Traversal

Frogs are known to be bio-indicators or an indicator species; their health can serve as a biological warning sign for the overall health of the environment in which they live. Traversal is an interactive sculpture inspired by several ponds: a forbidden pond of my youth and a pond in my back yard in Virginia. On a summer night, frogs would chirp. In desperation to be close to them, I would grab a flashlight and scramble outside to find them. In this collaboration with Bryan Leister, animated frogs swim, controlled by a sensor and infared light in a flashlight. Several flashlights used simultaneously can cause the frogs to become agitated, creating an environment of empathy for the animations.

 

Traversal_01_Leister_Heavner

molded paper pulp, cheesecloth, glue, ink

exhibition: April 22- May 31, 2014

Walker Fine Art, Denver, Colorado

One Three Dimensional Chair Process

-In the field, I have been designing, constructing and finishing a metal sculpture, a new body of work. The work is collaboration in both concept and form.

An augmented sculpture by Becky Heavner and Bryan Leister. One Three Dimensional Chair is both real and virtual, the steel sculpture and printed pattern is an abstract exploration of form. These patterns trigger an image of a virtual chair on a mobile device or tablet when the iOS or Android application below is installed. When the pattern is recognized by the application, a ‘real’ chair will appear in context to the space and can be interacted with.

Like Kosuth, we question the representation of things. The chair is an object, a description of properties and an instance of the object. In code, the chair is a collection of deconstructed one-dimensional parts as it is in reality. The internal logic of the form is mapped on the form itself. The patterns are tracings by virtual entities or agents who travel around the form, leaving a record of their path. The viewing device uses this record to display a form to the viewer that can be further manipulated and augmented with virtual living beings.


media: steel, iOS, Android, completed 2013

mind the gap

The field of landscape architecture is entering a new era. I think I feel it. Recently, I was in Austin, Texas attending a conference on landscape architecture. At the last minute, I changed my choice and entered a lecture a few minutes late. At the end, when questions were voiced, Anne Whiston Spirn, the third lecturer said, she had never seen research quite like the first two presentations. I too had been captivated by the research. These young voices had made and tested prototypes. If the profession of landscape architecture is not  doing then it is important to make and do yourself.  It was almost as if this conversion with myself  was heard. Anne turned and asked the room of people if they also felt the field was changing. I think I felt it in that room. She asked “are other landscape architects making things like this and borrowing from other fields like industrial design? People agreed, Rhino is now being used and Processing to represent the data. I thought about my own experiments. If something is happening but not verbally acknowledged, it takes longer for change to happen. It was important for this photographer to voice something that some designers know. Yes, landscape architects use Rhino, Grasshopper and Processing. But more importantly, I believe she was saying landscape architects feel the need to  make. Perhaps the field has been slipping into a gap, and now looking for a way out.

Today, I sat and listened to a sermon looking for a relevant message to take to heart. The minister spoke of a gap or void and of lost love. He said the  intensity of love can’t be understood without a gap. It is important not  to try to fill voids, but  know they exist because intensity can’t be felt without them.

Influence

Often we unknowingly influence others by our mere presence, by what we do–or the strength of words. A few days ago, I sat in a university workshop listening to a retired lawyer share ideas about critical discussion. “In the classroom,” he said, “we rarely teach students how to listen. People believe conversation is about sharing this and that. One person says one thing, and then another person says something else.” He explained how he teaches his students to listen, and build upon what is said by first addressing the previous comment. And then, when some sort of conclusion has been made, the students are allowed to move on and change the subject. His words stuck in my mind and I thought of the importance of this statement.

Later I was listening to a neighbor explain a message he has shared for 40 years with his team. His words held power over my attention. He said, “Make a science of what you do, and then make an art of presenting it.” As I marveled in the beauty of this statement and all that it could mean, he explained how he deconstructs conversation into potential options and identifies which options are an opportunity to influence a specific outcome. He asked me, “Whose responsibility is it to make sure ideas are understood? Is it the person telling–or the person listening?” I said it was both. He disagreed and said it was the responsibility of the person telling to make sure ideas are understood in the way they are intended.

 

authentic place

I love to find three articles in  the Sunday New York Times, and juxtapose one against the other. On Sunday December 2, 2012, I found three articles about three people that situated my mind into a particular place. In the Arts section, actor Bill Murray spoke to a writer about his unpremeditated career.  Thinking about who he is-or who he could be in a film he said, “I wouldn’t have cast myself.” Bill Murray and his identity intrigues me. I have been thinking about what it means to be authentic, without external pressures. What does it mean to describe, analyze, synthesize and render an authentic experience in life…in landscape?

I was surprised to learn about Agnes Denes, an artist with “more to say” beyond the confines of a canvas.  An identity might not be contained.  Many people attribute her to be the one to create “the first ecologically conscious earthwork, “Rice/ Tree/Burial, a performance piece that involved planting rice seeds in a field in upstate New York, chaining surrounding trees and burying a time capsule filled with copies of her haiku.” She is a living example of an identity unfolding. She changed her life to wake up each morning, roll out of bed to make art in the space that she lives. As her gallery agent, described, “It’s difficult to get your head around all the things she’s done,” Ms. Tonkonow added. “I do honestly think that’s why she hasn’t been a household name.” Has her identity become unexpected, uncategorized like Murray?

Artist Karen Rosenberg’s work in this section is an unfolding story, a spatial kinetic sculpture with people and movements designed “to rustle a giant piece of fabric.” Set apart from this is “a writer scribbling response.” It is literally a deconstructed story, conceptually occupying space and time so it can be comprehended.This is a  smaller story than the other two and perhaps less important today.

 

Landscape Legacy

As long products and services have existed, advertising media has been a part of the landscape. Apothecary shops selling salves and tonics extended the imagery to the outside of buildings. Here in Denver, traces of painted advertisements are faded reminders marking brick buildings. The companies that survived may have understood truth in advertising and the power of building brand legacy. Landscape architects who work with brands, have a unique challenge of understanding the brand, while serving the legacy of the landscape. Today, advertising is no longer a static concept confined to a mark on a building. It’s strength lies in the thoughtfulness of its social agency and a careful approach to the landscape. The brand and landscape are like two distinctive people. What parts of a brand are true to a place?

Core Beliefs

Flexibility is a good quality for a designer to have. A designer must be willing to crumble up the trace paper and start all over without regret. An open mind is flexible. However, a flexible designer is continually tested in practice. New ideas and suggestions should be auditioned. They are not always worthy of the part.

What is fitting for the experience of place or design? The designer must look to core beliefs and then find flexibility, to test the edge of their limits.

Core Beliefs:

1. State the problem.
2. Conduct primary research.
3. Observe people and the place in situ.
4. How do preferred design situations, factors, forces address the problem?

Robert Adams

Every once in a while an art review propels me into thought. Today, The New York Times referred to photographer Robert Adams as “a prophet in the wilderness of modernity.” His photos are often representations of the carcasses of industrial life. In the review, Ken Johnson described Adam’s use of form and metaphor as “economic and Shaker-like.”

It was the title, a reference to a requiem that really got me to slow down and read the review. A requiem is a musical celebration of a soul, not landscape, right? It is written and played to honor life in it’s final act. Not too long ago, I took in a room of Robert Adam’s photographs at the Denver Art Museum. Among other photographs, I remember an old Cottonwood tree. I saw them and walked away, only to be quickly drawn back. I wanted to take a second more contemplative read of how we see landscape. It is a reflection of ourselves.

“Finding” Design Value in Social Media

Social media sites that track the innovations in technology and practices are a fast-growing network. These sites can be described as ‘finders’ which can also describe the people hired to gather the actual content. They search intensely for inspiration by lurking around creative websites. Creatives are asked sign up and be a part of the design community. In exchange, designers gain connection to the never ending stream of inspirational images. Design creatives might not think about it but these sites watch and lurk. They harvest from the creatives they serve. I am torn about the value of these sites. Recently, I unliked one because an obscure image that I posted showed up for visual consumption on a design website that was my friend. Social media sites inform, connect but unless we are careful in our design processes, social media can play a role in the disservice of design thinking.

As I write this, I am thinking about how to responsibly use media technology in landscape architecture. The appropriateness is a big question in my mind. This morning, one of these websites inspired me to think about material possibilities in a different way. It triggered new thought and possibilites for a project. Searching for moisture sensitive light panels revealed the intense interest cultivated in the last 24 hours among the design harvesting websites. It is everywhere.

I might “like” the various design sites again, or not. I am not sure. In the future, I might think twice before posting a photo, link or something that might be better shared with design friends over drinks. To be aware is more important than to be guarded in design. Being overly guarded closes the door to the potentials of an interesting conversation.