Siah Armajani’s Bridge Over Tree
Public Art

Siah Armajani’s Bridge Over Tree, Public Art

Nicholas Baum: Siah Armajani is an artist who was born in Iran, came to the U.S. to study philosophy, and became an artist with a great affinity for language, for ideas. Follow This Line is a major retrospective of Siah’s work at The Met Breuer, and it’s a spectacular show that charts his career. He’s taken these very ubiquitous, everyday forms, like a bridge, like a house, and used those as a kind of artistic language that allows us to think differently about what they mean.

When I learned that the Walker Art Center and The Metropolitan Museum of Art were collaborating on a retrospective, I immediately thought that it would be wonderful to take the opportunity to realize one of his public pieces because public art is so central to his entire career. Siah’s work is based on the principle that art should be open and accessible to a general audience. But it also in doing so allows the artist himself to be a citizen, to participate in our democracy.

Cornelia Parker’s PsychoHouse
Contemporary Art

Cornelia Parker’s PsychoHouse, Contemporary Art

Well, when I was offered to make something for this great spot on the roof, I was very daunted because the skyline is so amazing. So I thought I wanted to put something architectural on the roof, kind of incongruous– you know, a domestic house.

Originally it was going to be a red barn, but then I realized quite quickly that red barns are far too big to go on the roof. And then I was looking at Hopper, Edward Hopper paintings, and he painted a house called the “House by the Railroad,” and reading about it, I realized that Hitchcock had based his “Psycho”house on this painting, and I really loved that. Hopper also painted lots of red barns, and so my red barn came back into play again, and I thought, “Well, why don’t I make the house out of the red barn?”

I collaborated with a restoration company who go around America and they take down old barns, and so the roof of this house is made from the corrugated metal from the barn roof, the siding is made, obviously, from the siding of the barn. So this is the barn reconfigured. So I quite like to take the idea of the barn being this quite wholesome thing, this, you know, lovely thing about the landscape and the countryside and politicians like standing in front of red barns because it typifies wholesomeness. And then the “Psycho” house is the opposite, it just All the dark psychological stuff you don’t really want to look at.

I was very inspired to find the original set from “Psycho” was only two flats all propped up from behind, like a stage set would be, and it was filmed from a particular angle, so you only saw the house side-on. I’ve built the house in the same angle, I’ve tipped it into the corner. And then if you go around the back, and you see it’s all propped up, and you realize it’s a facade. But I wanted it to be believable from this angle. So that the roof garden becomes the garden of this house. So I like the idea of the privet hedge around The Met roof, and then hunkering in the corner is this, this sinister house.

So I like the idea that you take things that perhaps seem cliched, but they’re cliched for a reason. They resonate with a huge amount of people, and that’s why they’re the most visited spots. And I somehow think the inverse of the cliche is the most unknown place.

HMS Caroline a floating museum
History

HMS Caroline, a floating museum with a fascinating story

HMS Caroline is the sole survivor from the Battle of Jutland, which was the largest ever naval battle fought in history. It is, as I said, it’s a world-class visitor centre. When visitors step onboard, they really get a chance to experience life at sea, and what that was like for the sailors over 100 years ago. There’s pretty much something for everyone. If you’re really interested in the war and ships, there’s a lot of information that you can glean from that.

It’s not very often that you come to a museum and you’re actually about to step onboard and climb inside the main artefact. Having a ship like Caroline in Belfast allows us to tell a much broader story about our maritime past and our heritage and our culture here. There’s so many stories that we can tell through the interpretation on board and through the experiences. To see it transformed from what it was to what it is now is a massive achievement for everyone involved in the equation.

ParaPivot Alicja Kwade
Contemporary Art

ParaPivot by Alicja Kwade – Contemporary Art Installation

It’s very symbolic to put something on the “hat”, let’s say, atop of all we have achieved in the last thousands and thousands of years. My work actually is about structures. And time is one structure. It’s very basic forms, you have squares and spheres. And the frames stand for human made systems, we build buildings for the development of our reality but also for the development of our society. And I tried to get stones from all over the world—from India, Finland, Italy, China, and I try somehow to meld our planet earth back together. So it’s like looking at yourself from a very strange perspective. They look like planets because they are stones and they are millions and millions of years old, so it is like compressed time. It’s a lot about time and space so I try somehow to look at those both systems and how they interact.

In my studio, you know, we did like a 3-D animation to see how it would appear and interact with the skyline. I was not getting that far to calculate the position of the moon, but of course I was hoping those moments when the two other spheres which are you know guiding us all the day and all the year would appear from time to time. What I’m fascinated about is basic human questions as what reality is, why we are here, and the limitation of our senses which are not allowing us to ever really answer those questions.