Thursday, December 3, 2009

Inhabiting a Concrete Tower

Inhabiting a Concrete Tower

Following a series of links, I was delighted the other day to come across a video documenting the construction of a remarkable sculpture at the Oliver Ranch north of San Francisco, in Geyersville, California. Ranch owners Stephen and Nancy Oliver commissioned the site-specific sculpture from Ann Hamilton, a 1993 MacArthur Fellow and 2008 recipient of the Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities (among many other honors).

The sculpture, which took 10 years from conception to completion, 3.5 years for construction alone, is an 86-foot-tall cylindrical cast-concrete tower with a reflective pool at its base. It is open to the sky above. Inside are a double helix forming twin staircases, each with 128 steps, that do not meet, and staggered window-seats that also serve as light wells.

Working with Hamilton, the musical artist Meredith Monk created the evocative "Songs of Ascension" to inaugurate the tower's completion. The video offers a glimpse of Monk's company's performance at the tower, which Hamilton describes as "living, immersive art" and a "place of response", where voice inhabits space and space impels what Hamilton calls "the work of making". I found moving and elegiac the performance in the mysterious tower inspired by a 16th Century Italian well.

The video of the tower's construction and first use as a performance space is here.

Another clip of the final minutes of Monk's "Songs of Ascension", performed this year at Brooklyn Academy of Music, is here. Other views are here. An abstract of Alex Ross's article about the "Songs" is here. (Subscribers to the New Yorker have access to the article's complete text.)

In her acceptance speech at the October 21, 2008, Heinz Awards, Hamilton speaks about "the work of making", which "is an act of caring. . . a social act. . . something we do together—and it is reciprocal." Click here to read Hamilton's speech or to view the video of her acceptance speech.

An interview with art collector Stephen Oliver is here.

Additional photos of and commentary on the tower are here and here.

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