Categories
art review&curating asian art fine and contemporary art

Subodh Gupta’s Seven Billion Light Years

Subodh Gupta, Seven Billion Light Year V, 2014
Subodh Gupta, Seven Billion Light Years V, 2014. Oil on canvas, found utensil, resin, 241.3 x 226.1 x 10.2 cm / 95 x 89 x 4 in

Subodh Gupta’s new exhibition ‘Seven Billion Light Years’ opens with multiple content, showing his performative sculptures, installations, films and a body of new paintings at Hauser & Wirth starting on February 10th. The exhibition takes root in the life in India which is his native country, addressing the local life where mundane and sacred exist side by side. Gupta is known for utilizing found everyday objects in his artworks, resonating meaning with utensils used in making and cooking food, as well as larger vessels such as a bicycle, on which smaller everyday objects are stacked. His works narrate about the culture of accumulation, where the people, food, and the daily exchange gets fused, appearing both chaotic and ritualistic. As a centerpiece of the gallery’s current exhibition is a series of new paintings called ‘Seven Billion Light Years’. These belong to Gupta’s signature subject of using basic kitchen utensils that are familiar to every Indian. Gupta’s art works raise questions, addressing what it means if the world’s people are not anonymous, but have identity and a bit of infinity. In the level of the paintings, the artist uses three-dimensional objects that are fixed to canvas with resin. These paintings carry the exhibition’s title, but there is more behind the meaning.  The title refers to the seven billion inhabitants on the earth echoing about the materiality and the material fragility of our human lives. It displays the idea of intrinsic marks that we leave on the earth’s surface throughout the years. The objects speak about the human marks in the cosmos as well; the distance between our mortal lives and the cosmos appears as unfathomable.

Anthropologist and writer Bhrigupati Singh has written about Gupta’s work. The artist reminds us that what is near is

‘no less cosmic or mysterious – on the surfaces of our ordinary domestic vessels that journey with us, sometimes for years. What we discover in the process are intricately crafted pieces of the cosmos.’

Gupta’s film ‘I go home every single day’ (2004/2014), narrates his commute between New Delhi and his native home in Patna. The journey in the film poetically tells about the changing landscape of the urban cityscape and the more traditional Indian home. The home is a place, where the camera lens repeatedly comes back to focusing on outdoor areas interpreting smaller details, in which the white wall becomes a surface of nuances. It acts as a backdrop for objects, ropes, plants and canvas totes. The yard itself as entrance stands as a sign for the domestic; water pipe carry a meaning that water is a sustenance, without it there would be nothing. Everything in-between the train and the home is in evolving chaos, where progress lives as  traditional life changes and even disappears.

Pure (1), 1999-2014, Mixed media, Dimensions variable, installation view, 'Subodh Gupta, Everything is inside', Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 2014. Photo: Axel Schneider
Pure (1), 1999-2014, Mixed media, Dimensions variable, installation view, ‘Subodh Gupta, Everything is inside’, Museum fur Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 2014. Photo: Axel Schneider

As a counterpoint to Gupta’s recent paintings called ‘Seven Billion Light Years’, Hauser & Wirth also presents an installation  ‘Pure (I)’ (1999 / 2014), which is a variation of a piece exhibited last year at the Museum fur Moderne Kunst in  Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Gupta’s early work ‘Pure (1)’ originates back to 1999, and it was first presented at the Khoj workshop in Modinagar, India. This initiated the ongoing project on the everyday objects as vessels of larger cosmic power. The artist started collecting household utensils around New Delhi, including a hookah an a plough, sinking them into a field which was composed of a paste of mud and cow dung.  He also covered himself with the same paste laying at the center of the field in a yoga posture of shavasana (the corpse).  This, according to the artist, resulted in the state of ‘meditative blankness’.

At Hauser & Wirth, ‘Pure (I)’ has become a new work, in which Gupta is revisiting his own artistic process that took place 15 years ago. At the gallery, he presents a group of household objects that are partially buried in pure earth, along with a group of black and white photographs which stand for the neighbors from whom he borrowed the original objects for the earlier piece in 1999. These photographic portraits hang opposite of the earthy field, where gallery visitors can also walk, and hence experience its entity. The group of photographs present the people as de facto collaborators from the artist’s time of making his art.

Another big piece of art is an installation ‘This is not a fountain’ (2011-2013), that comprises of a large number of timeworn aluminum utensils that the artist collected. In the midst of it are water pipes, which while dripping ‘keep washing’ the surface of the installation. The artist states that he has been interested in the uniform of the mass-produced dishes. Yet, what comes out is the water as an essential element that pours as a ritualistic connotation for purity, showing the basis of things themselves. Meanwhile, the other art works at the gallery exhibition also reflect about Gupta’s own biographical attachment to his subject. His own middle-class background allows him to show the contrastive realities of the deprived and poor versus the richer classes. His use of everyday vessels made of various materials, where the socially humble turns into a shiny bronze, displays a sharp division between different social classes, whilst in the global exhibition space the meaning gets circulated into other levels as well, perhaps becoming a subtle divider between east and west. Additionally, the short film playing with the same title ‘Seven Billion Light Years’ (2014/2015, film, 2. min), meditates a Hindu philosophical idea of the cosmos as leela, which means play and dance in the traditional philosophy. The daily bread-baking becomes a metaphor with cosmic turns, where bread flies lightly like moments in life.

‘Seven Billion Light Years’ will be on view 10 February 2015 at the Hauser & Wirth’s downtown gallery location at 511 West 18th Street, and be on view through 25 April. The exhibition coincides with the debut of a major work by Subodh Gupta in the exhibition ‘After Midnight: Indian Modernism to Contemporary India 1947/1997’, which opens 8 March 2015, at the Queens Museum in New York NY.

More info: Hauser & Wirth: http://www.hauserwirth.com/

To map Gupta’s work a little more in its context, the following video presented on New Delhi TV (NDTV) along with his short interview, is a good start:

 

Categories
art review&curating volta art fair women in art

Christy Rupp’s animalistic art

Christy Rupp was presented at VOLTA NY’ 14 by Frederieke Taylor Gallery. The artist who is known for her 1980s public art projects, was at the art fair with her new work that raises questions about environmental threats and issues around wild animals and nature. One part of her presentation was a series of sculptures around microfauna from the Gulf of Mexico; artworks are made from welded steel and encaustic wax.  In another series of sculptures (images above), Rupp explored the relationship between ivory and energy. These were made in response to threats coming from drilling, addressing also accurate issues around poaching. The artist has made sculptures called ‘The Fake Ivory Series‘ (welded steel and encaustic wax) pointing that wild animal spices are threatened to extinction as they are poached for their tusks. The art stands for trophies as desired objects that include animal parts such as ivory.  Scrimshaw or tattoo-like scribbles on them make comments on the value placed on energy over life. The sculpture ‘Walrus‘, 2014, a mixed media work with credit card solicitations, concretely points to currency over humanistic ideals that protect our environment.

The artist’s past includes diverse projects that are politically, socially and environmentally engaging. Rupp participated in the legendary “The Times Square Show” and “The Real Estate Show” of 1979-80, and she is affiliated with Colab and Group Material. To address artist’s past and her works in context, the gallery also showed video and documentation of her art projects from the early 80’s period.

Christy Rupp’s recent notable shows include:

“Dead or Alive” at the Museum of Arts and Design, NY 2010, “Dear Mother Nature” at the Dorsky Museum of Art, SUNY New Paltz, NY 2012, “This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980’s”, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL 2012, “American Dreamers” Pallazzo Strozzi, Florence, Italy w/ Hudson River Museum, and “XFR STN” Transfer Station at the New Museum, NY 2013, among numerous others.

Categories
interviews performance&dance sustainability

Artist Interview: Choreographer Simo Kellokumpu

Sightseeing is a performative proposal to deconstruct an archetypal figure of tourism through a site specific procedure. It’s about shifting from sightseeing to siteseeing and what this involves in terms of spacialization and temporality of the seeing that can trigger a sight specific experience. (Simo Kellokumpu & Vincent Roumagnac) . Sightseeing is a Dance Film directed by Simo Kellokumpu and Vincent Roumagnac (FRA/FIN 2012, 28 min). The film will be part of the LOIKKA DANCE FILM-FESTIVAL next week in Helsinki.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How did you choose dance and choreography?

SK: I’m not sure if it is about choosing in my case –  I find it more like a development of perception within the conditions where I have lived. I have realized that choreography is something I have always been interested in, but I didn’t have a word for it before getting to know dance. As dance and choreography are two different media, what interests me now as a choreographer in choreography is to consider it as a form of (an artistic) practice, which articulates, shifts and opens social, temporal, spatial and material contextual circumstances. To think and practice choreography is to be in the movement all the time. When I auditioned for the Theater Academy (TeaK) in Helsinki, I already knew that I wanted to study choreography. They asked me in the final interview about the relation between a dance technique and choreography. Now after more than 10 years later, I still remember it as an important question in a way that I was confident that the choreography as a medium is the right one for me. We had 3 years BA-studies together and after these years there was another audition to the department of choreography. The audition again was an uneasy experience, but I’m very happy that I had the chance to study there 2 more years in that department.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What does interdisciplinarity mean to you as choreographer?

SK: In practice it’s now about the dialogue between me and my collaborator a French artist Vincent Roumagnac whose roots are in theater and in visual arts. Also, it is about the question how to shift and echo the choreographic process into another medium/and vice versa. In this way, I would prefer to use the term intermediality than interdisciplinarity, because it is about what is at stake ”in between” the different media we use. For example, I think that artists like Bruce Nauman or JulieMehretu have a lot to give for a choreographic process. The history of contemporary performance, the body – and the visual arts is full of makers into whose works I can relate to with my choreographical references. At the moment, I am interested in, what kind of aesthetic forms comes out from the artistic process, whichcombines contextual choreography and the economical and philosophical principles of degrowth. I don’t have any ”artistic ideas”, but I am rubbing the notion of choreography with other contexts, media and circumstances, and speculate on the resulting inter-forms.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Tell me about the project in Iceland, who did participate in it, and what did you do with the landscape?

SK: I was invited to an international Aeringur contemporary art festival (in Rif 2012) with Roumagnac. The festival invited artists 10 days before the opening to work on the specificity of the site where the festival took place. We decided to work by the volcano/glacier Snaefjellsjökull with the notion of Sightseeing (and playing with homophonic site-seeing…). We aimed to play with these notions from the critical point of view meaning, asking how mass tourism usually consumes landscapes. Therefore, we wished to ask, what logical system of perception does it enclose that the spectator-tourist him/herself imposes an arbitrary framing of the landscape (the cliché). We worked on the deconstruction of this logic of seeing and experiencing the site by embodying (the body of the viewer) and re-framing (the framing of the landscape). So, having alternative forms of perceptual experience of the specificity that is usually attached to the nature-tourism site. We filmed a video of 30-minutes including me + the local people and participants at the Aeringur art festival. We also made an installation for the opening of the festival.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You live in Berlin, how is that now different from Helsinki, or Finnish dance and art scene?

SK: One of the main reasons to move my base to Berlin was to concentrate on the development of choreographic practice in a vibrant international context. I always thought that I would move to Brussels or Paris, because I’ve studied french for 5 years. But I found in Berlin a lot ofinteresting contemporary art, and colleagues in the same position, so I decided to stay – typical storyfor an artist, I guess.

When I went to Berlin in 2008, I was in the middle of a serious professional crisis. I was thinking to change the profession because this crisis had been going on already maybe a year or so in Finland, even if I had possibilities to work. I thought to quit practicing/making choreography. But what eventually happened to me was through questioning the logic, aesthetics and social and material conditions of the production-making, where I had been in Finland. I found some possibilities to realize workswhere choreographic thinking is processed out to, or with, the spectator without being subjected to the logic of a dance-piece or production, which is rehearsed and produced to be performed always the same way, no matter what is the context. I think there’s enough productions in the (art)world already. I try to find ways of making art and the living, which escapes this economic logic of the art-market – it’s a tricky equation to solve but I think it’s necessary.

In Berlin, I also took time to study, what has happened within western contemporary choreography in the last 15 years. I dove into the contemporary arts and understood many crucial things for my professionalcrisis. Berlin was a perfect place to be for this kind of professional process. I think themajority of the art-scene is in Berlin for other reasons than ”making a career” – I think it’s a place for developing your artistic practice. Stimulating art-city it is.

It’s been at the same time relieving and challenging to step out from the safe small scene into the total anonymity where no one knows who you are, and where you have no artistic institutional support at all. To step out from the familiar, expected and recognizable logic of working and presenting works, you inevitably bump into unexpected and unknown landscapes in many ways. It was right thing for me to do – to change the location doesn’t necessarily bring you something more, it can also be the movement, which prunes and clears out.

The main differences with Finland are quite simple. Finland is quite homogeneous and the art-scene is small. Of course one of the reasons for this is the geographical position, which already positions artists in a certain way, I mean there’s not that much people going to Finland especially.Finnish choreographers are not yet well-known in the Mid-European scene. I’m happy to see that there are some interesting younger generation choreographers like for example Anna Mustonen on their way. I am confident that they start to appear in critical European contemporary stages and venues as well, if they want to participate into the logic of touring with works.

In Berlin, there are artists from all over, and it seems to be in constant movement.  It is questioning already things in practice, which haven’t been spreading out yet. Different ways and disciplines of making are mixed, and as a spectator you have a good possibility to experience diverse vital critical art-scene, which challenges your thinking, perception and position. Berlin is poor, and the venues do not support artists the same way than in Finland, but it is a place, where people want to come to show their work even if also the audience is very demanding – in Finland the audience is very polite, and the discourse between the audience and the artist is completely different.

In Finland, we are not used to talk about art that much. In Berlin it’s common that the spectator has critical questions about the work. Aesthetic talk is an aesthetic talk in Berlin, whereas in Finland I have experienced it more like a personal talk, which is connected to the romantic idea of an inspired artist who expresses him/herself. The tradition of dance and choreography is longer and thicker in Berlin and in Germany – Finland is a young country and the position of a contemporary choreographer is hardly to be taken seriously, or the position of an artist in general. But it’s hard everywhere for artists I guess, especially in these neoconservative political times. What I find meaningful in Berlin, is the history of a place where artists have been stretching, breaking, testing and questioning the ways of making and presenting art. Also this affects to the Berlin’s position as a vibrant, substantial and horizontal art-capital.

In last 1,5 years, I have been more active again towards the ”scene” and been meeting more people. I have even learned to say no to the proposed possibilities also in Berlin. I’m interested in working with Finnish performers, because I think they are good in the way that they are grounded and down to earth. For the moment, I’m happy to be working in a light collaborative structure, but if there’s a working group included, I’d like to bring the group to Berlin and present the work then in Finland. This way there’s automatically cultural exchange, and stimulation happening to many directions. I am planning now together with a Finnish Berlin-based director Mikko Roiha to create a platform or stage for Finnish performing arts in Berlin. We are working on to find the ways now, and looking for collaborators from Finland and Berlin to get this project going to be able to offer one possibility for Finnish artists to present their work in Berlin.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How do you understand dance technique? What is a Kellokumpu dance technique?

SK: I think of it as a certain neuromuscular organizational system, what you can study and learn to embody. Nowadays, I have moved on from thinking dance-technique(s) as something necessary for the choreography. I mean, I am interested in finding the ways to understand, how a subject, we call a ”dance technique”, is used and connected to the broader social, aesthetic or historical context. For me as a choreographer, it is necessary to understand these connections more than having a ”dance-technique” – I find it problematic if a choreographer finds his/hers dance technique and sticks only to that without questioning its broader social, historical or aesthetic dimensions. Usually, I have worked with the dancers who have a broad understanding and physical potential. I find (Forsythe’s, if I remember correct) thought about dancer’s body as a body of a monster intriguing. I have certain elements and tasks to combine when it comes to the idea of the movement-texture. But like I said, I’m thinking about choreography nowadays as a medium, which doesn’t necessary need a body to be processed and presented. I am interested in working with the notion of choreography and its possibilities; dancers and dance-techniques can be part of it or not.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: So, what are your greatest influences?

SK: In 2010, we (with Roumagnac) created a solo-work for me which included a staging of my choreographic mothers and fathers so to speak. From Finland, there were Ervi Sirèn and Tarja Rinne. And then, Merce Cunningham and William Forsythe were on stage with me in this work (not physically present, note). I am still aware that these names are important for me when it comes to the personal history of dance and choreography. Like many, I am interested in the 1960’slegacy in the western contemporary arts. To name a few, Judson Dance Theater, Situationists, Minimalists, Arte Povera-, Fluxus-artists and then choreographers like Cunningham, Lucinda Childs, Forsythe and Jérôme Bel are the sources of my inspiration. Of course, my position is nowadays to have a critical point of view to my genealogy as well, and to look ahead by following what is happening in the development of the choreography.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What did you learn while you were spending some time in New York?

SK: I spent only one month in New York and it was the first time for me there. I mainly wanted to go after Merce’s (Cunningham) footsteps a bit, so to speak. So I took some classes in Cunningham Studios and visited museums and galleries, got to see performances etc. The trip was part of the project of mine what I processed with Roumagnac who was in Paris at that time, it was a continuation for our one month work-trip to Beijing. In New York, I thought a lot about the relevance of being aware about the history and the line(s) where you belong into. I found it significant. I even bought a blue unitard.

-Check the LOIKKA DANCE FILM-FESTIVAL calendar here.

-Artist’s website: http://kellokumpu.wordpress.com/2010/09/21/11/

Categories
art review&curating fine and contemporary art sustainability volta art fair women in art

VOLTA NY-13 edition #1 LYNN ALDRICH

VOLTA NY’s 13 art fair is running for the sixth year in a row. The art fair celebrates a brand new location in SoHo’s vibrant 82 Mercer Street. I visited VOLTA during its opening day on Thursday March 7th (until March 10th). Spending time next to the colorful, innovative, thoughtful, provocative, and utterly timely international platform of contemporary art was worth every minute. The two floors packed with art, which were made with diverse techniques and means, and meeting people from around the world, who were enthusiastic about it, did not even feel a bit too much. Also, it was refreshing to stop for a moment, to look out from the large windows and enjoy the street scene, whilst being inside experiencing art. After looking out, I could again discover something new.

 

lynn-aldrich-out-of-the-ink-in-the-dark-2012
Lynn Aldrich, Out of Ink in the Dark, 2012, ink, ink pads, cartridges, blotting paper, carbon paper, 27 x 20 x 4 in

 

My first story from the show is about Lynn Aldrich. Los-Angeles based artist Lynn Aldrichs exhibit at VOLTA takes place at the same time as her solo show is at the JENKINS JOHNSON GALLERY in New York. This show called Free Refill: Old & New Works opened on February 7th and is now on display through March 30, 2013. Lynn Aldrich’s creativity is truly on display of her sculptures and installations that show huge potential to the acute topic of environmental change with social relevance. Aldrich’s aesthetic, carefully made almost minimalist works state a question about our excessive consumption and our man-made impact/problem on the environment. Lynn Aldrich uses materials that are part of our everyday collectables from the Home Depot store, for example. Her sculptures and installations contain parts, which, if gathered excessively, lead to problems with waste and garbage. The plastic accumulating in the ocean is one such problem. Her use of bold or natural pastel-like colors melt in with vivid and organic forms, which together create ideas of technological interplays between humans, their sciences and innovations, and the natural environment. What I especially like is that the sculptures evoke clear sensorial responses. The Sky Light (Noon) sculpture, (no. 1 here), radiates turquoise light and invites to be in-contact-with itself. The sculptures also showcase authoritative presence. A work on the wall, Out of Ink in the Dark, 2012, (no. 2 here), possesses loudness and command reminiscing of the devices that have taken so much space in our everyday communication. Plastic Pacific, 2010, (no.3 here) articulates with its title about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and echoes about the human imprint on the natural ecosystem. The plastic tubes with oil glaze represent clearly the unnecessary amount of things that we have gotten used to, and have access to. By using everyday objects from Home Depot world, such as hoses, pipes and sponges, Aldrich states their physical functions. Alternatively, she references with the objects, that they represent the water flow of the ocean or the cleaning of the ocean. The works are asking us to pay attention to and listen to its fragile system, and asking us to do something about it. The Desert Springs, 2005-2009, (no. 4 here), with downspouts and gutter extensions, is an installation in which the organic nature-like looking particles are like the Coral in the ocean.


Lynn Aldrich, Plastic Pacific, 2010, garden hoses, plastic tubes with oil glaze, brass ends on wood panel, 26 x 32 x 3 in
Lynn Aldrich, Desert Springs, 2005-2009, downspouts, gutter extensions, gutter corners, enamel, dimensions variable ~ 59 x 70 x 62 in
Categories
design interviews performance&dance sustainability

Robin Rapoport: From Alexander technique to design sensing

How to describe living the artistic life? How to live a life surrounded by one’s own art? Making art is so intimately linked into one’s sensing of the world that there isn’t simple answers. In the current research of art, we try to map different kinds of knowledge embedded in the artistic processes. ‘Living’ with the arts is like ‘dwelling’, which in fact implies an old meaning for a house. The doors in the house keep opening and closing as a trespass to new fragments of interiors. The repetitious movement of stepping in and out of the interiors gives even the doorhandles almost allegorical significance.

Robin Rapoport’s designs at her Conneticut home and studio.

Robin Rapoport is a sculptor and designer who has been choreographing for her dance company Headless Horse. As a dancer in Robin’s company, the creative process made me reconsider dancing together with the sculptural.  Robin has been looking for a living and forming entity in the sculpture, which could be realized through the dancer’s body and her movements. Another layer came from the Alexander technique, which would bring those two materials even closer together. I asked Robin about this entire connection, wanting to know how the Alexander technique has changed her.


RR: So funny you should ask that. The other day I was speaking with a magazine publisher of home design who wanted her editor to meet me and I said I have a class for Alexander Technique, but will skip it in order to meet her. I reflected that most people do one thing like designing, and here I spend so much time on another activity perhaps losing accounts because I’m not as available. But if you understand Mr. Alexander’s work it is crucial to one’s sense of clarity. The more I go, the more I discover holding in my body that I need to release, and as an artist I am curious where this will all lead. I know I’m changing so much already. The way I stand, my breathing, and so I am not so hyper. I can make better decisions with a calmer mind. We are for the most part so disconnected from ourselves and from the proper use of the self, which enters into all arenas of movement. I am very concerned with health and maintaining it. I do not want to stiffen up but remain easy and fluid. And I think to be an artist is to think outside of the box, to think ahead, to be perhaps more aware of the dangers our planet presents to us on a daily basis. This Alexander Technique is what I do to combat that.

ORGANIC FORMS

Robin Rapoport’s sculptures and sculptural furniture display an array of different approaches to organic forms, which could be labeled, as somewhere between Scandinavian and African, they are modern, natural and primitive at the same time.The sculpture and furniture feels animated and living. In some cases it is almost talking to you, and these pieces are shaping the space. The design presence is not too loud, but the pieces make statements and offer alternative points of view to look at the space. A piece of furniture is standing on its own legs, when it is a floor lamp, for instance. And if it is a bookshelf it can even include eyeballs. You might as well know what I mean: When you talk to plants, you talk to trees. And this design is so ’whimsy’ that you might as well talk to it.

When Robin takes on the art of creating a house with her interior design, she likes to enhance the warmth of the interior walls. The walls already have imaginative touch in them. Cardboard covered walls with a touch of asymmetrical designs gives them a hint of geometry, and overall, they have ethereal lightness in them. This meditative approach, which she also calls as an art of ‘dwelling’ continues in the wooden sculptures. The sculptures both gather and form the space around them, and they have their own individualistic character. Robin’s interest to form is fluid. Materials appear with fluidity; they are towards rough or process-like, rather, than simply solid or static structures.

Robin Rapoport, eyeball shelves

THE HUMAN BODY

The Dance Company is close to being like a living sculpture, where human body is constantly taking new shapes and testing the space where it moves. The dancing bodies with sculptural elements on stage together with them, is another Rapoport’s take on the theme. Along with the abstract, animated and organic forms are these narratives, which have several underlying layers. These stories unfold themselves in a course of a fairytale, or as a series of otherwise magical happenings.

Dance, short film, sculpture, and light design evolve from the same source creating narratives without suffocating punctuality. Robin’s events evolve around the form and texture. Sometimes a piece of plexiglass gives an idea to a story that becomes a gesture in the dance performance, or it is part of the furniture created, and the objects found, all made for the home. Home is an evolving space, which is the dwelling. And living one’s home is part of the artistic process. Basically home is living together with art, and art keeps changing, as the interiors get different stories and layers.

Robin has created her home in the woods of Greenwich, CT, together with her husband Edward L. Milstein, who himself is a painter of geometric color. Both share a passion for the arts, design and architecture. These three-colliding elements are coexisting in their home, where exterior is also mixing with the interior. A visitor who comes to their spatial industrial loft-like house and art gallery encounters the presence of the woodland nature. The house is evidently coexisting with its environment, as the landscape is not too worked, but remains the same type of organic fluidity with the rest of the things around. They collaborated with the Robert Young architects to create their ’Art Barn’. In the summer the house has a wire screen wrapped around it which is covered with wisteria, and so becomes a green jewel box in the woods emerging from a winter cinder block form of grey. It is amazing how a ’green screen’ that is like a living skin over most of the surface make the concrete-block look different. The greenery also adds thermal insulation.

LIGHT DESIGNS

As of today, Robin has developed Light Designs. She is creating fixtures that come from the sculptural roots of using wood, copper and paper. Interesting ceiling lamps are the ones like an octopus or simply ‘branchy’ wired designs, which are light weighted structures for the ceiling. Ceiling lamp can contain one long rectangular design that has two branchy-designs attached to it, or it can be a smaller sculptural design having one wire inside them.

{photos:courtesy of robinrapoporthome.com}

I asked Robin few more questions. I wanted to know how living in the woods inspires her. I also asked, where will her designs be in the future, and where will her passion be.

RR: I think there is nothing more beautiful and magical and instructive as Nature and so I stay here, somewhat hidden and enclosed and perhaps somewhat lonely at times as well but this is where my work unfolds. When I travel to New York it is to study the Alexander Technique but then I come home to walk the property where I have lived for 24 years. Every year I add or shift plants and every following year I can take pleasure in watching them bloom. Outside and inside are distinct yet connected, as are we with both an exterior and interior persona? With so much suffering and tragedy in the world I feel blessed to have this place as a personal sanctuary and which makes me acknowledge every day a higher being which I can attribute the beauty all around me to.

I hope my Light Fixtures can add beauty to a room. They are crafted by hand so each is unique. I am happy to personalize them for customers meaning that I could change the paper color and or wood color. How fascinating is it in Nature that a plant on the outside can be a dull grey with spikes and when it blooms the most delicate of leaves and colors emerge. And this color is for our eyes to appreciate like cinema except you can touch it.

My next passion is to have a home furnishing boutique where I would sell my designs for tablecloths and ceramics, as well as have my design services. I love to set the table, and I find very little of interest in the tabletop design right now. So much of what is out there is about simplicity and “whiteness”, but perhaps just too much simplicity. We have lost great craftsmen (women). With the current economy people are afraid to stock inventory that is not trendy. But I am uninspired by what is now trendy. I just find it bland and so will make my own.

***

{ROBIN RAPOPORT’S WEBSITES: Robin Rapoport Home and Robin Rapoport:Dance, Sculpture, Film}

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Robin Rapoport established Headless Horse in 2002 in New York City. The dance company has performed in live show, in festivals and in her short dance films. Her ‘Thief’ appeared in Palm Springs International Film Festival, and in the Jumping Frames Film Festival in Hong Kong.

***

{/More pictures for the Greenwich, CT house are seen at http://ryarch.com/art-barn}

Categories
sustainability

Cultural geography and ‘hiisi’-territoriality…

Cultural geographies can be full of imagination. Finland’s geography shares attributes of ice and snow, whereas some other places are filled with sand and heat. North, cold, south, warm, masculine, feminine, are ideas that we unconsciously relate to our cultural geographies. Then, ‘space’ when attached to cultural geographies is partially ‘virtual’. Interesting is, how our imagination creates space as ‘absolute’, ‘relative’, and ‘relational’ (as David Harvey challenges it).

What I am thinking in relation to my new work-in-progress research project within arts, is a questions of imagination; how do we as cultural beings and citizens of the global world, create meaning from our cultural origins, or from our cultural geographies. My current research is not about Finland, but I like to reflect one particular attribute, which so often defines Finland’s geographical imaginary. That is the forest, and forest has a meaningful and long prehistory in Finland.

Folk traditions in Finland’s territory never considered forest as pure wilderness. From the prehistoric times, people utilized its resources leaving marks on a terrain. Originally, forest metsä in Finnish language did not mean the totality of space where trees are a dominant feature of the landscape, but the term pointed to the sacred. Metsä was an edge where inhabited regions of the people ends. It was a borderline for the everyday social life (tämänpuoleinen) and it was a route to the other world (tuonpuoleinen) (Anttonen 2003, 299-301).

In the thirteenth century, early Baltic-Finnic population covered over 230 local villages in Finland’s territory. An old custom was that ritualized spaces were separated apart from the living areas. Certain trees in metsä had hiisi-inhabitants (hiidenväki) were the dead beings were put to rest at hiisi-sites. These hiisi-inhabitants were the supernatural people of the post-mortal world. When Christianity was brought into the country, the hacking of trees that had hiisi-inhabitants started, and churches were built on those spots. What then happened was, that folklore also converted hiisi –term and its ontological referent to signify ‘Hell’, as a borrowed duality from the Christian theology. The forest started to signify borders between the ‘civilized’ world and the ‘pagan’ world (Anttonen 2003, 299-301).

How does this imagination enter our current ideas of the forest, is intriguing. How do we see the forest, how do we process it, occupy it, harness it, and so on?

Reference: Anttonen, Veikko 2003: “Sacred Sites as Markers of Difference-Exploring Cognitive Foundations of Territoriality”. In Lotte Tarkka (ed.): Dynamics of Tradition. Perspectives on Oral Poetry and Folk Beliefs. (Essays in honour of Anna-Leena Siikala on her 60th Birthday, January 1st 2003). Finnish Literature Society: Helsinki, pp. 291-305.

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design lifestyle sustainability

Feeling good about my environment

I was tuning into Björk’s Joga, looking at videos of Icelandic landscape and thinking about the affective aspects of our environments. Where we grow up, the landscapes that we get used to, has an impact on us. I strongly believe that landscapes shape our emotions and our approaches to different environments.

When I think about some of Björk’s own comments about the environment she grew up in, I feel the same way as she does about the North. We should reconsider the Arctic resources and the Northern environment, and take climate change more seriously. Rapid climate change would be huge threat to our landscapes, and even change our feelings about them. I recently learned about a new book, which speaks about the unspoken sites of the climate change process. “To Cook a Continent. Destructive Extraction and Climate Crisis in Africa” is a book by Nnimmo Bassey.

Bassey writes about Africa, where nature and natural resources have been traditionally considered a blessing. His insight is that by using the nature in a wrong way can turn it into a curse. Bassey accuses global North for taking raw materials from Africa. This also means that when the wealthy economies are consuming fossil fuels, indigenous forests, and commercializing the global agriculture, those economies also destruct their own sense of the good. Our question should be, how to maintain our responsible approach to nature and environment? Perhaps one way is to keep enjoying the nature, and also bring that sense into our designing.

The human aspect in the community development is a central part of the contemporary design of environments. A new and innovative design-thinking considering public spaces is now more focused in the ‘good-feeling’ aspect that can be attached to making the spaces. Adding dimension of ‘feeling good and happy’ recreates the interiors and designs to fit better in our lives, and to serve us better as communities. Design education at its simplest comes with a recognition that people want to feel good, weather they are in their work offices, at home, or visiting serving centers and service points in public spaces.

Also, another important question is, what is my favorite place and environment? And, how do I define the good feeling attached to my favorite environment?  I consider a human component to be the core factor even when it comes to a work environment. Feeling good would come with additional space for interaction, which would bring awareness and a sense of collaboration. My experience of my favorite environment is attached to my own memory of different places, which I have visited in my life. Then, the collective images surrounding places shape my feelings about them. In retrospect, my feelings about different environments is influenced by various representations about them.

In modern design the interiors and exteriors can change my perception of my surroundings quite significantly. How I experience the space, of course, depends of my age, size, and my habitat. I have become nostalgic about the childhood landscapes that my family used to visit. Calling those national parks also my favorite places on this earth makes me rethink how important they are today. Feeling good and remembering the favorite places is one way to respect the future of our environments and the nature.

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lifestyle sustainability world design capital helsinki 2012

Gigantic cake for a cause/light from recycled bottles

What would be more uplifting in the season of the fall with less light approaching us, than to surprise your friends with a gigantic cake to vibrate senses. It is tasting good and creates a visual sculpture with a low cost budget. There is absolutely no reason why not. And it is a great excuse to do some communal action.

Take this example from Helsinki, a parade of huge cake shared with hundreds of people walking in during one night. The cake definitely creates the performance in itself, and there will be lots to discuss around it. It is a terrific site for some new action plans. How about a theme of recycling, or new energy-saving strategies to create light with the Solar Bottles? The solar bottles is one of the smartest innovation to employ already existing material, namely used soda bottles, and hang them down from the hole in the ceiling/roof. This, of course, fits purposefully in the warmer climates, but one could also think of using them in the summerhouse, or while camping. Most importantly, this is a low-cost solution for the energy problem in South East Asia, where villages suffer from electricity cuts, and where the local areas are over-populated with households. (Go Youtube and search for the topic: Plastic soda bottles become light source…)

When you start baking your communal action cake, think about solar bottles, recycling, and new design innovations from existing materials. Get involved in creating light. Light is increasing quality of life, it is fighting against depression, sustaining life, engaging our senses.

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lifestyle sustainability

Sustainable coffee cups

(Artist/educator Outi Länsikunnas enjoys Alice’s Tea Cup)

We are mistaken if we think that we can sustain our ecosystems with the current consumption of paper cups. It is not so false to argue that we are heading towards environmental disaster with all the paper cups and plates. Price in paper has been going up, yet as simple as it sounds, recycled paper did not replace much of the ‘regular’ paper, which is used out there in making the cups. Radical innovations (with real thinking) requires replacing some old ecosystems with new ones. Then, creative economy means that idealistic visions are turned into everyday solutions. The everydayness of innovation comes with solutions to paper cups, for example. Putting high tea back on the menu with grandmother’s vintage porcelain, is an example of creative economy. Do you grab a coffee-cup with you each morning from your corner Starbucks or other coffee company? If your answer is yes, you should reconsider your everyday values. It sounds we all take papercups too easily on-the-go. An evident change would require actions.

A question is, why do not local coffee brands, such as Starbucks, go for alternative cups, a customer could also choose a china when sitting in their premises? Believe or not, Starbucks has initiated real coffee cups in its Asian markets. You can find real china in Hong Kong while enjoying your guilt-free soy latte. That is a right direction, and North American markets should follow.

Think again when your daily ‘design-items’ are white paper cups. One for tea, one for coffee, one for water, one for ice-water…You already noticed that there are too many ‘ones’ on the table. ‘Tea for two’ with real porcelain would now stand for the romantic teatime shared together, and it also reflects sustainable values and global responsibility!