Above: City of Yarra, Billboard for Art Program
I've spent quite a bit of time work shopping what kind of artwork I would place on my NOT Like site. Friends and I have discussed having a work that interacted with the motorists rather than pedestrians as that would be a better reflection of how most people encounter the site. We had trouble coming up with an idea though that wasn't too much like a billboard or could potentially cause accidents. I am aware though that the City of Yarra, where my NOT Like site, is situated already has a Billboard Public Art Program so I still think it is a viable option.
Another idea was to find a way to place earphones around the site so people could sit in the space and block out the traffic noise. We all liked this idea but realised that it would be quite logistically difficult without someone to maintain and headsets and to stop them from all getting pinched.
Yet the question still remains of what to do with the work that is already there. I think through this process I realised that my problems with the site weren't just that I found the artwork very ugly, as I had originally thought. But as I have already mentioned in previous posts having the hard noise of the traffic with hard quite aggressive sculpture did have a lot to do with it.
In the end I think I would arrange to have part of the site dedicated to something like a billboard project project, ideally one that would engage with the history of the site on some level and if nothing else I would remove the dog sculpture's teeth.
Monday, 11 May 2009
Above: Speed Cheek - Oakwood Park by Clare McCracken
When thinking about what kind of artwork would fit well into my LIKE site without overwhelming the balance of its current uses the work Speed Cheek - Oakwood Park by artist Clare McCracken immediately came to mind. The work is situation in the City of Greater Dandenong and this is how it is described:
The sculptures are inspired by Jeffery Smart's surreal urban landscapes and inspired by the backdrop of the Eastlink motorway; designed for bike riders and pedestrians to measure their kilometres per hour.
Using sophisticated motorway technology Speed Cheek are two speed checking devices placed beside the shared user path that runs through the heart of Oakwood Park measuring the speeds of bike riders and pedestrians going both from east to west and west to east.
Speeds are displayed on two solar powered LCD screens which hover above the path so that park users can see the pace at which they are moving. The sculptures will provide a free interactive experience for local and visiting schools, recreational groups, cyclists and residents.
Although I am against merely replicating artworks from place to another I think something that came from a similar consideration of the uses of the site and working to develop a work that interacts with them would be ideal.
"Now I will do nothing but listen...
I hear all the sounds running together, combined,
fused or following,
Sounds of the city and sounds out of the city, sounds
of the day and night..."
WALT WHITMAN, Song of Myself
I decided fairly early on that for the theoretical consideration of my two sites I would build it around a consideration of Sound Theory and the idea in public art of "overlooked in public space."
Choosing this approach made a great of sense to both sites as one is completely overwhelmed by constant sounds of a particular type and the other made up of a complex layering of many different types of sounds.
In fact it is the soundscape of my NOT like site that has the most direct influence on why I don't like it.
In the book The Soundscape: the Tuning of the World by Walter Murray he identified three distinct features of the soundscape which he describes as:
Keynote: the key or tonality of a particular composition. It is the anchor of fundamental tone and although the material may modulate around it, often obscuring its importance it is in reference to this point that everything else takes on its special meaning... The keynote sounds of a given place are important because they help to outline the character of men living among them.
Signals: are foreground sounds and they are listened to consciously... Signals MUST be listened to because they constitute acoustic warning devices... Sound signals may often be organised into quite elaborate codes permitting messages of considerable complexity.
Soundmark: is derived from 'landmark' and refers to a community sound which is unique or possesses qualities which make it specially regarded or noticed by the people in that community.
Taking all of this into consideration I spent a great deal of time listening to each of my sites every time I visited them so I could make note of their soundscapes.
NOT LIKE SITE SOUNDSCAPE
- traffic: engines of trucks, cars and motorcycles accelerating and braking through the intersection in flowing waves of traffic
- tram bell
- car and truck horns
- traffic lights ticking “cross now” and “don’t cross’
- tram moving through the intersection
- car tires going over the tram tracks
The site is completely overwhelmed by the sound of traffic and it always took a couple of minutes for me to be able to stop hearing the site as just one big "TRAFFIC NOISE".
It also needs to be noted that I was never able to hear non-traffic noises, such as people walking past or voices even though I could see people moving through the intersection. The traffic noise is very much like a blanket that encompasses the entire space.
I chose the tram moving through the site and the cars moving over the tracks as the Soundmark as trams are a particular aspect of urban life in Melbourne that you don't usually have intersected with such high levels of constant, moving traffic.
LIKE SITE SOUNDSCAPE
- leaves rustling in the trees
- water lapping against the banks of the river
- hum of traffic on the freeway in the distance
- dog barking
- bikes’ bells and tires moving onto the gravel
- train whistle from Richmond Station
- snatches of conversation as people walk past
- trucks and traffic accelerating up the freeway ramp
- motor boats revving their engines
- bell bird calling from the Botanical Gardens
- rowers’ calling out instructions to each other
- crunch of joggers’ feet on the gravel as they run the ‘Tan’
What makes the Morell Bridge soundscape so interesting is the layers of sound that are a mix of both natural and man-made noises.
What I also found really interesting when I compared the notes I took on the soundscapes for each site was how each was such a extreme opposition to the other in the concept of an audio horizon.
The NOT Like site is a demonstration of how the audio horizon has shortened in that the sound of the traffic, though it does in some ways indicate that there is a hill that needs to be accelerated up, does not allow for any other horizon indicating noises beyond that of the immediate area.
In absolute contrast the LIKE site has a long horizon where you can actually hear the distances between various elements that create the soundscape noises. You can hear the leaves in the trees above you, yet also the train whistle in the distance. You have an awareness of the uses around you and they someone create balance. My favourite contrasting noises were the high pitched bell bird from the Botanical Gardens, following by the deep roar of the truck engines in the distance.
One of the reasons I dislike this site so much is because I feel like I am constantly being made aware of how it doesn't function the way it is designed to. There are benches in numerous places on the site that do their best to make it look inviting (the angry looking sculptures aside) yet I have only seen one person ever actually sitting in the site. It is dis-used and neglected and ignored despite being at the top of one of Melbourne's busiest weekend shopping strips.
I don't like this site because it doesn't engage with its environment, the community of even with the purpose it has attempted to have embedded in it.
Rowing under the Bridge
People in the area around the bridge, viewed from the entrance to the Botanical Gardens.
Walking dogs on the bridge
Cyclist on their way to work crossing the bridge.
One of the reasons I like my "Like" site is due to the amount and variation of activities that happen on, under and all around the bridge at all times of day.
These activities, which are mainly leisure-related, include cycling, rowing, jogging and strolling and dog walking.
As I have already mentioned in another post the Morell Bridge is one of the busiest paths for cyclists traveling to and from work in the city.
Although there is a freeway within earshot and eyesight of the site it doesn't seem to impact greatly on the general serenity of the area.
Monday, 4 May 2009
I haven't written much about the existing artworks on my "Not Like" site partly because I have had quite a bit of difficulty sourcing information, as there is no reference to the site or the works in any of the City of Yarra's public art documentation on their website. It is worth noting that their excellent documentation of other public art works in the City of Yarra collection.
I know they were created between 1993 to 1995 and are by more than one artist, though there is only a signage for two of them on the site.
This work is titled "Mother and Daughter" and was created by Mary Perrott Stimson between 1993-1994. There isn't a great deal of information available about the artist but the work is accompanied by a quotation that is inlaid on a bronze plate next to the work.
"Mother and Daughter walk proudly through history from the caves of ancient Africa, across continents, oceans and deserts - into Richmond."
The quote does provide some form of site specificity but I am completely baffled as to what it actually means or what significance it could have. I was thinking that perhaps it was a reference to indigenous history but that doesn't really sit properly on a number of levels.
This steel work is titled Opus 15 by artist Adrian Mauriks, who also has a number of other public art commissions in Melbourne. The work is 120 x 120 cm and was commissioned in 1995. The work is situation in the wall that used to be part of the tram house I mentioned in a previous post on the history of the site.
The works has some similar elements - cloven foot, the enclosed lotus shape, the wings and bird shape, "Buddha eye"- to those that appear in another work by the artist called Opus 10 created in 1994 for Commonwealth Bank for the World Trade Centre, George St, Sydney, NSW.
These elements the artist has discussed as being inspired by mythological inventions and the power these images have. His explanation of them includes "...you put all this together and you have what? Impossible to say, but it does give you access to a being process that is akin to an elevated state of consciousness where nothing is any longer, specific, but all is general, connected and inter twined, to everything else. It simply becomes a matter of being and occupying your own centre."
I can not find a reference to the title of this work or the artist that created it anywhere. On the base of the boat the "dog with the teeth" sits in is inscribed the words "Yarra" and "Acheron" which are both rivers. What they have to do with this particular work or site I can not determine. I know that a number of people, myself included, find the huge bared metal teeth of the dog quite disturbing and ominous.
Part of the reason I dislike this site so much is because the three works situated on it seem so completely detached not only from the physical location they are placed in but also from each other. They are all made of metal but don't have a cohesiveness they seem at odds with the environment they have been placed in. I have tried to rationalise with myself that they all perhaps explore some kind of mythology that I am unaware of but again it seems incredibly odd and "plonked" to do that on this particular site.
From a personal aesthetic take I find them all incredibly hard and unattractive so that they make an already unappealing site even harsher and less inviting without engaging with it at all.
Last night I also visited my "Like" site to document the lighting, ambiance and usage at night.
The site is lit from above by the six lamps that make up part of the bridge. From below on the south-eastern side the bridge is flood lit by a large single flood lamp. There is also illumination from the reflection of the lights in the water of the river and surrounding street lights, including from construction sites and cars and trucks on the nearby freeway.
Despite having more varied sources of lighting the site itself is not as illuminated as my not like site because it is more open.
What surprised me most was the level of usage of the bridge at 9pm on a Monday night. I encountered numerous joggers, cyclists and walkers while we were there.
I also spent quite a bit of time listening to the site to compare it to the sounds I had documented during the day. The sounds were quite different and not as varied as during the day but also amplified in a different way.
Despite the high levels of mixed usage on the bridge and surrounding area is always surprises me how peaceful the site seems.
Last night I visited and documented the lighting and atmosphere at my "Not Like" site.
The site itself is lit with down lighting on the brick wall that frames the site. I also noticed that although ground lights are in the ground surrounding the dog sculpture, I have never seen them turned on.
The most predominant source of lighting though is the street lights and the headlights of the cars passing through the intersection.
I also paid particular attention to the sounds of the site while I was there so I can compare them to the sounds I have recorded hearing at other times of the day.
I am also aware that I haven't particularly said why I don't like this site yet. That is because I wanted to go through the entire documentation process and then frame my dislike around a theoretical analysis. This will come later.
Sunday, 3 May 2009
Kryptos is a public artwork by artist James Sanborn situated on the grounds of America's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Langley, Virginia.
The artwork cost $250,000 and was dedicated on 3rd November, 1990. It is positioned between two buildings and is made of red and green slate, white quartz, petrified wood, lodestone and copper. The most dominant feature of the work is the S-shaped copper screen, that resembles a vertical scroll, with characters punched out of the copper. The characters apparently make up a four-part message, each apparently in code encrypted by a different cipher.
Apparently CIA and other code crackers have only been able to solve three of the four messages and one part remains unbroken code. There is even an on-line group, Kryptos Group, dedicated to cracking the code of the artwork.
The title of the work "Kryptos", which means hidden in Greek, and the work is described as a "a meditation on the nature of secrecy and the elusiveness of truth".
The CIA's purpose is well known as being to collect information and keep secrets, as so many Hollywood movies and crime novels portray for us constantly. So in a strange inversion the CIA maintains a constant public awareness of its secrecy through external perceptions and portrayals.
I think the very public exploration of the artwork to "crack" the code of its embedded secret message is particularly apt and successful as a site specific work located in the CIA's grounds. The work takes site specificity to another level where it not only reflects its surrounding environment's purpose but engages with popular perceptions and engagements with that purpose. The work is located on an area that is perceived as secret and yet is well known. The work is well known but its message secret. Both the CIA and the work have captured the public's imagination regarding concepts of secrecy and learning the truth.
In many ways I hope the final part of the code isn't ever cracked so that the work maintains its fascination and continues to reflect the surroundning areas' purpose and public/secret perception so perfectly.
Reference: Levy, S. (May 2009). Mission Impossible: The Code Even the CIA Can't Crack, Wired Magazine 17.05