Winner: Saturate the Moment
by Keojin Jin and Juhun Lee
The installation selected for the first Radcliffe Institute Public Art Competition was unveiled on October 28, 2013. Congratulations to Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) students Keojin Jin MDesS '14 and Juhun Lee MDesS '14 for creating the winning design, Saturate the Moment.
The students' inspiration for the interlacing, undulating sculpture and its grass surroundings is the shell of a desert beetle, which collects condensation for the beetle’s survival. The artwork is divided into two planes: one “representing the landscape” and another “representing the moisture, air, and the environment,” said Lee. Jin describes the design as an opportunity to “think more deeply about our environment and how a physical, low-tech object can interact with the energy and the vibrant atmosphere around it.”
That sense of space earned top marks for the project from the competition jury of distinguished Harvard faculty, including Anita Berrizbeitia, a professor of landscape architecture at the GSD. “We chose the project because it has an airy, uplifting spirit to it,” she said. “It is very dynamic in the way it interacts with light and shade.” Chris Reed, another juror who is an associate professor in the practice of landscape architecture at the GSD and a principal at Stoss Landscape Urbanism, said, “The design’s interplay between the highly technical and the ambient, or available, was poetically rich and really captured our imagination.”
The competition’s emphasis on innovation was important to Jin and Lee, who wanted to use unconventional materials—specifically fiberglass reinforced polymer, or FRP—to create installation art. They saw the material as a way to explore the boundaries of art, landscape design, and structural architecture. This fabrication required the technology and techniques of boat builders: Saturate the Moment uses FRP created by Lowell Brothers/Even Keel Marine, Inc., in Yarmouth, Maine.
Saturate the Moment will be on view in the Wallach Garden at Radcliffe Yard through March 2015, when construction will begin on the next winning installation of the Radcliffe Institute Public Art Competition. Guidelines for student submissions for the second cycle of the competition is available on www.radcliffe.harvard.edu/publicart. The deadline to register online to participate in the competition is December 13, 2013.
Proposal statement by Hope Hardesty and Cali Pfaff:
Sixty percent of Americans have lost their night vision. And with it, the stars.
Light pollution is nearly ubiquitous in American cities, turning our once dark skies into a pink haze known to astronomers as sky glow. These muddy skies are incrementally eliminating nightscapes from our view. Europe is estimated to lose the last vestiges of total darkness in the next 20 years. America’s timeline follows close behind. In our collective nightblindness, we turn to modern technology to stargaze, cueing up iPhone star trackers to illuminate what we can no longer see. Stargazing has become a generational divide, something about which "the great generation" waxes nostalgic, like unlocked doors and firm handshakes. The loss is nuanced, complicated. Pragmatically, we have given up nature’s greatest navigational system, used for millennia at sea. And yet, the poetic loss cuts closer to bone: we have lost our way home, our allegory for aspiration, the subject of a hundred thousand poems.
In this project, we seek to memorialize stars lost to urban light pollution. Using a star map from the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard, the location of stars will be cast onto an outdoor pavilion structure under which modern stargazers will congregate. These stars will be made of phosphorescent materials that will add color in the day and luminescence at night. The star canopy will be supported by a forest of pillars, acting as an immersive environment. The decade in which a star was lost will determine its proximity to the viewer. Stars lost most recently will appear closest to the viewer, creating a layered galaxy that highlights the immensity of our loss. Selected stars will be etched with the name, location, and date lost from view.
The Lost Star Matrix ultimately acts as a public meditation. In the summer months, the canopy will act as a sunshade during the day, allowing respite from the heat. In the winter, snow will collect in the canopy, uniting ground and sky. Shadows cast through the mesh will create a secondary lighting condition. At night, the glow of the galaxy will draw in stargazers from the adjacent street. A site map of the matrix will be installed so that visitors can locate specific stars. Posters will be changed out seasonally so that visitors can hunt for season-specific constellations. Through interaction with the Lost Star Matrix, we are able to reconnect with the astronomical world that exists beyond the limit of our eyes. This is a world lost from view but not lost entirely; for this we can thank the stars.
Lost Stars Matrix by Hope Hardesty and Cali Pfaff inspired the light display at the dinner to launch The Radcliffe Campaign. In this image John Huth, the Donner Professor of Science at Harvard and the Codirector of the Radcliffe Institute’s Science Program, explains to guests that the lights above them are arranged to create constellations. Huth, the author of The Lost Art of Finding Our Way (Harvard University Press, 2013), shared his own interest and insights into navigation, and credited Hardesty and Pfaff with inspiring the evening's light display with their public art competition proposal.
Proposal statement by Matthew Scarlett, Mariano Luque, and Pablo Roquero:
Our project for the Radcliffe Institute Public Art Competition has a double program: to challenge passive spectatorship and to dislocate perception. Both ambitions are directly linked to a careful reading of the immediate context of intervention (which is defined by the homogeneity of the surrounding buildings—both in terms of scale and also style—and the alternation of voids) in an attempt to introduce a kind of strange object, an elusive presence which would activate a new system of visual and spatial connections among all components of that particular area of the campus.
The strategy consists of a blurry box which contains a reflective elliptic shape inside, which allows—at least—two interpretations of the object: from the outside, it is an ambiguous entity, a regular shape wrapped up in a non-homogeneous mirror, a mysterious silhouette that looks unclear because of its specific material condition; while from the inside it is a contained, smooth space covered with a polished, shiny surface, which paradoxically seems to expand infinitely, and in all directions, because of the effect produced by its geometry and its tectonic and refective quality.
There is a fundamental difference in terms of the exteriority and the interiority of the object. Depending on the distance from which it is observed, it defines a spectrum of possibilities of visualization, a kind of regime of awareness regarding its physical presence in the place: sometimes it tends to disappear; sometimes it tends to become a singular, self-differentiated component. In that sense, it introduces both a dialectic of integration and segregation in relation to the urban landscape that confines it.
Only after the spectator has noticed that the object is there (and this is a fundamental aspect of the concept since the project involves some kind of effort, a certain predisposition to actually recognize its material presence) can they cross the fuzzy boundary that separates interior from exterior. Standing in the interior space, surrounded by a “deserted” condition (somehow the opposite of the existing setting), they would have the strange impression of being in a totally different context, in an endless, quasi-empty landscape. If the exterior is deceitful, the interior is indeterminate: it accommodates improvisation.
The object oozes a certain alienating dimension, which paradoxically undermines its very objectual nature: from the outside it has an intermittent identity, an occasional, sporadic protagonism, therefore oscillating between a strong physical presence and a vague atmosphere; in the inside, on the contrary, it introduces a kind of augmented reality, an expansive domain which reveals itself as the opposite of its context, dislocating the observer’s sense of location and opening an interstitial space, a different layer of interpretation of the existing condition.
It inverts the qualities of the traditional object, and by doing so, becomes the anti-object.