Leni Schwendinger Light Projects, ltd.

PUBLICATIONS


LIGHTING.COM ARTICLE
An interview with Leni Schwendinger that covers community involvement as a part of lighting and art concepts.

ENLISTING THE PUBLIC IN
LIGHTING PROJECTS



SEVEN ARTS MAGAZINE
(with Mark Kramer) on lighting and theatre
APRIL 1996

BEN'S LIGHTS


PUBLIC ART REVIEW
(with Mark Kramer) - quarterly - about international art issues
MARCH 1996

ON THE EDGE DOWN UNDER


SEVEN ARTS MAGAZINE
APRIL 1996

BEN'S LIGHTS

Byline: LENI SCHWENDINGER AND MARK KRAMER

In our contemporary world of illuminated cities that map the night ever more brightly and monumentally, it is all too easy to forget that just two centuries ago most city dwellers waited for a full moon before daring to wander forth after sundown. The shimmering structures in Philadelphia's nighttime sky are the visual punctuation in a deeper tale of urban lighting that dates back to colonial times. It is a narrative that unfolds on a more human scale--with lighting as a unifying force that connects spaces and buildings with the people who inhabit them.

The principles of beauty, utility and historic preservation that energize Philadelphia's public-lighting scene today are directly traceable to Ben Franklin's role as America's first public-lighting impresario. Franklin's innovative agenda for "enlightening all the City" was a creative response to the "very poorly illuminated" state of the era's streets. Not only did he develop a brighter, longer-burning public lantern, but the 1767 "Bill for Paving the City"--a Franklin-sponsored enhancement to William Penn's original urban design for "a green countrie town--included an "additional provision for lighting" that provided Philadelphia with perhaps the best street-lighting system in the 18th century world.

Today, Philadelphia's progressive public-lighting milieu most resembles that of another history-steeped metropolis, Paris-- where adventurous lighting projects are juxtaposed with the City of Lights' conscientiously preserved architectural backdrop. For instance, a recent plan to illuminate the seven historic River Seine bridges began as a competition in which artists/designers vied for the position of "conceptor"--a lead designer who then develops the winning proposal in partnership with France's national electric company. This kind of artist-generated lighting strategy has increasingly become a part of Philadelphia's cityscape since 1973, when artist Rockne Krebs' laser work Ski-Pi pierced the skies over the Ben Franklin Parkway for three weeks. And in 1979, the Boathouse Row lighting scheme-- originally intended as a temporary spectacle to outline its historic buildings with light reflected upon the Schuylkill --became in Philadelphia Inquirer writer Thomas Hine's words, "one of the city's favorite views of itself."

The flurry of creative light projects currently under way in Philadelphia seems to have its conceptual roots in a 1985 meeting of local leaders with City Representative Diane Semingson that was also the origin of Philadelphia's best-known public-lighting project, Venturi Rauch and Scott Brown's Ben's Light installation on the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. In attendance at this gathering was Penny Balkin-Bach, executive director of the Fairmount Park Art Association, who recalls, "We were really trying to get those involved in the development of the city to be aware of the potential of lighting -- to create a public consciousness in a completely novel way -- with a program about more than just flood lighting that draws attention to a place or decorative lighting to jazz things up."

In counterpoint to Venturi's heroic bridge project, the meeting also yielded the beginnings of "Light Up Philadelphia: A Study of the Potential for Creative Urban Lighting". Conceived as an exploration of public lighting beyond such common uses as light-poles and utilitarian-designed fixtures, this study funded five artists to develop "imaginary" recommendations for sites in Philadelphia. Since there was no intent to actually execute these schemes, there were no restrictions, either.

Among the artists' final proposals were such boundary-breaking, interpretative solutions and meditations on public lighting as Philadelphian Phillips Simkins' conception of the powerhouse near 30th Street Station as a "landlocked lighthouse", Polish-born Krzysztof Wodiezko's use of City Hall as a beacon signaling the community's fortunes and misfortunes, New Yorker Mierle Ukeles' design for City Hall as a source of spiraling lightbeams to Philadelphia's far-flung neighborhoods, San Franciscan David Ireland's plans for neighborhood bonfires and torches to crown the Museum of Art-- and our own Leni Schwendinger's three miles of projected images upon the oil refineries between the airport and Center City.

Certainly the lighting of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge on September 17, 1987 coinciding with the U.S. Constitution's Bicentennial celebration fueled a collective mood of lighting fervor that also included a rapid succession of other major city-lighting initiatives. Among them were lighting schemes for the classical gems 30th Street Station and Frankjor city-lighting initiatives. Among them were lighting schemes for the classical gems 30th Street Station and Franklin Institute both of which were bathed in an understated glow reminiscent of the unofficial Parisian style. Financed by a public-private sponsorship (in which even Philadelphia's school children were invited to sponsor a single light-bulb) that raised $2.4 million, Ben's Light was unveiled amid fireworks and laser displays.

"It's minimalist chic", explains project architect Steven Izenour. "The light on the bridge expresses the essence of a suspension bridge, which is an abstract form--as abstract as you can get. It's basically an arch with cables. There's almost no surface there. Just how much of an image does it take to get this across?"

Developed from a collaboration between Izenour and his father, the noted theatrical designer George Izenour, the computer and sensor technologies driving Ben's Lights transmuted an epic feat of engineering into a performance destined for a permanent run in the public eye. This "ghost-structure" approach to monumental public lighting is also evident in the Venturi-designed Ben Franklin memorial--the tersely steel-outlined homesite on Market between 2nd and 3rd. It is part of an emerging public-art genre--championed by Venturi et al--that seeks to evoke rather than depict, and in which the immaterial elements are as important as the permanent structure. Their startling simplicity is what also makes these works succeed as events as well. In much the same way the "virtual" Franklin "house" seems to float above its original hearthscape, Ben's Light's pulsing blue-phosphorescent glow almost magically interacts with the water below and the traffic on its roadbed, a self-renewing vista of viewpoints--experiences--as unlimited as there are spectators to view them.

The lighted bridge, like a colossal living graphic, emits the decidedly "fun" wavelength for which Robert Venturi and his associates have come to be known as populists-at-heart. "I knew for sure we had created a visible symbol of Philadelphia", confides co-creator Steve Izenour, "when it appeared on the cover of the telephone book for about a year after the bridge was lit up, and then became the sign-off graphic on at least one of the local TV stations."

The populux Ben Franklin Bridge enhancements join the composed hierarchy of lighting that has enveloped Penn's Landing. This structured slice of Delaware River waterfront affords a 360-degree tableau of lighted forms and structures that also includes Venturi's Columbus monument-- a stainless-steel obelisk that propels 2 million footcandles into the night sky--the angular neon Maritime Museum signage, and the scintillant Riverwalk itself. The most recent addition, Walnut St. Bridge, spans I-95 to connect the city visually, as well as physically, to its waterfront. Its combination of Colonial-style brickwork, landscaping and decorative and architectural down-lighting elements typifies an eclecticism which we found throughout Philadelphia's public-lighting designs.

The Walnut Street Bridge also functions as a concrete awning to a street-level arcade serving a bus stop and parking facilities for waterfront visitors. Through deft lighting angles engineered by Philadelphia's Lighting Collaborative, and the graceful solidity of molded concrete pylons, what might otherwise be a forbidding, top-heavy pedestrian underpass becomes instead a welcoming light-infused portal from city to Riverwalk.

Through wall openings spaced along the Walnut Street Bridge it is possible to view, amid the pointillistic surfaces of Center City's skyscrapers, other evidence of the fertile public-lighting milieu that took root in the late 1980s. Richly symbolic is the once-controversial, 60-story 1 Liberty Place--which within two months of the Ben's Light debut redefined the Center City silhouette by rising above the long-standing "gentleman's agreement" that had ceded vertical eminence to William Penn atop City Hall.

Center City is the public-lighting test kitchen where standards of taste and acceptability are continually in flux, and where the imperatives of commerce sometimes create new categories of urban beauty. Picturesque though they might be, the floodlit spires and glowing chevrons that trim 1 Liberty Place's upper reaches belong to an 1980s fascination with the sleek and the flashy. Since the 1920s, the PSFS neon has done double duty as both sign and architectural feature on Philadelphia's lightscape. Along with the 1971-vintage PECO crown lights, these two familiar structures were the elegant examples that inspired a proliferation of glaringly top-hatted buildings in the Eighties.

The PECO sign's history resonates with the innate conservatism that dominated Philadelphia lighting until recent years. Although ZIP-sign technology had existed for about fifty years, PECO moved degree by cautious degree to its present computer-driven scroll format. According to PECO's Mike Wood, "Initially, the crown illumination was a static ribbon of white lights. Five years later, in 1976, red, white and blue colors were added, as well as the message capability to spell out 'Happy Birthday'--in observance of the Bicentennial. This was upgraded in 1992 to computerized scroll capability." Since then, millions of eyes have turned to the PECO display each night as its 2,800 sequenced light bulbs read out civic announcements, energy messages, and the time of day--and shaped the building's skyward edges in an unmistakably sculptural way.

Meanwhile, back at ground level, PECO's public-lighting initiatives reflect its interest in upgrading the quality of Philadelphia's street and pedestrian lighting. A PECO-funded project by the Center City District is exploring how--according to a booklet entitled "Bringing Buildings to Life at Night"-- "lighting techniques can supplement public lighting, enhance security and property values, reassure employees and customers". The booklet further extols "dramatically lit facades" that serve "as beacons that orient people at night and build their confidence, especially if they are unfamiliar with the city." Like business improvement districts (BIDs) nationwide, the Center City district is part of a widespread campaign to revitalize commercial nightlife in downtown neighborhoods. Certainly one of this trend's unifying ideas, a la Paris, is that private initiatives such as brightened display windows, facade lighting and other lighting techniques will culminate in the enhanced sense of sidewalk security widely regarded as a common benefit. One manifestation of these ideas in the Philadelphia cityscape will be a demonstration block along the 1100 block of Walnut Street, intended to serve as a model for Center City to emulate. One urban designer we spoke with suggested that this seemingly pedestrian scheme offers the possibility of unexpected non-commercial opportunities to enliven blank walls, define intersections and "seize corners of blocks" with light.

Center City's transformation through public/private partnership is also under way through the $21 million streetscape improvement underwritten by a recent bond issue. The plan calls for integrated paving, landscaping, lighting and pedestrian signage over a 110-block site between 6th and 20th and Arch and Locust Streets. The inert lighting presently supplied by familiar "cobra-head" pole fixtures primarily lights streets for traffic safety-- and only secondarily to shed ambient light on sidewalks. Explained Pat Pitzer, a designer for Grenald-Waldron Associates--the lighting firm working in concert with the Philadelphia Streets Department, "New, pedestrian-scale lighting poles will be closer together to increase sidewalk lighting coverage and generally make the area more inviting."

New streetscape components, including lighting, will be installed on 900 block of Filbert demonstration block-- an area now lined with sheer walls of concrete and metal facings devoid of character. The demonstration will showcase different construction techniques, materials, paving, signage and landscape, as well as three lighting system options that will test for coverage, brightness and glare. Businesses will have the option of contributing "private" dollars for upgrades such as pavers and planters to individualize their portion of the streetscape. Another creatively oriented CCD program, " Journey of Discovery", reportedly will integrate whimsical, pop-inspired sidewalk corner pavers with inscriptions commemorating such homegrown Philadelphian inventions as Flexible Flyer and Slinky. Reconstruction will be completed in 1997.

Philadelphia's most ambitious urban planning effort of recent years, the Avenue of the Arts cultural district, takes advantage of the city's already beautiful architecture and street layouts to align its creative resources along a single Broad Street axis, South to North from Washington Avenue to City Hall and beyond. A mile-long cast-iron lighting motif --modeled on the 1920s-style fixtures that disappeared from Philadelphia's streets in the 1960s-- will double the number of lights while at the same time uniting the Avenue's fabric of new construction and historic reclamations with a coherent visual identity. Along with decorative sidewalk-paving and landscaping, two major public artworks are under way--one visual, the other sonic.

Soon to frame the Avenue of the Arts entry-way at its now-unremarkable Washington Street corners will be four 41'- foot, stainless-steel vertical "entry torches" being fabricated under the direction of nationally renowned artist Ray King. Created with spectators' moving vantage points in mind, King is using post-industrial resources such as holographic films and a lattice-work of aviation cable to suffuse the towers with floating halos of colored light. These radiant markers will brighten the corners both day and night.

As an auditory counterpoint to the street-lighting scheme, attached to the "antique" poles will be a nearly mile-long computerized carillon by California composer and artist Robert Coburn. Like the Benjamin Franklin Bridge lights, Coburn's creation will have an expressive infrastructure that can be programmed and even "played". The cast-iron, electrically activated bells, networked with a computer control panel at the Academy of Music, will be tuned in a chromatic scale to permit future composers to adapt them to a wide variety of musical styles. Essentially, this will interact with the Avenue of the Arts through a "central nervous system" that will in turn perform as a municipal musical "instrument".

A nighttime venture onto the still-embryonic Avenue of the Arts--much of it a raw construction zone adorned with randomly suspended cables and earth-moving machinery--reveals that there is more at work here than an exercise in nostalgia and real-estate enterprise. Even amid the disrupted landscape, crowds of culture-lovers are already partaking of the areas' many cultural oases. The Philadelphia Arts Bank at South Street and Broad shines with artful and inventive exterior neon and fluorescent statement. It is the first theatre venue to open along this development, and offers the community's first Internet-wired coffee house. Other visibly lively features along this route are Brandywine Workshop's state-of-the-art graphic center at Broad and Bainbridge, and the neon-splashed Clef Club at Broad and Fitzwater, which houses the only organization in the country dedicated solely to jazz music history and instruction.

The PECO-funded neon that defines the Clef's southern wall eloquently attests to Philadelphia's passion for popular culture. Illuminated signage has long been a local nighttime signature, from the immense neon Breyer's logo atop the inactive ice-cream plant along the Schuylkill to the Italian Market district's dueling neon cheese steak joints Geno's and Pat's. Relics of Philadelphia's commercial past and present commingle along South Street's de facto Neon Museum, a brilliant, image-saturated fusion of traditional urban optimism and contemporary nightlife amenities.

Throughout the nightscape that is bracketed between the landmark neon PSFS sign and the PECO zip sign, light is working in ways that animate, reveal and reinterpret the texture of Philadelphia experience. It is a luminous tapestry bridges and skyscrapers, monuments and landmarks, pedestrian districts and riverwalks, filigreed with brilliant signage increasingly that directly emanates from Franklin's fusion of private initiative and public opinion-making on behalf of the common weal. These principles are vividly in evidence as Philadelphia lights its way into the 21st Century.

Leni Schwendinger creates light installations all over the world; Mark Kramer creates journalistic installations all over the country. Together they write an international column for Public Art Review. Their last Seven Arts collaboration was "Beyond Smoke and Mirrors".


PUBLIC ART REVIEW

4 MARCH 1996

ON THE EDGE DOWN UNDER

Byline: Leni Schwendinger & Mark Kramer

The late environmental artificer and theoretician Robert Smithson once referred to a construction site for a new highway--in no less glamorous a municipality than Passaic, New Jersey --as a "zero panorama" that "seemed to contain... all the new construction that would eventually be built. This is the opposite of the romantic ruin, because the buildings don't fall into ruin after they are built, but rather rise into ruin before they're built..."

Public sites in need of artistic intervention have only grown more abundant since Smithson's time. What's more, the challenges they present are inseparable from these interdisciplinary times, when artists and architects are exchanging roles with greater frequency than ever. One development that has blurred the once-sharp distinctions between the two disciplines is that both artists and architects are creating site-specific installations which comment on the context in which they are constructed, excavated or planted. A case in point is the Spring, 1996 art-and-architecture offering of a bi-annual cultural convocation best known for its performing and fine-arts agendas--Australia's Adelaide Festival

For the first time, the Adelaide Festival includes an international contingent of architectural and landscape designers--from Japan, Great Britain, USA and Australia--mandated to create temporary interventions and installations in the landscape surrounding the River Torrens. The Festival's competitive request for proposals, united under the theme Ruins of the Future, was an extra-utilitarian inquiry into Adelaide's historic town plan. Prospective applicants received in-depth analyses and background about the current state of Adelaide as an urban center-- including photos, maps and selected readings from historian Paul Carter's book-length study of Adelaide's founding in 1836 as the first Australian colony with free settlers rather than convicts. Central to Carter's treatise is Adelaide's founder, the polymathic Captain William Light [1786-1839]--a naval officer, explorer, writer, surveyor, illustrator and pioneering town planner who is generally unknown outside Australia and Britain.

Colonel Light's plan for Adelaide as the "ideal" city seems to have simultaneously integrated and departed from the dominant "urban design" issues of his day. At once a fusion of past and future, primitive and refined--Light's Adelaide seems to have fostered a strange alliance of Australian natives and European emigrants, with both populations co-existing in their respective allotments of mud dwellings set amid boulevard-like drives and lush parklands. Light's town plan evokes modernity as we have come to know it today: a proto-metropolis poised between evolution and decay.

Unlike the relatively uniform mappings that underlay early European municipalities, Light's Adelaide was more a "collage" of divergent grids--like tectonic plates--complementing the land's topography rather than negating it.

Colonel Light's legacy, as an essential part of the competition guidelines, was distributed--in a manner befitting the inhabitants of today's gridless Global Village--via the World Wide Web. Entrants were invited to propose "polemical interventions"--designed by "architects working with artists, art directors, composers, cyberneticians, directors, ecologists, fashion designers, interior designers, industrial designers, landscape architects, media workers, stylists, performative artists, and /or writers."

Eighty applicants from around the world responded to the Adelaide Festival's hefty "competition brief". Submissions ranged from lengthy inscribed poetry to in situ computer-screen installations with scrolling stream-of-consciousness texts to geometric earthworks on the land itself.

According to Leon van Schaik, curator and Dean of Environmental Design and Construction at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) , "A goal of the Ruins of the Future program was to reveal the common concerns within creative work of many disciplines. This blurring between practices was promoted at the [London] Architectural Association by Cedric Price and others in the 1960s, and has become increasingly a fact of life for [architectural] practitioners interested in the way things are rather than building as such [our italics]".

The winning works--a veritable catalog of inutility--includes choreographed horticultural installations, red-earth mounds and large-scale shadow theatre. Of the selected projects, Dean van Schaik notes, "While I had envisaged that there would be more entries from people who work in public art, which nudges into urban design and architecture-- the installations all emerged from architectural discourses, although the influence of Smithson and land art is evident. The seven approaches attempt to posit a future constructed out of ways of seeing, ways of measuring and ways of making."

Of the seven, four projects were prize-winners from a field of 80 candidates, and three were invitees.

First Place in the competition was awarded to Jeanne Sillett's Crocus Bulbs. The London-based architect proposed the precision planting of 2.5 million blue crocus bulbs in a pattern corresponding to the surveyor's grid over Adelaide's parklands. In a performative process, the bulbs were delivered and stacked in standard wooden crates--forming an open outdoor room. During the 14 days of the Festival, the bulbs were planted using tractor apparatus guided by satellite technology. In October, thin blue lines will emerge as a perfect lattice pattern, emphasizing the distinct topographical features and distinct figure of Light's City of Adelaide.

Explains Sillett, "Six weeks after flowering, the crocuses may be mowed back into the grass, becoming invisible again until the following spring. Gradually, the forces of nature will dissolve the absolute grid to an enigmatic blue haze."

Other than the perennial crocus blooms, the only permanent marker of Sillett's intervention will be a small plate embedded in the ground indicating the "Setting Out Point". This will appear on maps issued by the local Department of Lands. In contradistinction to the cartographer's "invisible" grids and symbols--which unite and articulate the globe's surface in abstract codes, without capturing any tactile and sensory information--Crocus Bulbs will yield a living, flowering grid.

Second Place was awarded to the Melbourne-based team of Sand Helsel, Kate Ponton, and Michael Leeton, whose atlas is a structural and informational "guide" to the various Ruins of the Future sites and projects. This approach references existing sites as well as the event's overall framework. By means of an installation at the Festival's entry/information kiosk, atlas, according to the artists' statement, "disseminates a descriptive matrix for all the other projects by sampling the character of each site....providing the context for an infinite non-hierarchical overlay....interposing the gentle but insistent accuracy of a series of testings of the place and possible journeys to it."

Architects Eleanor Suess and David Havercroft of Perth, Western Australia, were awarded Third Place for Durer's House, their premeditated contribution to the traditionally unintentional canon of extravagant and useless structures known as "follies". Here, the "folly" genre has been elevated to a conceptual strategy. Durer's House is a unidimensional theatrical flat--the facade of a Colonial-era manse--intended to comment on Adelaide's history as a staging ground for the transplantation of capitalist ideals, evangelist Christian practice, and imperialism from Europe to Australia. These ideas are articulated through the metaphor of introducing private land ownership on an alien site inhabited by an indigenous people. Since Adelaide's European settlers had conceived this riverside property as parkland, the installation is activated by the concept of Albrecht Durer's "viewing frame"-- a kind of European compositional grid that "surveys" and impinges upon the existing landscape. According to architects Suess and Havercroft, "The facade attempts to relay the collective amnesia of the original alienation experience upon colonization."

Winners of Fourth Prize were the Melbourne [Australia] Institute of Technology landscape architects Patricia Hollo, Nano Langenheim, Sarah McCormack and Simeon Shinkfield, whose Distorted Grid Entry also focuses on the asymmetrically skewed grid of Light's original Adelaide city plan. According to the design team's statement, Distorted Grid Entry configures the site as "growth and decay occurring simultaneously' in a series of earthen mounds beginning on the river's edge-- constructed from yellow soil mixed with white cement, ochre-colored oxides and crushed yellow lime to form a rich red/orange color. This newly created, undulant landscape has the appearance of having evolved from the soil. It is visible from a viewing platform across the river, and is accessible for the spectators' walk-through viewing as well. Notes Dr. van Schaik, "The degraded red -earth grid mocks the imported geometries and observational systems of all that has passed before. The landscape fights back."

Ruins of The Future's three invited participants were artist/architect Mark Robbins (USA), architecturally trained artist Rodney Place (USA), and the architectural team Eisaku Ushida and Kathryn Findlay (both of whom practice in Japan).

Mark Robbins' Telltale is best summarized in the artist's own words: "This series of objects marks and records activity on the river's edge, revealing traces of different uses of the site that are often invisible to the casual viewer." Designed to interact with both spectators and environment, Telltale is constructed of four discrete elements.

1) A long straight wooden wall set against a curved eroded embankment: Spectator/participants will leave an article of clothing on hooks at the back of the wall. A bench with a Plexiglas seat and metal reflector is lit from below at low levels. Through this mirroring device, spectators on the other side of the wall can see if the seats are occupied. At the end of the Festival, the wall will be filled to opacity with the various draping of garments.

2) Two pairs of long Roman chaises are set next to each other under a street lamp. They are positioned in a love-seat arrangement. The backrests are configured as storage for towels--which are delivered daily to the site. One holds clean white folded linen; the other is a transparent receptacle for soiled towels. For the duration of the festival the towels can be used day and night by joggers and seekers of anonymous sex-- and then deposited in the collection bin. At the end of the Festival the amassed towels will be picked up by a laundry service.

3) Two Plexiglas cabinets with light in their bases are placed adjacent to the seating area to function as insect traps. Flying insects are attracted to the light at night, creating a sedimentation of dead insects over time.

4) Transparent and translucent plastic shower curtains are suspended inside the sluice-gate arches across the River Torrens. This bridging structure acts like a double proscenium for viewing the city and the parkland. A bank of theatrical lights casts shadows of joggers, cyclists, and strollers moving across the bridge in the evening. Seated spectators will also have their own shadows cast-- silhouettes visible on the scale of a billboard from the lake and the Montifiore Road bridge. Like a Muybridge movement study--the projections pixellate across this "screen" as an ingenuous shadow- play.

Robbins' work investigates both personal and public uses of the parklands--from sport to sex to sightseeing amid the primitive landscape that shrouds these activities. Telltale redefines the secretions and accretions that the site draws forth from its users, human and otherwise. The work is also a commentary on questions of unfettered --and primarily gay--sexuality in the context of public lands. Telltale also addresses contemporary meanings of sexuality by examining such issues as "cruising" and bodily fluids in the context of such exertive activities as jogging and hiking.

Telltale's creator plays upon the origins of the word itself, which refers to recorded information, hearsay and evidence. Says Robbins, "It's a process like divining the dance from the footprints. The city is full of such telltale markings: in the physical remains of graffiti, beer cans, cigarette butts with lipstick, castoff tee-shirts, soiled linen. This installation theatricalizes these small clues as relics, but leaves the story of their origins in question."

Rodney Place's The Lost World of the Pacific--part of a larger ongoing body of work about the Southern Hemisphere--is a floating installation based on the single-class ocean liners that carried immigrants to Australia between World War II and the mid-1960s. As experiential as it is structural artwork, this artwork on the River Torrens is encountered by spectators riding through it on standard park-issue paddleboats--accompanied by a soundtrack appropriated from short-wave radio transmissions broadcast during immigrants' no-frills passages from the "Old World" to their Down Under destination. Explains the artist, "This piece is focused on the surge of confidence which ended about the time of the Vietnam War and commercial-jet travel--when the extended 'white' family agreed to disagree, and then tried very hard to vaporize."

Architects Eisaku Ushida and Kathryn Findlay, internationally renowned for their Gaudi-inspired curved-concrete buildings, have installed a soft, organic approximation of Serra's controversial, monumental Tilted Arc--based on the brush fencing that borders the homes of Adelaide's middle class. Ushida's and Findlay's 1009, Footpath is a sweeping, roof-like form that--with the added element of natural light-- links the Australian bush with the domestic, suburban terrain. Paradoxically, this work engages the grid by being exactly its opposite. According to a joint statement from the designers, "We sought "points of tension" and points of "take off", some place where we could peel the landscape from the surface of the ground to create a shelter with dialogue between the collective notion of shelter and the hosting geomorphology."

Elaborates Dr. van Schaik, "Ushida's and Findlay's 1009, Footpath, is subsumed into a structure that denies the duality of horizontal and vertical and embraces topological mathematics. It is a potent evocation to the post- perspectival surface-space that computer- aided design enables."

The manifold meanings of the urban river site intersect with the multiple self-definitions of those who create large-scale environmental installations. Accordingly, Adelaide is location that requires artists to adapt to their "material", rather than adapting their material to a static notion of artistic praxis. In essence, the site is the material. Adelaide seems to embody a set of polarities that seem as urgent today as when Colonel Light applied his first fragmentary municipal grid in the early 19th Century: colonial / indigenous populations, Old World/New World, public/ private interest, feral/domesticated, geometricism / biomorphism, hope/despair.

It is in Colonel William Light's spirit of polymathic inquiry and action that today's artist/designer/conceptors are invoking The Everyday (Mark Robbins, Ushida/Findlay), The Surveyor's Grid (Sillett, Holo et al), and the implicit questions of the Site-As-Material (Suess/Havercroft, Place).

The 1996 Adelaide Festival has provided a historically charged forum for this radical convergence of expression, research, synthesis and craft

Leni Schwendinger creates environmental sculptures in cities the world over. Mark Kramer creates verbal installations throughout Leni Schwendinger's kitchen. The writers can be reached at Light Projects Ltd. via E-mail: leni@lightprojectsltd.com


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