Happy Birthday

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 5.18.24 PM.jpg To America's best idea. Wish you were here to celebrate with us, John Prine, Emmylou Harris and 6,000 other celebrants at the Roosevelt Arch marking the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park. America the beautiful, indeed.

...the Service thus established shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments and reservations…by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purpose of the said parks, monuments and reservations, which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.


Busy as

Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 12.36.40 PM A monumental steel beehive, planted deep inside London’s Royal Botanical Gardens, animates with the activity of a nearby natural nest: Glowing LED panels vary intensity according to the bees’ busyness, as does an accompanying soundtrack by Be—a dream team including Jason Pierce of Spiritualized and string section Amiina (a favorite of Sigur Ros) that recorded a series of ambient key-of-C improvisations inspired by bees’ buzzing. "These days we are bombarded by so many digital images and sometimes we forget how powerful and important sounds, touch and smell are,” said its maker, British sculptor Wolfgang Buttress. “So to me that was really important, that these elements were at the heart of the installation.”

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In 2015, Buttress created “The Hive” as the centerpiece of the Milan Expo’s UK pavilion. Responding to the fair’s theme, “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,” Buttress imagined the installation as an homage to pollinators’ importance in feeding humanity and a clarion call for the challenges bees face (climate change, pesticides, lack of biodiversity). The intricate lattice, constructed out of 170,000 pieces of aluminum, took architectural cues from both the movement of the bees and the designs they build. “The Hive” won the expo’s Gold Medal, and has since garnered more than 20 accolades including judges’ and people’s choice in the Architizer A+ awards.

As the first pavilion installation to migrate from an expo to the UK, “The Hive” now sits within a historic urban ecosystem. Standing nearly 56 feet tall, visitors can meander through the meditative orb, and next month, experience it by night. On September 1 and 15, Kew Gardens will host two museum “lates” around the installation, inviting visitors to experience the soundscape amid the stars.

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“The Hive” will live in Kew Gardens through 2017.

Cool cats

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 2.28.48 PM Street art became island adornment when Ygor Marotta and Ceci Soloaga of VJ Suave enrolled in the Walk&Talk residency on São Miguel Island, part of the Azores in Portugal. The São Paulo-based duo projected their animalian animations on trees, cliffs and shores, capturing their interventions through nocturnal long-exposure GIFs. Go wildcats.

Twist turn

Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 2.10.33 PM.jpg A rusty loop draped across a hillside outside Rotterdam, designed by Dutch firm NEXT Architects. The stairway climbs toward an unhindered view of the horizon and skyline, and then descends upon the tram track taken by commuters. Designed to defy, the installation emulates the Möbius strip, a continuous surface with no top or bottom.

“When used as a path, it suggests a continuity, but crossing that path is—at least physically—an impossibility,” the architects told Arch Daily. “It’s that kind of ambiguity that we recognized in the inhabitants of this suburb: mentally they still feel very much connected to their mother town Rotterdam, but in daily life they are definitively disconnected. With the Möbius strip stair, we offer them a glimpse towards the Rotterdam skyline, but to continue their trip, they have to turn backwards, facing the context of their everyday life, Carnisselande."

Ergo the title, “The Elastic Perspective,” and the notion of an elastic self visually linked yet stretched from the city. An urban identity so close yet so far away. A rubber sense of belonging.

Rain bow

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 4.56.00 PM A brave recital today: 24-year-old Syrian refugee Nour Alkhzam played a grand piano in a muddy field at the Idomeni refugee camp. She performed for 20 minutes in the pouring rain, under a plastic sheet, held up by the concert’s coordinator Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Ai brought the white piano to the Greek-Macedonian border camp as a brief beacon of artistic opportunity amid the dismal conditions facing the 12,000 refugees stuck at Idomeni.

It was the first time Alkhzam had touched a piano in three years.

“It tells the world that art will overcome the war,” Ai said.

Bright façade

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 4.02.43 PM Impossible to ignore: 14,000 life vests, collected from refuges fleeing from Turkey, wrapped the columns at the Konzerthaus concert hall in Berlin. Ai Weiwei created the temporary installation last month for the Cinema for Peace gala, for which he served as the honorary jury president.

A bright memorial of a dark plight: this year alone, more than 400 refugees have died while attempting the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea. Ai collected the life vests from the northern shore of Lesbos, a tragic stockpile he documented on his personal Instagram account during his first visit last December. He has since opened a studio on the Greek island.

"What a waste. To put life in this jacket," he said. "It's not necessary. We can provide a better, safe passage for those people."

“As an artist, I have to relate to humanity’s struggles. I never separate these situations from my art.”

Ruin redux

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 2.45.02 PM A tower rising from detritus. Urban unison restored?

A former station in Lille, France has become the latest depot for Detroit-based artist Scott Hocking. “Babel,” his site-specific installation for the Lille 3000: Renaissance festival earlier this year, explores the cycle of ruin within cities—without judgment.

“Why do we look at some ruins with reverence, and see others as failures?,” Hocking has said. “Why can’t we realize that we’ve been creating things since the dawn of time, making structures and objects with our hands, and at some point they decay, at some point the civilization that made it fails, at some point the city in which it was made disappears? It’s not the end—there’s never an ending. So maybe there’s a certain countering to the idea that this is the end of something, that this is a failed city, or a failed industrial age. I just see it as a constant cycle that we’re in the middle of. I just try to find the beauty in all the stages.”

A profound platform. All aboard.

Auto did act

Scott Hocking  "Ziggurat, East" by Scott Hocking (Summer 2008), a mixed media installation and photo project, paired with Hervé Léger’s Nichola cropped jacket. Abandoned sites are canvases for Detroit-based Scott Hocking. Vacant for 20 years, Fisher Body Plant 21 felt more like a cave than a former car factory with stalactites falling from the ceiling from years of leaks and neglect. Stripped clean by scrappers, the factory offered Hocking only one sculptural medium (beyond space): Millions of wooden floor blocks, rebuilt as a monument to buckled ambition.

"In Detroit, going into an abandoned auto factory is my walk in the woods," Hocking has said. "It’s the closest I can get to the top of a mountain peak—the top of a building. This is where I get my sense of wildness—my satisfaction in nature." Roads diverged.

Rapt sight

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Ellsworth Kelly, a solitary visionary of 20th century abstract art, died on Sunday at the age of 92. Here, his installation for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, which NY Times art critic Holland Cotter described as “one of his most moving installations, though,..one of his quietest.” All white, “Memorial” centers on a fan-shaped form facing a triptych of rectangular panels – a dynamic suggesting a dove rising above closed windows. A perfectly concise visual memorial to so many lives lost – and now his.

We are left with his wonders – including the yet-to-be-built Austin structure – and his words. “I think what we all want from art is a sense of fixity, a sense of opposing the chaos of daily living,” he told The Times in 1996. “This is an illusion, of course. What I’ve tried to capture is the reality of flux, to keep art an open, incomplete situation, to get at the rapture of seeing.” The rapture of seeing through his eyes will live on in his art.


Starry night

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 6.43.27 PM  A star is born in mainland Penang, Malaysia. Steel cables – aglow in more than 500 meters of LED lights – pierce through a four-story cement building, a celestial jax in an urban nocturne. “The Star” is the “low-tech materials meets high-tech application” work of Malaysian artist Jun Hao Oan for the 2015 Urban Xchange public art festival in Penang. With stars twinkling from treetops this time of year, this colossal intervention feels like a welcome expansion to the luminary lexicon.