Monday, 3 March 2014

Expansion: The Big Bambú Theory

Things discussed: bamboo; Doug and Mike Starn; suspension; Venice Biennial; interdependence; being active; being passive; chaos; strings; Mikado sticks.

Another great example  a huge example  of art in space & space in art is the installation Big Bambú, by American twin brothers Doug and Mike Starn, seen at the 54th Venice Biennial in 2011.

via Doug and Mike Starn

Like the Tomás Saraceno’s installation, it is a work of art that generates a new space  an experience space which would be impossible in normal circumstances.

The artists created a 15m (50ft) tall hollow tower of bamboo canes, with an inner undulating trail spiralling up to the top. Up there, a relax area (c.15sqm/161sq ft), even better than a proper Venetian altana: it opened a view never seen before, and never to be seen again, as there is no buildings as tall in the area.

via designboom
via designboom 
via designboom
via designboom

A view that took in the Accademia Bridge, the portion of the Grand Canal in front of the Guggenheim Collection, further away up to the Doge’s Palace, and everything behind, that is more or less a maze of red brick roofs.

via desginboom
via designboom

The structure of the Big Bambú was solid, but the lightness of the material was so pervasive, I felt like walking up in the air. The spiral you walked on allowed a partial sight of what was below, and having always a full view of the sculpture from the inside, you had an impression that everything was lightly woven, that it stood up just out of a matter of subtle balance.

I don’t mean the structure looked loosely woven. The bamboo shafts were actually tightly kept together by coloured lashes, and there were always members of the Starn’s crew climbing some way or the other to check poles and tighten knots, even when you were ascending.

I never felt uneasy or unsafe. I was almost feeling lighter, suspended, and lifted upwards. The day was sunny and the time of the day was the full afternoon light, just before it turned into the long lazy Venetian summer eveningit was June, close to the end of the exhibition, which lasted around one month.

via designboom
via designboom

The Big Bambú had been first set up on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY in 2009. In addition to the original 2,000 fresh poles harvested from a farm in France, Doug and Mike utilized several fragments of the Metropolitan installation.

What's in the nature of this kind of installation is that even by bringing the same piece to another place, you have to adapt it to the new space. In this case, it was not a roof, but a small court among old houses crammed in a net of canals and narrow streets.

via Doug and Mike Starn

Another feature is that the work is equally enjoyable from the inside (the active participation visit) and from the outside. And the view from the Canal was really something. It looked like an explosion of crazily messed up Mikado sticks, when it was indeed a very carefully structured organism inhabited by some little creatures crawling upwards and downwards.

The organic maze was in fact alive, in a state of constant flux, complete but always developing.

via Doug and Mike Starn

As Mike Starn stated, 
‘it is a sculpture, but not a static 
sculpture’ where growth and change are a constant. The brothers have given shape to a ‘philosophy of chaotic interdependence’ and of philosophical engineering where everything depends upon one another, and the interdependence is natural and fluid.

via Doug and Mike Starn

When art, like here, takes possession of space, it doesn't only create a new space, but a deep impression in the people who experience it: one enhanced by the fact that it is a temporary experience; one you will probably never go through again, which makes it all more special. You savour each moment, each step, each breath on the work. Added to the beauty of the experience (and the view), you get out of it and back into the narrow and often claustrophobic calli (Venetian streets) with an intimate, profound and meaningful experience.

Interdependence, and the relationship between the artistic space and the viewer is an issue addressed by many contemporary artists. In a historical period that sees so many art voices and cries that it is so hard sometimes to see where art is going, this might actually be a voice that will be growing into something more substantial, and becoming maybe a real new current, like we haven’t seen in a long time.

Big Bambú has since travelled to Rome in December 2012, and to the isle of Naoshima, Japan, in 2013.

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