During my master studies I wanted to expand further my individual art practice, working in dialogue with materials and sites to working more in relation with people. Seeing these processes as being rather practiced separately from one another, my master project was an experiment in trying to fuse and intertwine these practices, basically by keeping always the same open attitude as a facilitator, a collaborator, and a participant in any dialogue and experience that would come up, and let them influence the process and the outcome. Spending one month in Loitz, (Künstlergut Loitz) in the north-east of Germany, I had the opportunity to live and work with 15 Alanus art students at the same place ( this was a former lodging building for workers, later a summer camp, now an artist center/residency) and to learn from and with each other while developing art projects in this new environment. I could not have hoped for a better opportunity for learning about site-responsive art practice, and about everything that is part of the collective process. My work accomplished during this stay was process-based, time-based, and relational, and included some sort of experimental, ephemeral process-sculpture, installation, as well as actions, and conversations. The process and outcome was very hard to capture in photograph, thus starting to film will be helpful to take the work beyond the lived moment and being able to share it with more people. At least something of the process….
Arriving in Loitz, after having moved several tons of earth to finalize my earth sculpture just before leaving Alfter, I was looking forward to work with the wind or on water. Wishing for something light and airy, rather than grounded. During the first days we visited barns and stables (formerly used for animal farming and agriculture and now mostly empty) and got the permission to use these places for our projects. Some places were more attractive than others, a great place for studying perception, light and atmosphere.
..the fascination of three-dimensional spiderwebs…(made with broken netting for hay-bales):
I was lounging for wind and water, but the first thing I discovered in the town of Loitz were bird nests made of earth. Colonies of swallows were nesting everywhere, under roofs, in barns and in earth piles.
Apparently my research about earth construction had to go on. But these swallow constructions were definitely not heavy and grounded, but airy and delicate. Fascinated by their construction abilities, the materials and shapes of the nests, (built one next to the other), the swallows became the inspiration and the starting point for an expanded research on the self-carrying capacities of earth.
A project-idea for a participatory earth sculpture or installation for the town Loitz was drafted and proposed to the town mayor as well as to the art teacher of the local secondary school, however without creating any interest. As such, I started my research on my own: by replicating the profile of the dune in which the sand swallows were nesting, and by adopting and adapting the constructions methods of the swallows I had observed at the harbour, I started to build an inverted nest structure large enough to allow me to enter and to look out.
but I constructed only for three days, until someone reduced that earth pile (while destroying all the nests) and drove apparently several times over my construction.
When one door closes another one opens… At the same time this project was interrupted, I had met with the director of the local elementary school day care center, who was delighted by the idea to play with the children in mud. In the following days , I started to work with the children on making plans and models for an earth building inspired by swallows nests. Collectively we developed a way to mix earth with water and to build up walls with balls and blobs made with our hands. As my time in Loitz was limited, I could only help this project to get started in the hope that it would be supported and continued with the help of parents and neighbours of the school .
Over the last two and a half weeks in Loitz, I spent my days between doing my own research mornings and evenings, and spending the afternoons with the kids. Parallel to this, mostly on week-ends, I tried to work on making connections to the people living in the area, out of which the shoe-project ( view next blog entry) came into being. In the mean time the project with the children was evolving, I started to built swallow nests in one of the barns. In a way, I just projected/ enlarged the existing nests onto a wall, again working only with my hands and to my size.
On June 13, the sand swallows were back, nesting again in the destroyed earth pile. They were not giving up, a good reason to start myself constructing again. My goal was to build as high and big as the statics, time and circumstances would allow. Every day I continued building, not knowing if the construction would collapse, or again be destroyed, by rain, wind or human force.
On June 16, the nests of the swallows got, again, destroyed. On June 21, my towers had reached a height of 2 m, in the evening it rained and they fell apart. The next day I found traces of a wheels next to them…..
Seeing this as the end of this trial, I started a similar tower project, this time in-doors. By casting earth in a small cup, I produced many parts that I quickly built up into long pillars supported only by two tent-poles and a string wrapped around. Was it possible to built 3m 60 high, 7cm large columns, that would stand self-supported??