Congratulations to the following artists who were chosen for our list of pre-qualified artists to be potentially commissioned for temporary project opportunities throughout the 2015 fiscal year! These 74 artists and artist teams were chosen by a selection panel who reviewed 178 applicants to our Temporary Projects call in May. We anticipate 10-20 project opportunities during FY15 (July 2014-June 2015) to be offered to artists from this list.
Thanks to Randy Walker for writing this article about his Canal Convergence | Spring Equinox installation, Spring Crossing:
One hundred ninety-eight spools, 100 yards of braided acrylic fiber each. 34 different colors in all. At 300 feet per spool, that translated to a total of 59,400 feet or roughly eleven miles of ribbon-like fabric.
What a disappointment, then, to see what little space all this raw material took up in the unfinished storage space a few blocks from the Marshall Way Bridge. After several cardboard boxes had been unpacked and the spools organized, I looked down on an unimpressive inventory that had taken on immense proportions in my mind.
That’s it? So much anticipation, so much calculating, so much money, so much material, and it all amounts to this? Maybe I had made an error in when I estimated how much material I would need to cover the 95 foot pedestrian bridge.
It was a familiar feeling- a sour mixture of dread, anxiety and second-guessing. As my enthusiastic collaborators from Scottsdale Public Art and I stood there surveying our palette, I did my best to conceal my anxiety.
It was a simple plan. We would transform the familiar form of the Marshall Way Bridge by tying fibrous strands from key places on the structure. By using the steel beams and handrails, we would fill in the empty spaces line by line, color by color, over the next three weeks. We would let the structure dictate our selection of color and work intuitively, paying close attention to the way the colors interacted with each other once in the sunlight. It would be an orchestrated process of managing materials, people, and time.
After four days of hard work, the bridge was actually changing. We were getting to know this structure up close. We wrapped the fiber around sun-bleached beams so big we had to embrace them in to get the fiber around them. We devised systems of relaying the spools around, up, over, and down to the guardrails below. We began to get into a rhythm, a groove, and progress became evident. The colors were just beginning to emerge against the canal, the buildings, and the construction zone beyond. We were thrilled to see that the bands of color became dynamic in the breeze, fluttering and flashing. With over two weeks of work ahead, things were looking good. I took a breath.
And then someone spoiled the mood. Late one night, the entire west side of our hard-won wall of color was cut down, probably with a knife, and probably in less than 5 minutes. Four days of work, gone. In ten years this was the first time that an installation had been vandalized. It was a site-specific force that would need to be reckoned with.
Strangely, I will admit to being less distressed than one might imagine. I wasn’t happy, of course. But over the years, I have come to understand that the sites where I install my work are very specific places with specific conditions and forces that are not always in my control. Wind; humidity; traffic; vandalism; the structures themselves: All can be out of my control even though ultimately the installation owes its existence to them. I have come to appreciate that this tension is a kind of symbiotic relationship between site and art essential to my work.
Another way of looking at it, as Sophie Hook did, was that we would need to make lemonade out of lemons. Which is precisely what she did one sunny day after repairs had begun. Armed with a table, lemons, sugar, and a hand juicer, Sophie arrived on the scene and we literally made lemonade. Tasting the bitter with the sweet, I think, gave all of us renewed energy to tackle the task ahead.
Over the next two weeks, we cranked out the work. Our repetitive tasks were soon rewarded as the colors built in density. Soon, it seemed that pedestrians could not cross the bridge without striking up a conversation with us or stopping to take photos. We had passed a critical stage in which every new strand we added seemed to make a difference. I love when things get to that point. It’s as if all the work remains invisible until one magical day that it begins to sing.
We got into a groove. When someone new came to help out, there were seasoned pros that could train them, and then they became experts at some part of the process, whether it was tying knots, adjusting tension, or driving the lift. It became apparent to me that all of my collaborators were contributing much more than work. For every strand that was tied down, an individual would have to feel the tension and make a determination when it was tight enough. Because there was no way to precisely gauge this tension, it became personal. And when the breeze picked up, our collective intuitions were made visible. The tighter the strand was, the less it fluttered in the wind. The same held true with color. I felt that while I had established a general color scheme, it was largely in my collaborators’ hands to make a final selection.
When the installation was completed, all those involved had invested critical time and energy that shaped the final outcome. I like to think that just by handling the material, it makes the transformation from something generic to something specific, with a history that is infused into it by its handlers. Whenever possible, I seek to enrich this history with the materials I use in temporary installations. Fiber seems particularly suited to take on new lives by repurposing. Recycling is responsible, but what I really find exciting are the minds, hands, and ideas that will shape the material beyond any plan that I could conceive of on my own. The thought of the material dispersed into the community, acquiring histories as it goes. The material used on Spring Crossing is largely spoken for, again thanks to Scottsdale Public Art for taking this idea seriously. I can’t wait to see what becomes of it.
I’ll never forget the memories created on those three weeks before the 2014 Spring Equinox.
Thank you to my collaborators: Sophie Hook, Daniel Funkhouser, Becky Nahom, Andrea Teutli, Lindsey Darling, Christy Brown, and Aaron Frazer.
In the icy-cool morning of Saturday January 12th 2013 a herd of local Scottsdale community members, Flam Chen performers, SRP and SPA workers gathered along the Scottsdale Waterfront to see the wonder that is the fish-herding. As part of routine SRP maintenance and repairs, the white Amur fish are corralled, hoisted and then transported to an alternative section of the Arizona canal during the dry-up period. An undertaking that will not been seen again in our area for the next seven years.
Purely there to assist SRP in their maintenance, the Amur are a sterile carp that help to control moss and weeds in the 131-mile canal system by eating them. These little, or rather big, fish are totally understated in our local community. It is with their help that we are able to sustain life in the desert. Most people do not recognize how special they are….and neither did we until the early hours of last Saturday morning…..
SPA invited Tucson-based performance group Flam Chen to highlight the spectacle of the fish-herding. The stilt-walkers reflected the process taking place in the canal, using themes such as capture, transportation and release in order to devise and choreograph a beautiful dance and movement performance along the banks of the Scottsdale Waterfront. Accompanying the Flam Chen stilt-walkers was a five-piece percussion group lead by master percussionist Richard Noel.
The event was in full swing –– SRP workers braving the bitterly cold water in order to gather the fish, over 100 people converging around the Waterfront, Richard Noel and his percussion band were making it difficult to keep our dancing feet still and Flam Chen graced the pathway between Soleri Bridge and Plaza and Marshall Way Bridge with their effervescent and infectious energy, helping us all to thaw out in the frosty sunrise at the Waterfront.
If you have ever seen a fish-herding before, you will know that usually it is utter chaos for the SRP workers to control the fish, who want to continue to swim upstream as the herding forces them in the opposite direction. Consequently, you will see lots of splashing around, forceful pushing and even the odd Amur flying wildly into the wind to try to escape the process.
However, on this occasion, this wasn’t happening. Were the fish just cold? We all wondered what made this experience different. It was then observed by SRP workers that something extremely unusual was happening –– the fish were swimming downstream! As soon as Richard Noel and his percussion band began to hit those drums and move downstream, the fish seemed to respond to it as a signal to turn around and head downstream too! They continued to swim downstream, in unison with Flam Chen, towards Marshall Way Bridge.
Now, while this may have made the viewing of the fish-herding not as dramatic as others, it made SRP’s job easier than usual. And, selFISHly, after the obnoxious sound of my alarm at 5am and the briskness of the 30-some degrees that lay in wait for me outside last Saturday morning, this made my day!
So, thanks to those SRP workers who had to trudge through the canal, to SPA and SRP staff who were up and smiling bright and early, to the community who joined us despite the freezing temperatures, and to Richard Noel and his percussion band for helping us discover something new and fascinating about the Amur. Most of all thanks to Flam Chen for choreographing the whole performance, grabbing our attention, relating to the fish in such a mindful way and for continuing to smile despite the chilly weather –– I am now completely and utterly ready to run away and join the Flam Chen circus!