06 October 2006

Solid State

This project got approved by a large and very supportive board of students, faculty and staff at Middlebury on Friday. The working title of the project is Solid State Change. The building in the sketch is the Environmental Studies building at Middlebury College, which used to be a big old clapboard house, but is getting an upgrade. The ES program at Middlebury is the oldest of its kind in the country and has some seriously distinguished scholars, including Bill McKibben, who I think is a charming and insightful writer. I have pasted a little blurb about the concept and process for making this piece below.

In July, I was given a wonderful tour in which Middlebury was framed as a site of hope and change. This pervasive hopefulness was evident in all new building, the spatial relationship between the campus and the larger community, and what Environmental Studies students achieve. And all that hopefulness was connected to the land. The students garden. Relationships between the university and local woodworkers are strengthened because of a mutual understanding of what the forest can yield.

I am inspired by this hopefulness and drive toward change, and want to mirror that hope back to the Environmental Studies community. And I am equally interested in how hope can become blind, and how change becomes fad, and so I left Middlebury with a specific problem to solve:

How does one hope with their eyes wide open? How does one expect impossible things to happen without resorting to magical thinking or magical actions? How does hopeful change become strong and real?

And because the connection to the land is so important here, I looked to Vermont's geology to guide me. In order to think about really impossible things happening in the total absence of magic, scale and time must expand.

It is interesting that there used to be an ocean here, and now there are mountains. And that this mountain-building event, the Taconic Orogeny, left behind a record not just of volcanic activity, which makes rocks molten and therefore makes the movement of rock material easy to comprehend, but of metamorphism, or solid-state change of rock. Heat and pressure turns limestone deposits into hard, crystaline marble, and makes solid rock flow.

Metamorphism is the metaphor that I want to bring back to the discussion of hope, because in order to hope without magic, huge environmental changes must occur even as the built world we have created continues to grow. There is no wiping the slate clean, mentally or physically. I depend on civilization, and so does every other person in this room.

So this sculpture depends on Vermont's long history of metamorphic change, and propels that metaphor into a meditation on the built world. Solid State Change begins with a representation of the sedimentary deposit beneath Middlebury.

My only formal decision is to begin with a representation of that shape beneath us. Then, I will begin to exert pressure on that shape by attaching layer upon layer of recycled material to it. These materials--tires, vinyl siding, old corner bead, smashed copper pipe, molding and clapboard, old extension cords--are ubiquitous and will be chosen based on their ability to behave in a ductile way and resist the elements.

By screwing each layer together, a clamping, squeezing effect occurs, deforming the original representational shape and creating a wavelike pattern of metamorphic change. The finished piece will move in two directions: the calcite shape will be driven to the earth by the weight of metamorphic layering, and the muscular, striated layers will reach up and outward, defying their own weight. The finished sculpture will be sealed in a UV-resistant wax and will stand permanently as a metaphorical, not literal, transformation of material.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Deb,

I'm glad to be the first to congratulate you, and I hope the only remaining hurdles are of the sculptural sort.


06 October, 2006 10:19  
Blogger Calvin Jones said...

On Nov 4th There is and international day of action on climate change.
Events kick of 12pm outside the US embassy in grosvenor square.

For a timetable of the day visit the campaign against climate change website.
For a list of the countries involved so far visit the global climate campaign.

06 October, 2006 13:08  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

Fascinating --

08 October, 2006 21:27  

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