I’m taking a class at Pratt called Installation Art: Design & Change, and we’ve been pairing up installation works as a weekly assignment. This is my first one!
Postcommodity, Repellent Fence / Valla Repelente, October 9-12, 2015. Between the US/Mexico border cities of Douglas, Arizona and Agua Prieta, Sonora . Twenty-eight tethered balloons, 10 x 10 feet each.
Steve Messam, PaperBridge, May 8-18, 2015. At the top of the Grisedale Valley, Patterdale, Cumbria, UK. 20,000 sheets of paper, four tons of found stone, 16.4 x 5.9 x 2.95 feet.
Both temporary installations in different kinds of wilderness, Postcommodity and Steve Messam’s work cross very different boundaries. Messam’s traverses a natural barrier while Postcommodity’s bisects a manmade one. Repellent Fencewas a community-backed two-mile long fence that traced an ancient trade route from Mexico through Arizona, nearly perpendicular to the border. The “scare-eye” design has indigenous origins and is still used to repel birds. Here the design seems to repel people—ancient indigenous travelers and their descendants in particular—warning them that the route is no longer safe because the US (a comparatively new nation) is obsessed with border security. At the same time, the two-mile installation sutures the divided nations together again.
While Repellent Fence confronts conceptual boundaries, Paperbridge defies physical ones. The paper’s wood pulp material mimics the wood that typical bridges are made of, while its bright red color lights up the landscape. Both works defy gravity in their own way. Repellent Fence flies 100 feet above the desert landscape and Paperbridge uses pressure to push out and up to allow safe passage over a stream in the northern UK. But the motivations behind the creation of these installations could not be more different. Postcommodity is a collective of three indigenous artists using projects like Repellent Fence to bring attention to oppressed Native Americans and migrant workers, while Steve Messam was commissioned to create Paperbridge.
I learned about Repellent Fence through an interview with the artists I worked on for ART21 Magazine.
You can also read my classmate’s pairings for this week on the Pairings: Blog set up by our professor, Kim Connerton, PhD.
Peter Callesen uses paper itself as a medium, carefully cutting away forms and shapes from a sheet of backdrop, then reconstructing those fallen bits into miniature sculptures that are sometimes still connected to the flat blank paper they used to be, almost as if they were falling out of place. These simple delicate masterpieces combine two-dimensional shapes with three-dimensional sculptures, now affected by gravity and casually laying upon the wooden frame’s platform.
In “Dead Angels” this is exactly the case, winged skeletons falling from the cutout silhouettes of flying angels. The concept behind trace and form lends itself to this duality of ideas – the lack of paper inside the angels’ forms indicate their absence, accounted for by the three skeletons only held up by the paper’s thick wooden frame, their wings still attached but useless. I especially love the third skeleton, hanging by one big toe to the angel he used to be as his body leans upside-down, but in a silly way, arms outstretched as if to say ‘oh well.’
Dead Angels, 2007
Acid Free paper, glue, acrylic paint, and oak frame.
127 x 94 x 11,5 cm.
“City of Homeless Thoughts” visualizes its title metaphorically, the intricately cut profile view of a head is filled with interlocked tubes and wiring that branch outside his form, cast above the frame litered with miniature paper houses.
City of Homeless Thoughts , 2008
Acrylic paint, on 120 gsm acid free paper, pencil and oak frame.
139 x 106 x 13 cm.
“Cut to the Bone II” is the funniest of them all in a dark twisted kind of way – a skeleton against a dull pink background rolls down the paper his form came from, his skeleton legs and feet still drawn inside the painted paper that’s held rolled up by his skinny little skeleton fingers at the hips.
Cut To The Bone II, 2008
Watercolor and pencil on 120 gsm acid free paper, glue, and oak frame.
139 x 107 x 13 cm.
“The Roots of Heaven” shows a poetic detail of a tree too symmetrical to be real, its cut out form laying on the frame, still connecting and now visually serving as the tree’s roots, linking it to its past.
The Roots of Heaven, 2009
Acid-free 120 gsm paper, glue, acrylic paint and wooden frame.
107 x 107 x 13 cm
See more of Peter Callesen’s work on his website here.