2014

 The Brooklyn Wave in Progress, Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman, 2014


The Brooklyn Wave in Progress, Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman, 2014

 

Public Art as Community Building, #3

March 23, 2014: At The Draftsmen’s Congress, New Museum, NYC

On Sunday, March 23, Elena and I joined artists from Art Kibbutz  at the New Museum in New York City to participate in The Draftsmen’s Congress, a public art project created by Polish artist, Pawel Althamer. Art Kibbutz is a residency for international Jewish artists founded by Patricia Eszter Margit in 2012,

Althamer originally conceived and executed Draftsmen’s Congress for the 7th Berlin Biennale in 2012 to engage participants from diverse backgrounds in a ‘conversation’ through images, rather than words, on issues that were relevant to them in contemporary society. He invited groups of artists as well as a wide range of social and political organizations from the local community to mark the walls and floors of the installation space with a variety of drawing and painting materials. After each group completed its collective drawing, the next group to participate in the project worked over what was done previously, so that the space became a layered representation of the entire community of participants. Similarly, the blank white space of the New Museum’s fourth floor gallery has been transformed over the course of two months through the gradual accumulation of drawings and paintings by Museum visitors and invited community groups, including Art Kibbutz.

Prior to our one-day residency on March 23rd at The Draftsmen’s Congress, 20 participating members of Art Kibbutz from all over the US, France, Netherlands, South Africa, the Former Soviet Union, Argentina, Georgia, Japan and Korea met with Judaic scholars for two learning sessions to develop an approach to the project that was founded on Jewish values and practices. Using the Kabbalah and the Torah for inspiration, the group focused on the Torah’s fundamental concept of “loving your fellow as yourself,” to underscore what Althamer’s exhibition is trying to create: a non-judgmental, harmonious conversation among a diverse community that fosters dialogue and understanding. Over the course of the day, Art Kibbutz artists pulled instructions previously contributed by members of the group from a hat and handed them off to each other for execution. In this way we were creating a community of images that represent an interactive exchange of ideas.

When Elena and I arrived at the New Museum, the Art Kibbutz group had just begun creating a series of large circles over the existing images that encompassed three walls of the gallery.  Although each circle was distinct and embodied the artistic style and color choices of its ‘artist,’ the cumulative visual effect was bold, dynamic and unified. I contributed my own series of circles while Elena began to create three ladders that spanned from floor to ceiling.

 Draftsmen's Congress, #1, March 23, 2014


Draftsmen’s Congress, #1, March 23, 2014

 Draftsmen's Congress, #2, March 23, 2014


Draftsmen’s Congress, #2, March 23, 2014

Draftsmen's Congress, #3, March 23, 2014


Draftsmen’s Congress, #3,
March 23, 2014

 Art Kibbutz Artist at Draftsmen's Congress, March 23, 2014


Art Kibbutz Artist at Draftsmen’s Congress, March 23, 2014

What Did We Conclude About The Experience?

We were amazed by how quickly the collective ‘drawing’ was transformed.  By the time we left at the end of the day, our circles, marking our physical presence, were being modified and taken over by other images, similar to the way in which incoming waves erase previous marks made upon the sand.  We were once again reminded that the process itself of making art is often more important than the creation of a single, ‘precious’ object. And, most importantly, we experienced the richness that can come from building a community by participating in public art.

Public Art as Political Awareness

In previous posts I’ve written about public art and its historical purposes as a vehicle for: (1) commemorating individuals or events; (2) emphasizing the stature of governments and corporations; and (3) embellishing and beautifying public spaces, as well as its more recent intentions as catalysts for community building and placemaking. (See February 24, 2013, August 26, 2013, December 13, 2013, and February 22, 2014)  There is another objective, however, for which artists place images and objects in public spaces: to call attention to political and social issues of collective local, national or international import. The simple, yet highly effective work of James Bridle falls into the category of public art as political awareness.

James Bridle’s Drone Shadows

James Bridle defines himself as an artist, writer, publisher and technologist. Based in London, UK, he describes his work as the intersection of literature, culture and the network. His artworks and installations have been exhibited in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australia, and have been viewed by hundreds of thousands of visitors online. He has been commissioned by organisations including Artangel, Mu Eindhoven, the Istanbul Design Biennial and the Corcoran Gallery, Washington DC.

In 2012, Bridle began a project that he calls Drone Shadows. To him, drones represent an “inherently connected technology allowing sight and action at a distance,” similar to how the internet itself functions. Used primarily as military and law-enforcement tools, however, drones provide governments with surveillance and attack capability against perceived threats without any collateral damage to human pilots. In order to understand the actual size of a drone as it compared to his own body, Bridle and his friend, Einar Sneve Martinussen, used chalk and string in a parking lot in London to draw the outline of a ‘drone shadow,’ an accurate replica of an MQ-1 predator, one of the most commonly used combat drones.

 Dimensions of the Predator/MQ-1 Drone That Serve as the Model for Bridle's Droneshadows


Dimensions of the Predator/MQ-1 Drone that served as the model for Bridle’s first Drone Shadow

 Droneshadow 1 in London Parking Lot James Bridle/booktwo.org


Drone Shadow 001 in London Parking Lot
Photo courtesy of James Bridle/booktwo.org

Since that first chalk outline in 2012, Bridle’s ‘shadows’ have been installed in cities around the world to call attention to the way in which drones dehumanize acts of violence. The simple lines, much like the drawings used in crime scenes to document the placement of murder victims, give a physical presence to an often invisible weapon. Bridle describes his motivation for the project in the following way:

We all live under the shadow of the drone, although most of us are lucky enough not to live under its direct fire. But the attitude they represent—of technology used for obscuration and violence; of the obfuscation of morality and culpability; of the illusion of omniscience and omnipotence; of the lesser value of other peoples lives; of, frankly, endless war—should concern us all. http://booktwo.org/notebook/drone-shadows/

 James Bridle and Einar Sneve Martinussen, Drone Shadow 004, Outside the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C., 2013. Photo courtesy of Bridle/booktwo.org.


James Bridle and Einar Sneve Martinussen, Drone Shadow 004, Outside the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C., 2013. Photo courtesy of James Bridle/booktwo.org.

Droneshadow Brazil-01 of the Hermes 450 Drone, Sao Paolo, Brazil for the IV Mostra 3M de Arte Digital, 2013. Photo courtesy of Bridle/Booktwo.org


Drone Shadow Brazil-01 of the Hermes 450 Drone, Sao Paolo, Brazil for the IV Mostra 3M de Arte Digital, 2013. Photo courtesy of Bridle/Booktwo.org

The Wave, too, can be classified as public art that fosters political awareness. With its alluring colors and the way in which it involves visitors personally in the creation of the installations, The Wave is calling attention to the beauty and essential nature of water as well as our joint responsibility to promote and sustain universal access to clean water.

 Wave Installation at Rose Fitzgerald Greenway, Boston, MA, 2011


Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, Wave Installation at Rose Fitzgerald Greenway, Boston, MA, Polycarbonate Film and Parachute Cord, 2011

Public Art As Community Building, #2

The Draftsmen’s Congress: Pawel Althamer’s Collaborative Public Art Project at The New Museum, NYC

On March 23, 2014, Elena and I will be participating in a public art project hosted by Polish sculptor and collaborative artist, Pawel Althamer, and The New Museum in NYC entitled, Draftsmen’s Congress.  We were selected by Art Kibbutz, an international Jewish artist residency and community as part of a team of artists from all over the U.S, the Former Soviet Union, Korea, Japan, the Netherlands, South Africa, Georgia, Hungary, Argentina and England. The one-day, ‘mini-residency’ on March 23 will result in the creation of a large collaborative drawing that will encompass the entire fourth floor of the museum.

Pawel’s exhibition at The New Museum will include his most recent sculptures, the “Venetians” that were exhibited at the 2013 Venice Biennale.  The life-size bodies incorporate the faces and hands of local Venetians cast in plastic before being attached to bodies composed of extruded plastic ribbons. The group of eerie sculptures create a haunting composition of lost souls, emphasizing Pawel’s own declaration that “it is a major achievement to realize that the body is only a vehicle for the soul.’

 Pawel Althamer, "The Venetians" The Encyclopedic Palace: Arsenale. Venice Biennale 2013


Pawel Althamer, “The Venetians,” The Encyclopedic Palace: Arsenale. Venice Biennale 2013

The Venetians will be presented alongside Althamer’s series of videos, “So-Called Waves and Other Phenomena of the Mind” (2003–04). as well as The Draftsmen’s Congress, a project based on his fundamental belief in the value of collaborative art as a medium for social change.  He first presented a version of the Draftsmen’s Congress at the 2012 Berlin Biennale. Over the course of the exhibition, the blank white space of the New Museum’s Fourth Floor gallery will be transformed through the gradual accumulation of drawings and paintings by Museum visitors and a wide array of invited community organizations. After each group completes its collective drawing, the next group to participate in the project will work over what was done previously, so that the space becomes a layered representation of the entire community of participants.

 Draftsmen's Congress at the 2013 Venice Biennale


Draftsmen’s Congress at the 2012 Berlin Biennale

In preparation for the mini-residency, Elena and I will be attending three planning sessions with the Art Kibbutz team of artists to develop a sense of community among the participants and a collective approach to the project based on fundamental Jewish principles. The planning process for the March 23 mini-residency as well as the entire Draftsmen’s Congress is a powerful form of public art as community building.

 

Homage to Snow in Red

Art Embracing Winter

In my last post, Art for the Winter Weary, I called attention to the sand ‘paintings’ of Andres Amador, created on the warm beaches of San Francisco, California, as a pleasant escape from the winter woes here in New England and in other parts of the world where cold and snow are currently at its peak.

This post, however, is devoted to embracing winter rather than wishing it away. On a strikingly brilliant day last week, Elena and I used the abundant, free, white stuff that had fallen around us as an enormous blank canvas for the fabrication of a river of red or, as we call it, an ‘Homage to Snow in Red.’

This is me, carving the ‘riverbed’ into a pristine field flooded with blue shadows cast from the surrounding trees.

 Susan Hoffman Fishman Carving The Red Sea, 2014 Photo ©Elena Kalman


Susan Hoffman Fishman Carving The Red Sea, 2014
Photo © Elena Kalman 

We filled the riverbed with red polycarbonate film that we normally use as part of our Wave installations.

 Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, "Homage to Snow in Red," 2014  © Elena Kalman


Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, “Homage to Snow in Red,” 2014
Photo © Elena Kalman

 Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, "Homage to Snow in Red, Detail," 2014 Photo © Elena Kalman


Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, “Homage to Snow in Red, Detail 1,” 2014
Photo © Elena Kalman

And then, as most artists do when they are not quite satisfied with what they had originally planned, we began to move the installation to the areas of snow surrounding the riverbed, and then finally to add strands of black cord as a contrasting linear component.

Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, Homage to Snow in Red, Detail 2 Photo © Susan Hoffman Fishman


Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, “Homage to Snow in Red, Detail 2,” 2014
Photo © Susan Hoffman Fishman

 Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, "Homage to Snow in Red, Detail 3," 2014 Photo © Susan Hoffman Fishman


Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, “Homage to Snow in Red, Detail 3,” 2014
Photo © Susan Hoffman Fishman

 Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, "Homage to Snow in Red, Detail 4," 2014 Photo © Susan Hoffman Fishman


Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, “Homage to Snow in Red, Detail 4,” 2014
Photo © Susan Hoffman Fishman

 Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, "Homage to Snow in Red, Detail 5, 2014 Photo © Susan Hoffman Fishman


Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, “Homage to Snow in Red, Detail 5, 2014
Photo © Susan Hoffman Fishman

 

Art for the Winter Weary

For those of us who live in areas of the world where snow, ice and cold dominate our winters, February is the month of the year in which we especially dream of a warm and sunny day at the beach: the beauty of a fresh snowfall has lost its sense of wonder after the tenth or eleventh storm; the invigorating cold snap in the air in November and December has turned bone-chilling; and the miracle of green sprouts in spring gardens is still a very long month or so away.

As a feast for the winter weary (and the not so winter weary), this post highlights images of art work created in the sand at the edge of the ocean by San Francisco artist, Andres Amador.  Amador’s impressive pieces belong in the genre known as Earth Art, an art movement that began in the late 1960′s and is devoted to art created in nature using natural materials as a medium, such as soil, rocks, logs, water, etc. and in Amador’s case, sand.  Earth art is often temporary, is subject to change or destruction by the elements and, therefore, frequently exists in its original form only as photographs or video recordings. The best known Earth artist is generally considered to be Robert Smithson, whose 1970 striking installation, Spiral Jetty, was created with basalt rock and earth and extends into the Great Salt Lake in Utah by a distance of 1500 ft.

 Robert Smithson, "Spiral Jetty From Rozel Point," 1970


Robert Smithson, “Spiral Jetty As Seen From Rozel Point,” 1970

Andres Amador’s ‘paintings’ on sand evolved from calligraphy or hand lettering that he created on the beach with a walking stick. The current ‘earthscapes’ in sand have measured from several hundred to over 100,000 feet and can only be completed during low tide. Within minutes of finishing a piece, and often while it is still in progress, the returning tide begins resetting the ‘canvas.’ Andres has been featured on the BBC, on CNN and in numerous T.V. programs and periodicals globally. His artwork has appeared on beaches in the U.S. and internationally, with his primary canvas being the Northern California coastline.

 Andres Amador at Work, Photo by Stepane Gimenez Photography, Courtesy of the artist.


Andres Amador at Work, Photo by Stepane Gimenez Photography, Courtesy of the Artist.

 'Ribbons', Santa Cruz, CA. Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta Courtesy of the Artist


Andres Amador, ‘Ribbons,’ Santa Cruz, CA. Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta
Courtesy of the Artist

 Andres Amador, "Kelp at Fort Bragg," 2012 Courtesy of the artist.


Andres Amador, “Kelp at Fort Bragg,” 2012
Courtesy of the Artist.

 Andres Amador, "Clouds," Ocean Beach, San Francisco, Courtesy of the Artist


Andres Amador, “Clouds,” Ocean Beach, San Francisco, Courtesy of the Artist

Amador also provides ‘Playa Painting Workshops’ during which participants work with the artist to complete a ‘painting’ in the sand.  Public Art at work!

 Andres Amador Playa Workshop. Courtesy of the Artist.


Andres Amador Playa Workshop. Courtesy of the Artist

The Ice Art Capital of the World

The BP World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska

Artists, as creative scavengers, have traditionally taken advantage of materials for their work that are readily available, relatively inexpensive and ripe with imaginative and technical challenges. Ice, the frozen form of water, meets all of these characteristics in areas of the world that sustain temperatures below freezing.

Since 1990, sculptors working with ice as their medium have flocked to Fairbanks, Alaska each March to compete in the BP World Ice Championships. The event has grown from a one-week competition involving 8 working teams of ice sculptors to a four-week project attracting over 70 teams from all over the world. 45,000 + visitors attended the 2013 exhibition and related programs. The goals of the BP World Ice Championships are to promote the use of ice as an artistic and educational endeavor, to advance cultural exchanges through art and to highlight the positive aspects of Alaska and of winter.

Harvesting Ice

The World Ice Championship requires over 1500 tons of ice, which is ‘harvested’ from O’Grady pond, adjacent to the Ice Park site, with heavy equipment modified for the process and with the assistance of hundreds of volunteers.  The extreme temperatures of Fairbanks enable the ice to grow many feet deep, making its unusually dense quality ideal for a world class competition. Ice harvested from O’Grady pond has been named, “Arctic Diamond” for its crystal-clear clarity.

 Lifting Blocks of Art for 2013 BP World Ice Art Championship © 2013 Ice Alaska


Lifting Blocks of Ice for the 2013 BP World Ice Art Championship
© 2013 Ice Alaska
Permission Ice Alaska

Ice Art

Participating artists have between two and five and a half days to complete their sculptures, depending on whether they have entered the single block or multi (ten) block event. A sculpture is judged by a variety of criteria including creativity or originality of the design, the degree to which the piece expresses its stated theme, the technical difficulty and skill required to execute the piece, its finished appearance and how well the artist has used the available amount of ice. Check out some of the 2012 and 2013 ice sculptures below.

Artist Working on Ice Sculpture  © 2013 BP World Ice Art Championship.  Permission of Ice Alaska


Artist Working on Ice Sculpture
© 2013 Ice Alaska.
Permission Ice Alaska

 "Roots," 2012 BP World Ice Art Championships; Artist, Sean Majka, USA;  Photo Credit: © Kim Iverson-Pett, Fairbanks, Alaska Permission, Art Alaska


“Roots,” 2012 BP World Ice Art Championships; Artist, Sean Majka, USA;
Photo Credit: © Kim Iverson-Pett, Fairbanks, Alaska
Permission Ice Alaska

 "Baggin the Crystal," 2012 BP World Ice Art Championships, Artists: Jesse Hensel, Perrin Teal-Sullivan, USA Photo Credit: © 2012 Kim Iverson-Pett, Fairbanks, Alaska Permission, Ice Alaska


“Baggin the Crystal,” 2012 BP World Ice Art Championships, Artists: Jesse Hensel, Perrin Teal-Sullivan, USA
Photo Credit: © 2012 Kim Iverson-Pett, Fairbanks, Alaska
Permission Ice Alaska

 "Locust," 2013 BP World Ice Art Championships, Artists: Junichi Nakamura, Japan and Shintaro Okamoto, USA Photo Credit: © Rhonda Y. Konicki Permission Ice Alaska


“Locust,” 2013 BP World Ice Art Championships, Artists: Junichi Nakamura, Japan and Shintaro Okamoto, USA
Photo Credit: © Rhonda Y. Konicki
Permission Ice Alaska

 "Winter Breeze," 2013 BP World Ice Championships; Artists: Stan Kolonko, Chris Uyehara, Jerry Perun, Wei Sen Liang, USA Photo Credit: © Rhonda Y. Konicki Permission Ice Alaska


“Winter Breeze,” 2013 BP World Ice Championships; Artists: Stan Kolonko, Chris Uyehara, Jerry Perun, Wei Sen Liang, USA
Photo Credit: © Rhonda Y. Konicki
Permission Ice Alaska

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Year in Water: Too Much and Too Little

This year, as 2013 draws to a close, the print, television and internet media are filled, as they are at every year’s end, with reviews of the year by category: “The Year in Style,” “The Year in Sports,” “The Year in Arts,” “The Year in Politics,” etc.  With this post, I hereby add my ‘take’ on year-end summaries with “The Year, 2013, in Water.” By all accounts, 2013 was a year of water extremes around the globe: too much water or too little of it.

Too Much Water

Words like ‘historic,’ ‘massive’ and ‘disastrous’ were used to describe the extensive rain events that befell regions and countries around the world during 2013.

June was an especially intense month of flooding in Central Europe, southern Alberta, Canada and India.  Beginning on June 2, record rainfall affected major rivers in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and Slovakia. The Danube River in Passau, Germany reached its highest level since 1501 and many European cities documented flood waters that represented the highest numbers in over a century, causing widespread evacuations, significant damage to homes, businesses and communities as well as loss of life.

 Kresice, Czech Republic, lies submerged on June 4, 2013 (Petr Jesek/Reuters)


Kresice, Czech Republic, Lies Submerged on June 4, 2013 (Petr Jesek/Reuters)

Similarly, heavy rainfall prior to June 20, 2013 triggered flooding in southern Alberta, Canada that has been described by the provincial government as the worst in Alberta’s history and by the Canadian government as the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history.

 Evacuations in Alberta, Canada, 2013


Evacuations in Alberta, Canada, 2013

Although monsoons in India are an annual event that help to sustain India’s agriculture, the June, 2013 monsoon that hit northern India produced rainfall in one area that was five times the average for the time period, causing mudslides and flooding numerous mountain villages known for their Hindu shrines.

 A Submerged Idol of Hindu Lord Shiva in the Flooded River Ganges in Rishikesh, in the Northern Indian State of Uharakhand. AP Photo


A Submerged Idol of Hindu Lord Shiva in the Flooded River Ganges in Rishikesh, in the Northern Indian State of Uttarakhand. (AP Photo)

During the week after September 11, 2013, Colorado rainfall over a period of five days in some areas of the state exceeded the amount it normally experiences in a year.  Subsequent flooding that impacted seventeen Colorado counties caused the destruction of over 200 miles of state highways, 50 bridges and thousands of homes and forced massive evacuations.

 Flash Flood in Colorado, 2013


Flash Flood in Colorado Destroyed a Portion of a Road, 2013

And, just this past week, days of torrential rain precipitated major flooding in the Brazilian states of Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo, where over 60,000 residents were forced to flee their homes and where at least 30 people have died. The disaster has been called the worst in 90 years.

 Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff Surveying the Damage Caused by Massive Flooding.


Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, Surveying the Damage Caused by Massive Flooding. (Reuters)

Too Little Water

At the same time that many areas of the world experienced excess amounts of water during 2013, others faced the repercussions of drought.

According to the Global Drought Information System, which produces a monthly report on drought conditions, prolonged drought has intensified in the Southwest, U.S., spawning the term,”megadrought,” and triggering numerous ‘megafires’ that have decimated thousands of acres of farms and forests.  In Latin America, drought has caused as much damage as other more highly reported natural disasters: extended drought in Bolivia, the worst in 40 years, has triggered 47,000 fires; Argentinian and Brazilian corn plantations, which supply half of the world’s corn produce, have been decimated; and a food emergency has been declared in Paraguay.

 A Food Emergency Has Been Declared in Paraguay Due to Prolonged Drought


A Food Emergency Has Been Declared in Paraguay Due to Prolonged Drought

Other areas of the world impacted by sustained drought include the South of Africa, areas of Europe along the Mediterranean, Southern India and much of southeast and central parts of Australia.

 2013 Drought in Ireland


2013 Drought in Ireland (Agriland.ie)

This is not an uplifting end of year report, by any means.  Here’s hoping our scientists and politicians around the world begin to seriously tackle the hard work of addressing climate change so that future ‘Years in Water’ show reductions in the severity of water events and their human, economic and ecological costs.

The Wave as ‘Placemaker’

More Awesome News

Elena and I are very pleased to announce that we are recipients of a $10,000 2014 Arts Catalyze Placemaking Grant (ACP) from the Connecticut Office of the Arts, Department of Economic and Community Development!  The ACP grant program was created to  “invest in the state’s arts-based cultural activities and infrastructure in ways that will advance the attractiveness and competitiveness of Connecticut cities, towns, and villages as meaningful communities in which to live, work, learn and play.”

In partnership with The Connecticut Library Consortium, we will be conducting four installations of The Wave between January and June of 2014 in the Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT, the Public Library of New London (CT), the Willimantic (CT) Public Library and the New Haven (CT) Free Public Library. The installations will serve as a catalyst for the establishment of ‘Community Engagement Hubs’ or centers for on-going community dialogue, and will remain in the libraries as visual documentation of the project and a visual reminder of shared community responsibility.

By using The Wave in four urban libraries as an appealing, interactive art installation that will attract a wide variety of participants and become a catalyst for community conversations on the topic of water, the libraries will: (1) Create a trusted and safe venue for on-going public dialogue on community issues, with water being only the first topic of discussion; (2) Improve civic engagement among segments of the population who have been less involved; and (3) Improve social isolation among community members.

'Wave-Makers' at CT Office of the Arts Higher Order Thinking (HOT) Schools Teacher Institute, 2012


‘Wave-Makers’ at The CT Office of the Arts, Higher Order Thinking (HOT) Schools Teacher Institute, 2012

 Placemaking as Process and Philosophy

The term, “placemaking” began being used by writers such as William H. Whyte in the 1960s and by architects and planners in the 1970s to depict the process of creating public spaces that would take into consideration the needs of people and not just the physical design of buildings, shopping centers and roads.  The Project for Public Spaces (PPS), a nonprofit, international, planning, design and educational organization, founded in 1975 and dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities, defines placemaking as follows:

Placemaking is the process through which we collectively shape our public realm to maximize shared value. Rooted in community-based participation, Placemaking involves the planning, design, management and programming of public spaces. More than just creating better urban design of public spaces, Placemaking facilitates creative patterns of activities and connections (cultural, economic, social, ecological) that define a place and support its ongoing evolution. Placemaking is how people are more collectively and intentionally shaping our world, and our future on this planet.  

These are lofty words for how we can become more connected to the places in which we live, work and play through creative activities and shared experiences.  We are very proud to be part of this process in Connecticut.

Some Awesome News

NEWS FLASH!

Elena and I are pleased to announce that The Wave has received a $1000 micro-grant from The Awesome Foundation Connecticut.

What’s the Awesome Foundation and why us?

The Awesome Foundation was established in Boston in 2009, “to conserve, sustain and support a worldwide system of awesomeness.” They are a network of independent chapters devoted to funding projects that affect positive change in local communities. Ten or so ‘trustees’ in each chapter pool together enough of their own money to distribute $1000 each month with no strings attached and with no ownership of the projects they support.  According to a trustee of the national chapter, an Awesome award is “a micro-genius grant for flashes of micro-brilliance.”

We applied for an Awesome Foundation Connecticut grant to provide funding for a Wave installation at a site in Connecticut that cannot afford the cost of materials but had expressed great interest in hosting the project.  Stay tuned for an announcement of the site that we select.

 Wave Participants at the National Aquarium, Baltimore, MD, 2013


Wave Participants at the National Aquarium, Baltimore, MD, 2013