Friday, February 17, 2012

Final Project

From the start, the idea of time and natural decay appealed to me. I wanted to create something that would show this passage of time—the gradual reintegration of something manmade into nature. This was spurred by one of our first discussions on Robert Smithson, who centered a lot of his pieces around the idea of decay, such as Partially Buried Woodshed (1970). I was also greatly interested in Nancy Holt’s explorations of celestial happenings, and hoped to somehow integrate these two ideas into a coherent project.

Robert Smithson. Partially Buried Woodshed. 1970. Kent State University, Kent, Ohio. 

The minimalistic approach to earth art is also something that I really enjoy; I think that it is important to let the art speak for itself. For this reason, I found Richard Long’s simplistic pieces very fascinating. A Line Made by Walking (1967) particularly stuck out to me, and I found myself concocting ideas in which I could use a similar motif within my project.
Richard Long. A Line Made by Walking. 1967. England.
 
This led me to my first idea, which was to create a compass, the circle of which would be formed by dragging my feet across the earth’s surface. Projecting from this circle would be cairns aimed at the north, south, east and west directions, respectively. Within the circle would be the word ‘time’ formed with dirt. I was not satisfied with this idea—the explicit use of the word ‘time’ seemed forced. The overall meaning of the idea was lost to me; I didn’t feel any connection between the elements I was presenting.
So, I decided to remove the word from the center of the circle, replacing it with feet imprints at the respective directions. The idea of imprints was inspired by Ana Mendieta, whose Silueta Series (1973-1980) blew me away. With this idea, I found a connection between the elements; I wanted to make a statement about direction, both literal and metaphorical, and the decisions and crossroads that we face every day. However, I still found myself wanting. I tried removing the circle from the picture—it seemed incomplete.
Ana Mendieta. Imagen de Yagul. Silueta Series. 1973. Mexico.

After reading through parts of the textbook, I realized that I wanted to be more connected with my project—I wanted physical involvement. The sections within the text that focused on Charles Simonds really spoke to me. Of his work he said this: “I’m interested in the earth and myself, or my body and the earth, what happens when they become entangled with each other and all the things they include emblematically and metaphorically; like my body being everybody’s body and the earth being where everybody lives.” Unsurprisingly, Simonds created many pieces centered around his body and its interactions with the earth (Landscape↔Body↔Dwelling, 1970). I was also inspired by Michael McCafferty, who created a piece called Body Compass in 1976, which was much more abstract than my idea. I found the use of one’s own body in art to be extremely beautiful, and a lot more powerful. Again, Ana Mendieta’s work greatly influenced my decision to include my own body.
Charles Simonds. Landscape↔Body↔Dwelling. 1976. Dumbarton Oaks.

Michael McCafferty. Body Compass. 1976. Seattle, Washington.

Through this project, as aforementioned, I wanted to represent the idea of direction. Humans are always faced with decisions, including life-altering decisions. We have to ask ourselves, “Where do I go from here?” By including my body, I felt that this idea would be better demonstrated. I also decided that I wanted to cover my body in ashes, which would convey the idea that no matter what decisions one makes, or where one goes in life, we will all end in the same way—ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
I contemplated many ideas for my location. I thought about Belle Isle, but decided it was too public (and probably illegal). I thought about the backyards of friends, but found no connection to my message. Finally, I thought of my home. This location seemed perfect for my piece because ultimately, the decisions that we make and the places to which we go are directly affected by our upbringing. I wanted to show that your roots impact the rest of your life.
With my project formed in my mind, I began the laborious, and sometimes frustrating, task of bringing it to life. Unfortunately, it snowed the weekend that I went home, but I decided that the contrast of the ashes against the snow would be very interesting to depict the purity and uncorrupted nature of beings at birth against the transcendence of life, through which this purity is corrupted, or altered, by the experiences of life. This was to be a commentary on the transformation from birth to death. I began by making a snow angel, which I had to do from several angles, to make the shape of a circle.













From there, I cleared out this circle and enlarged it to make room for my own line made by walking, which would symbolize the outer part of the compass.









After clearing out the circle, I began dragging my feet along the perimeter in order to create a groove upon the earth.











Then, to apply the ashes, I first thought that if I got myself wet, they would stick, which did not end up working out as I had planned.












However, I decided that sprinkling the ashes over my body would be more appropriate because it would provide more coverage, and therefore make my body look like a pile of ashes. So, I laid in the circle, extending my arms to the east and west directions, my head to the north and my feet to the south.
















Through this project, I definitely developed a better understanding of earth and land art, and deep respect for those who have successfully used their bodies in meaningful works of art. I love the project that came out of this.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

These are the skecthes I've done so far for my final project idea. I started out with the idea of a large circle of stones or twigs/branches, which would encircle the word 'time' (which would be worn into the ground or made with small sloping piles of dirt). Off of the circle, the four points of the compass would extend, ending in small cairns.


Then, I started thinking about the idea of the compass, and whether or not time would relate at all. So, I revised my idea, and decided to get rid of the word time and replace it with imprints of feet on the inside of the circle at the point where the lines of the compass would extend, and possibly in the middle.



Then, I wonder if the circle would be need at all, and if the feet in the middle were necessary. I also began to wonder if I wanted to leave the imprints bare, or fill them with something, or even use some sort of natural material to coat the bottoms of my feet to leave the impression of the footprints.


So, as I was contemplating my ideas thus far, I thought it may be interesting to use my body as directional arrows, too (SE, SW, NE, NW). For this, I would cover my entire body in mud or ashes and lay on the ground in the middle of a circle, which would be created by walking (wearing the circle into the ground). The cairns would still be used as the North, South, East and West markers, but my arms and legs would signify SE, SW, NE and NW.





Upon further contemplation and discussion with classmates and friends, I decided that my body alone would be sufficient enough for the directional arrows. So, instead of the cairns representing N, S, E and W, with my appendages representing NE, NW, SE and SW, my appendages will now just represent N, S, E and W. The cairns will not be included.


 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My travelogue documents the places I went within a Saturday. I walked around Monroe Park, around the campus buildings and surrounding streets, as well as Belle Isle. I chose these places because they are where I spend most of my time in Richmond.





 In these two pictures, the cracks in the cement show the natural breakdown of manmade structures. Cement borders and walkways around the grassy areas of the park are meant to keep nature bound. However, in the picture to the left, grass is growing from the cracks. Nature always finds a way.

This is a picture of a line made by a bicycle tire. It reminded me of Richard Long's A Line Made By Walking, which I think is one of the most interesting expressions of earth art. It shows that both man and nature wear down on each other.



These two boards had been propped up against the trunk of an enormous oak tree in Monroe Park. I liked the juxtaposition of the sturdiness of the tree next to the breakage of the boards.






I found this interesting because the plant is growing within the tree. One can't know whether this is a naturally occurring event or whether someone planted it with this specific intention. Either way, I've only seen plants growing from these hollows a couple times before.

On arriving to Belle Isle, I saw the rise in the concrete, which reminded me of tectonic plates colliding and creating rifts, as well as earthquakes, which also cause things like this to happen. However, since most earthquakes don't severly affect the Richmond area, I assume that this rift is naturally occuring.



These two pictures (above and to the left) show the overtaking of the base of the bridge by ivy and/or vines. The structure is being reclaimed by the nature upon which it has imposed.
This stump, which has been pruned down to nubs, was growing (or used to grow)
between the concrete border of the Belle Isle parking lot and the dirt around the inside of the parking lot.
The above pictures show two manmade paths. The one to the left is the path that leads up to the walking bridge, which some people use instead of the concrete walkways up to the bridge. The one on the right is a path at the base of the supports of the railroad tracks, and it leads down to the water. Both of these were made by walking, which again reminded me of Richard Long. I find these kinds of paths to be the most simplistic form of earth art.

 
When walking across the bridge to Belle Isle, one can see the stone structures
that were presumably the supports for an old bridge. The water has gradually broken
these down, and this particular one has begun to lean as a quarter of its base has fallen off.


This metal frame (above and to the left)  has begun to rust and vines and ivy climb up, down and over it. The juxtaposition of the metal against the vines is really striking. 
This tree below was broken a quarter of the way up its trunk, where most of the bark had fallen off and some had bent out at an awkard angle. It's kind of like a natural overpass.







This metal pole stands erect in the ground, like a tree. When I saw it, it almsot seemed like it was growing from the ground, like a metal plant. 

In the middle of the ground, I found this concrete tomb-like depression,
inside and over which plants were growing.








These four pictures (above left, below right) depict a single brick wall which stands abandoned on Belle Isle. Parts of it have been knocked down, as shown in the bottom right pictures.


This picture is one of my favorites of the day. These bricks are covered in moss and seem to just be growing out of the earth. Another thing that is really cool about this is that the bricks border a small cave.



















These pictures (two left, one above) depict tunnel-like structures. The one above and the one to the immediate left are the same tunnel made out of metal. The one to the bottom left seems carved out the stones above it. These reminded me of Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels.



There are a lot of wooden posts used as steps on Belle Isle because of the steep landscape. The steps have to conform to the earth, rather than the other way around.




During warm weather, a lot of people draw on the rocks at the edge of the river. Here is the faded chalk drawing of a butterfly. A once vibrant human creation has been dulled by the wind and the rain.











This boulder has been manipulated by man to also be a cupholder.
It has also been decorated with a pictograph. Man has bent nature to his will once again.
 



Walking down Pine St, I saw this on this side of a brick wall. A tiny plant has managed to grow within this old rusted pipe. I like it because it's like the plant is just rising from the depths of manufactured goods.


This image reminded me of an ashtray. A portion of brick is missing from the sidewalk, which makes the sand beneath it visible. Right in the middle of the sand lies a cigarette. It's almost the perfect image for our generation. I've known many people to steal bricks from the sidewalk (for whatever reason), and most kids smoke now, and most litter.

This is another of my favorites. This is the perfect image for decay:
a half-eaten, rotting pear being slowly devoured by ants.





I found this while walking on Grove Avenue. I really liked the juxtaposition of the orange peels against the brick, both in color and manufacturing. It reminded me of a compost heap, but in the middle of the sidewalk.

This board was the only board in a tall wooden fence that had warped and bent out of uniformity.
I really like the curviture of its line compared tor the straight lines of the rest of the fence




Vines and ivy growing over buildings and fences have always seemed really beautiful to me; I love the collision of nature and structure. Here, I like it even more because it spans across not only a fence, but the brick building, too.


I took a picture of th bottom of this structure, the top of which is used as an ashtray, because I like the way the rust is bleeding from the holes. It almost personifies it - like thsoe holes are puncture wounds.


Usually, these are used to desginate parking spots, but these turtarriers have been placed in odd positions, so that one can't really use them to park. I thought that was really interesting; why would someone waste the money to get them there if they weren't to be used in the typical fashion? it is even more interesting because it is in a perfectly functional parking lot.





This last picture was taken on the fire escape of my apartment building. Thes tain is from human defecation. While the matter is no longer there, the mark remains, and probably will for a very long time since no rain can reach it.




Through this travelogue, I have become much more attentive to the world around me, especially the interactions between manmade things and nature. What most interested me was the decay of things, the impermanence of everything, and I think I would like to involve time or permanence in my final project.