Khadi, Christo, Tess Jaray and the Atlas of Novel Tectonics

As well as working on the technical details of how I’m going to make a piece of Art as big as India, I’ve been doing research on what the form of the augmented sculpture should be, as well as thinking about how users should interact with it.

Lost Rivers of London by Lorain Rutt
Lost Rivers of London by Lorain Rutt

I love the idea of being able to see the land below our feet above our heads – especially in urban areas where the topology of the land is often obscured by the built environment. This is something that I think about in London all the time – especially compared to where I grew up in Wales.

whereigrewup
Where I grew up in Wales

I’m interested in the sculpture being a time based metaphor for humanity’s effect on the world around it – pushing and pulling it away from its original form. I want to start with the sculpture being an exact copy of the land below it, but the act of interaction and observation changing it in real time.

Should the sculpture resemble a crystalline structure (fixed, hard, unmoving) or a material (billowing, supple, constantly flowing)? Jon Harris suggested looking at Khadi, both a material and a movement.

I wanted to see what other people had been making around making sculpture, especially on larger scales.

On a visit to the Serpentine Gallery‘s branch of Koenig Books I found three interesting references:

  1. Christo – Big Air Package
  2. Desire Lines: The public art of Tess Jaray
  3. Atlas of Novel Tectonics
Drawing 2012 in two parts 96 x 28" and 96 x 42" (244 x 71 cm and 244 x 106.6 cm) Pencil, charcoal, pastel, wax crayon, wash and architectural plans Photo: André Grossmann © 2012 Christo Ref. # 3-2012
Drawing 2012 in two parts
96 x 28″ and 96 x 42″ (244 x 71 cm and 244 x 106.6 cm)
Pencil, charcoal, pastel, wax crayon, wash and architectural plans
Photo: André Grossmann
© 2012 Christo
Big Air Package, Gasometer Oberhausen, Germany, 2010-13 Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 2013 Christo
Big Air Package, Gasometer Oberhausen, Germany, 2010-13
Photo: Wolfgang Volz
© 2013 Christo
Big Air Package, Gasometer Oberhausen, Germany, 2010-13 Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 2013 Christo
Big Air Package, Gasometer Oberhausen, Germany, 2010-13
Photo: Wolfgang Volz
© 2013 Christo

Christo – Big Air Package is both the name of a installation by Christo and the title of a catalogue of projects from 1961-2013. More background information on Christo can be found on Wikipedia.

The most recent realised project by Christo was titled “The Floating Piers“:

The Floating Piers, Lake Iseo, Italy, 2014-16 Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 2016 Christo
The Floating Piers, Lake Iseo, Italy, 2014-16
Photo: Wolfgang Volz
© 2016 Christo

I was also excited to discover their current in progress project, “Over the River“:

Over the River (Project for Arkansas River, State of Colorado) Drawing 2010 in two parts 15 x 96" and 42 x 96" (38 x 244 cm and 106.6 x 244 cm) Pencil, pastel, charcoal, wax crayon, enamel paint, wash, fabric sample, hand-drawn topographic map and technical data Photo: André Grossmann © 2010 Christo
Over the River (Project for Arkansas River, State of Colorado)
Drawing 2010 in two parts
15 x 96″ and 42 x 96″ (38 x 244 cm and 106.6 x 244 cm)
Pencil, pastel, charcoal, wax crayon, enamel paint, wash, fabric sample, hand-drawn topographic map and technical data
Photo: André Grossmann
© 2010 Christo

I found the following quote particularly interesting:

What was involved for Christo and Jeanne-Claude in their multifarious temporary wrappings was the physical experience of enveloping, protecting and caring, – as they themselves put it – “the quality of love and care that humans show for things which are not made for eternity.”

I want to be able to enable users to be able to express their care for India in a similar way, but in an augmented rather than purely physical space. The success of the project will rest upon if I can engage users as successfully as Christo.

Centenary Square Birmingham 1992 Tess Jaray
Centenary Square Birmingham
© 1992 Tess Jaray

Desire Lines: The public art of Tess Jaray catalogues the public installations of the painter and printmaker, Tess Jaray. These works in brick and stone are on a different scale to her studio-based output, but are concerned with the same things – repetition, balance and order – or the disruption of those things. Her use of materials is something that I want to echo in this project – perhaps I could use the geology of India as a starting point for a colouring or textural scheme?

Desire Line by Alan Stanton.
Desire Line by Alan Stanton.

I also found the title of the book inspirational. Once you know what a Desire Line (or path) is, you can’t help finding them everywhere. I hope they will emerge in my sculpture too.

Atlas of Novel Tectonics is by Reiser + Umemoto, a design practice based in New York. It’s a beautifuly designed book, with inserted colour prints that fold away elegantly to reveal captions. The written content is equally elegant, with several concepts or definitions jumping out at me as being particularly relevant to this project.

In the foreword by Sanford Kwinter the philosophical interest around diagrams – both external and internal ones. I’m hoping that users will create many local diagrams of both kinds with this project, starting from the initial geological facsimile.

Their idea of Fineness:

Fineness breaks down the gross fabric of buildings into finer and finer parts such that it can register small differences while maintaining an overall coherence. The fineness argument is encapsulated in the denstities of a sponge: too fine and it acts like a homogenous solid; too course and it becomes constrained by its members.

The Fineness of this sculpture is going to be critical aesthetically and technically.

Intensive and Extensive differences, drawing from a quote from Manuel DeLanda’s “Intensive Sciences and Virtual Philosophy”:

If we divide a volume of matter into two equal halves we end up with two volumes, each half the extent of the original one. Intensive properties on the other hand are properties such as temperature or pressure, which cannot be divided.

This sculpture will clearly have extensive properties of area and volume, but what are it’s intensive (or gradient) properties? Colour? Pressure? Density? Speed? Elasticity? Duration?

Classical Body/Impersonal Individuation. In this part of the book, the authors use the example of a skateboard ramp to rail against Anthropocentrism:

[A skateboard ramp] is an intervening technology that belongs to a totally different pattern of order upon which the human works. The ramp augments the body; it is an extension of the body via the vehicle of the skate, but it does not represent it.

Such an extension of performance belongs to a larger class of singularities know as impersonal individuations. Like the sunset or a time of day, these intense and unique conditions  emerge out of the material world. They have manifold meanings projected onto them, but they are not the product of meaning.

I want this sculpture to be like the sunset in this way.

Matter/force relationships – here the authors discuss how to make the relationship between matter and force visible in varying scales. As part of this, they discuss using Voronoi patterns to express forces on a variety of scales:

from Structure to Space to Program.

This sparked a thought in my mind, that I could make the interaction around the sculpture such that each time someone touches it makes a new singularity – however, this would be incompatible with the initial landscape – which is based around a cartesian grid of heights.

I still have the second half of the Atlas to read, but that will have to wait for a later post.

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