Site-Specific: Week 2, Comments

This is a rough collection of comments and notes on the assignment for week 2 of Site-Specific.

 – This World & Nearer Ones
Governor’s Island

“Veterans’ Flame” – Krzysztof Wodiczko. The Interactive Flame was the most striking piece for me. Excellent setting, presentation, content. It was quite bare in the ammunition magazine – dark and cool. Listening to accounts of modern conflict/casualties really grounded the experience of being in a historical fort…especially after walking outside it to view the cannons above.

“By My Side” – Susan Philipsz. Singing near Picnic Point. It was moving, but perhaps because I’d already read the description and was looking for it. We missed it the first time we rode a bicycle past the pier. This felt a bit isolated…both in relation to the rest of the sites on the island, but also because the speakers were physically far away from the listening/viewing location.

“Isle of the Dead” – The Bruce High Quality Foundation. (Zombie Theater.) Great incorporation of setting. What was with the zombie chorus of the ENTIRETY of Summer of ’69? The message of the piece was lost on me, and I didn’t find it interesting enough on it’s own as video art.

“Large Dark Wind Chime” – Klaus Weber. Really nice. We saw it on a beautiful, warm, sunny day and the “dark” tones against the serene backdrop was unsettling (but somewhat calming at the same time). It had great scale, much larger than other wind chimes I’ve seen before. The wind vane was at a low enough height that it was manually swing by a woman who had been reading under the tree. I noticed that the ground under the chime has been worn bare; I wonder if the wearing is a symptom of many people doing the same thing.

“Muro Baleado” – Teresa Margolles. Mexican Wall. The physical proof of violence taken out of it’s context and placed into a quiet, grassy field was unnerving when viewed while surrounded by several families picnicking at nearby tables.

With a large, yet contained space such as Governor’s Island, how are projects and sites matched? Some of the projects seemed well matched with their location, while others less so.

I avoided many of the video projects, perhaps unfairly because I didn’t feel a strong connection with them and the location. How does using a historical site place specific constraints on the *appropriateness* of work displayed there? (I mean appropriateness in both a sense of tastefulness and success of execution).

Similarly, the weight of history was palpable while walking around the island. I’ll have to greatly consider the history when thinking of the site for work. More specifically, I’ll have to think of the viewer’s perception of that history and context, rather than my own.

Some of the most successful pieces in the collection were most minimal (Veterans’ Flame). However, too minimal may fail if it doesn’t deliver on the promise of the hype (Double Sound Cannon).

Movable Type
NY Times Lobby

Description on

The sound is an important aspect. There is a clicking / shuffling sound reminiscent of teletypes as all the screens are periodically updated simultaneously. Standing in the midst of the installation, with hundreds of screens stretching up and down the lobby, on either side of you, the noise envelopes you.

Text size: some of the screens seems to display headline copy, while others show vertically scrolling body copy.

Macro/micro. It’s nice to step back and feel that the information is washing over you…as if all this real-time data is simply overwhelming. Then step up close to a particular screen and read a story. The switch between wide/shallow and narrow/deep experiences is fun to engage.

Physicality. The screens are small, and relatively lo-tech, but physical. The put out heat, light and (generated) sound. They are suspended by wires and seem to be floating away from the wall. You get a glimpse of the structure of the installation by being able to look behind the screens, but the communication/power is well hidden. It’s a neat paradox of grungy/polished. Large projections would have a much different (lesser) effect.

Bruce Chatwin, “The Songlines”

The writer is researching the concept of a “songline” as integrated in the aboriginal culture. A Songline maps out creation myth as closely tied to the physical landscape. The songs are retained as cultural and intellectual property, and are passed through generations and among clans.

Makes the case that traveling / nomadism has roots or evidence in many cultures the world over.

Does the act of documenting a sacred act or ritual alter it in some way? Specifically, the Songlines need to be passed through generations to be remembered, but that is a deliberately exclusive endeavor.

It interesting to thing of time and location as linked together – ie. Nomads “owning a route” …really means that they have the rights to passage through / to a particular place at a particular time. I would like to explore the time/space element further.


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