Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mike & Doug Starn's Big Bambu Taking Root in Beacon

image via:

On Friday morning I met with George Mansfield at the former Tallix building here in Beacon to take a peek at Mike and Doug Starn's Big Bambu project. Press releases went out recently about the work that's been underway in Beacon since September (I first saw the p.r. on
Big Bambu is a matrix of bamboo stalks lashed together to create a structure that brushes against the 50ft high ceiling and pretty much fills the width of the main hall of the building. Construction began at the western end of the space, proceeding to the east for some length (to about a third of the length of the space?) where the top of the form overtakes the base, acquiring the aspects of the curve of a wave creating an arch as it curls to meet the floor. It will be from this point, when work resumes in the Spring after a Winter hiatus, that the whole bamboo form will begin "walking" or flowing onward. Piece by piece, poles of bamboo will be removed from the point of origin (now the rear) of the structure, and grafted onto the leading edge.
A dozen or so climbers from the Shawangunks are scaling and tying the poles together using their newly learned techniques implemented in
bamboo scaffolding construction throughout Asia.
If you can't squeeze a discernible image from my description, check out the Starns' website. There are images and video of the installation and an animation that will give you a sense of the projected mechanics as this thing goes kinetic.
This thing is massive. The video give a better sense of the structure than the photos, but neither really captures the light organic messiness of the work that it has in person. Images capture the erector set-like geometry of the construction, but the varied widths of the poles and the addition of some with clusters of leaves on them softens the overall appearance. Some of the thinner poles have a bit of an arc to them as their ends bend freely in the voids and on the edge of the form . This is just enough to lend the appearance of being woven and pliable. Chris Burden's actual Erector Set Rockafeller installation from earlier this year was tame and lame compared to this invasive growth.
The cavernous space that surrounds Big Bambu is seeded with some of the artists' other works (ginormous framed photo/collages leaning or hanging at various heights as well banner sized digital prints on a translucent gauzy paper suspended from high up) in a very in situ kind of way created punctuated sight lines throughout. The naturally lit industrial space enhances the living, supple quality of the bamboo.
As I understand it, there's a possibility that the Starns will open up the project for public viewing in the spring.
Seeing this activity in this building serves as a reminder of the enormous amount of space of similarly extraordinary dimension that sits dormant in this city. It's amazing to think of the untapped architectural resources in the collection of factories and industrial buildings that could serve as the foundation for a wave of development and economic and creative activity - and perhaps one or two kick ass bars too.
Monday's NY Times is running an item on the Starns and the South Ferry Subway Terminal in NYC that they've been working on for the past several years.

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