Friday, September 23, 2005

Sculpture in the landscape

Reading New Milestones : sculpture, community and the land published by Common Ground, an environmental charity in the UK. Common Ground's website describes itself as:
...internationally recognised for playing a unique role in the arts and environmental fields, distinguished by the linking of nature with culture, focussing upon the positive investment people can make in their own localities, championing popular democratic involvement, and by inspiring celebration as a starting point for action to improve the quality of our everyday places.
While the website is a bit difficult to handle (the designer is in love with flashing objects), I recommend the book. It's a straightforward documentation of the New Milestones project. For New Milestones, Common Ground matched several sculptors with areas of publicly used land in Dorset in the late 1980s. The sculptors, including Peter Randall-Page and Andy Goldsworthy, created pieces in tune with the landscape, making an effort to include interactions with the community and the history of the land. According to the publication, the underlying goals of New Milestones were (from pg. 75)
  • to enable ordinary people/groups to commission works of art for themselves
  • to create cultural touchstones
  • to release sculpture from the confines of gallery and sculpture park into places where people live, work and play...
  • to create new collaborations between countryside, environmental, art and community organizations
The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail, near Wales, is another example of sculpture in the landscape. It's a bit more on the side of the traditional sculpture garden - though situated in a protected forest. I haven't visited but it sounds beautiful.

From "Forests" on the trail's website:
The question has been how to open visitors' eyes to the hints of history, the sense of awe and magic; above all to the sense of beauty of a living and productive environment. Foresters and natural scientists are perhaps too prosaic, too close to the text books which trained them. Could it be that artists who come with no specialist knowledge would be able to inspire visitors with works of art which are both a direct response to the forest and to the very spot where the work is placed?
Lastly, from a more academic article on public art by Wendy Ross (read it here):
Throughout the Forest of Dean visitors are constantly required to reassess their understanding of art and its role in society. Tradition is literally thrown to the winds. Conventional expectations of site, material, form and function are all challenged. Where in galleries the visitor is aware of prominent `Do not touch' signs, here full participation by the visitor is encouraged, indeed is unavoidable as the artworks assert their presence and that of the forest. Many of the sculptures in the Forest tease the visitor into physical participation. These works simply and quite directly intervene in the environment. They are not intrusive, but present themselves in such a manner as to be inclusive as opposed to exclusive.
I haven't come across an equivalent near the Washington Metro area, though we have our share of sculpture gardens. If anyone knows of a forest site close by, let me know.

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