Genfortryllelse af byrummet og naturen
- værker af Michael Singer
Udstillingen er skabt af den berømte skulptør, havekunstner og arkitekt Michael Singer, der har skabt skulpturer, havekunst og arkitektur, som er bygget på kunstnerisk forarbejdede økologiske principper. Hans store projekter er udført i et bredt samarbejde med eksperter inden for ”grøn teknologi”, naturbevaring og beslægtede fagområder.
Arkitekten og billedhuggeren Michael Singer (født 1945) er – i både USA og udlandet – blevet meget berømt for sin havekunst, arkitektur, design, byplanlægning og sine skulpturer, som på en original og kunstnerisk overbevisende måde tager økologiske hensyn og dermed har været med til at forbedre miljøet i byrummet og ude i naturen. Han har, som den kendte kunstkritiker Andrew Blum har udtrykt det ”opened new possibilities for public art through developing site-specific sculptures. His pieces have become models for successful urban and ecological renewal.”
Singers projekter nedbryder hverken naturen eller bymiljøet, men tilføjer det nye kvaliteter og forsøger - så vidt muligt - at genoprette steder, som den teknologiske udvikling og miljøforureningen har ødelagt. I store boligkomplekser, hvor der kun er beton, stål og sten har han skabt haveanlæg i ofte stor skala. Haverne er placeret snart inde i bygningerne, snart uden for.
Hans haver kan bedst karakteriseres som “Gardens of Paradise” med slyngplanter, mos, blomster, fugle og skulpturer. Gennem dem skaber han inspirerende og poetiske steder, hvor naturprocesserne kan folde sig frit ud og etablere et grønt paradis i et koldt og anonymt miljø. Han siger selv, at han “took a zone, made it smell, made it wet, and made it grow – and gave life that you don’t get in places like an airport.”
Singer har modtaget mange hæderspriser bl.a. fra The National Endowment for the Arts og fra John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. Også flere af hans store projekter – f.eks. “the master-plan for Troja Island Basin” i Prag - er støttet af de store fonde, i dette tilfælde Rockefeller Foundation, medens andre af hans projekter – bl.a. dem, som han har skabt i Holland – i arkitekturtidsskrifter er blevet fremhævet som “leading examples of aesthetically outstanding regenerative environmentally sustainable projects.”
Udstillingen er bygget specielt til Utzon Centret og inddrager dets egenart og omgivelser, og er kurateret af Michel Singer Studio, arkitekt Malene Abildgaard og dr. phil. Else Marie Bukdahl, tidligere rektor for Det Kgl. Danske Kunstakademis Billedkunstskoler. I forbindelse med udstillingen blev der afholdt et seminar d. 6 og 7. juni 2011, hvor Michael Singer sammen med sin internationalt berømte samarbejdspartner, filosoffen Richard Shusterman fra USA diskuterede udstillingens overordnede temaer sammen med danske arkitekter, forskere og studerende samt laver workshops. Udstillingenfik derved et bredt forsknings- og formidlingsmæssigt perspektiv og kan inspirere til fortsat samarbejde mellem Danmark og Michael Singers og Richard Shustermans store internationale netværk.
Kilde: Else Marie Bukdahl
Udstillingen kunne ses fra den 8. juni - 30. oktober 2011
6.-7. juni i Utzon Center
I forbindelse med Michael Singer udstillingen afholder Utzon Center i samarbejde med Aalborg Universitet en international konference med titlen "NEW ALLIANCES - BODY, NATURE AND SOCIAL RELATIONS".
Se programmet for konferencen her: .pdf (887.7 KB)
Udstillingen er støttet af: OAK Foundation, Aalborg Kommune, Utzon Fonden, Velux Fonden, Aage og Johanne Louis-Hansens Fond, Knud Højgaards Fond, Dreyers Fond og Frimodt-Heineke Fonden.
Amerikansk ambassadør besøger Utzon Center
Den amerikanske ambassadør Laurie S. Fulton benyttede forleden lejligheden til at besøge Utzon Center i Aalborg for at se den amerikanske kunstner og designer Michael Singers fantastisk flotte internationale udstilling, der varer helt frem til den 31. oktober.
Udstillingen har fået en flot international omtale, bl.a. skriver FAPE i Washington:
Largest Comprehensive Exhibit To Date of Michael Singer's Art, Architecture and Public Projects at Denmark's Prestigious Utzon Center June-November
Michael Singer: Re- enchantment of Nature and Urban Space June 7, 2011 – October 31, 2011 Utzon Center, Aarlborg Denmark
On June 7th, 2011 the Utzon Center in Aalborg, Denmark, will open a large and impressive exhibition of sculptures, collages on paper, garden art and architectural projects by the internationally renowned artist and designer Michael Singer. For the past four decades, Singer has made a significant and forceful impact on the art world by addressing the integration of community needs, sustainable building principles, land-use planning, environmental responsibility, and aesthetic design. His work has been instrumental in transforming public art, architecture, landscape and planning projects into successful models for urban and ecological renewal.
The current exhibit, Re- enchantment of Nature and Urban Space, presents an unparalleled opportunity to study the development of Singer’s artistic process – from his art world successes, as seen in his countless exhibitions including his 1984 solo exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, to his new, unexpected role as an artist problem-solving in the public realm. The exhibit showcases five magnificent indoor sculptures, several poetic collages on paper and sixteen large photographic panels of Singer’s private and public gardens, houses, food markets, urban waterfronts and wastes facilities and includes a representation of Singer's work for FAPE. Many of these projects result from the collaborative, interdisciplinary efforts of the Michael Singer Studio team. The team, a multifaceted art, design, and planning studio led by the artist, focuses on four core principles; site specificity, ecological regeneration, craft and detail, and an interdisciplinary team approach. These challenges also permeate the Utzon Center’s mission and wide spectrum of work. Architect Jørn Utzon – famous for his design of the Sydney Opera House – sought responsiveness to what he called “Nature’s Principles of Growth” and the ability to be in contact with the times and the surroundings. The Singer exhibition, Re- enchantment of Nature and Urban Space, fulfills and reflects Jørn Utzon’s principles in an especially significant way.
Weekend Avisen 8.05.11:
The Wizard of Oz
by Lisbeth Bonde
(10.2011 Edited English Translation, Originally published in Danish in Weekend Avisen, Kultur Section 8.05.11
Gardens, houses, power stations and infrastructure, but first and foremost art that relates to nature. The American artist and designer Michael Singer is visiting Denmark. His works enter sensitively into their surroundings, adding beauty to them. They can be experienced at the Utzon Centre in Aalborg.
At the Utzon Center in Aalborg you can see an exhibition of works by the American artist and designer Michael Singer (1945-). You can study a number of his sculptures in stone and wood, works on paper and documentation of his many, very different architectural and urban projects as well as landscape design. His art works insert themselves into their surroundings, responding to place without taking over. They are able to help people feel more comfortable, functioning almost as a parallel universe that makes a subtle transition into the surroundings. The exhibition is on view within the buildings created by Jørn Utzon, and this provides a congenial backdrop for Singer’s sculptures and paper works; the museum is created in the same spirit as Singer’s work. Utzon also worked site-specifically and respected the surrounding’s natural environment. His houses were so sensitive to their surroundings that they gave emphasis to the site’s special spirit - its genius loci - making it more beautiful. And the light flows in. It is an architecture of pure "wellness".
Michael Singer’s artistic production emerges one work leading towards the next, elements carried forward to be transformed, evolving into the new work. His drawings are spontaneous-abstract and express nature’s principles of growth, that is to say, convex, concave and circular forms.
For decades you have, besides your own art, been interested in architecture, infrastructure, land art, design and landscape architecture. You started with architecture in 1987, when you were invited to teach graduate level architecture students at MIT. What was it that happened there?
"My meeting with the young architecture students opened a whole new world for me. If you had asked me the year before if I would ever build a sculpture wall that functioned as a flood protection in an urban site, I would have answered no, never in my life! But the experience of working with MIT and these brilliant students gave me confidence to work with something so new to me, and located in a place completely outside the expected world of art. A prior goal of my art was to help people become more aware of the very special natural places I worked in, using the work of art as an apparatus for understanding. Some of my architecture students came to my studio in Vermont and began to work together with me on projects that involved building design, landscape and planning. They helped me translating professional technical languages so I could understand and talk with planners, economists and engineers about how to design and build a flood wall, the project that became the Grand Rapid Riverwalk in Michigan (1988-93). It was, our first project. They shielded me and fought to have my ideas became reality. I often see architects and designers become overwhelmed by the builders, especially if are left out of changes to their original designs. I have been very fortunate to have people working with me who can represent my design clearly, can convey my concerns to a builder and construction manager; defending me saying ‘Michael Singer will not endorse this or that’, so the builder often has to think things over again. Since the Grand Rapids project we continue to work together as a team and I’m very proud to say that we have gotten our way almost every time. If the builder says something has to change, he has to prove he has some really good reasons for doing so, and then, yes, if he is correct we naturally make the changes. However, if the change turns out to be for the builders convenience or profit and it isn’t a benefit to the project - of course we refuse to accept it. Having these wonderful colleagues present my case and back me up I guess I could viewed like the Wizard of Oz hiding behind the curtains. The advantage of being an independent artist compared to an architect or designer, who is often unable to confront the builder, is that a artist often has a free and independent spirit, and our contracts are usually different. We can say things that other professionals would have a hard time defending and that could result in their getting fired."
What are you doing at the present?
"We are working on about 15 projects in my studio. They are individually very different in both scale and function. The largest in scale and money is about 700 million dollars. It is a power facility that will produce energy from garbage. You have been using this as a renewable energy technology for many years in Europe, but
this will be the first waste to energy power station in the USA to be built in over 25 years, using new technology and strict emissions controls; and it will be built by Palm Beach County in Florida. I was invited to work closely with their engineers in the facility design, site planning and environmental and community interactions. The director of the Solid Waste Authority of the County saw my project for a large recycling facility in Phoenix and other successful infrastructure projects we did, leading him to request that I work on this."
As an artist you are probably a spanner in the works of habitual thinking?
"Yes, you could say so", laughs Michael Singer. "We try to find new solutions all the time. If someone contacts Singer Studio about a problem - we know that they will never get a standard formulaic solution. We start from scratch every single time looking for new opportunities. In your previous question I talked about the biggest project we have ever been in involved with. But we also work on a smaller scale. For example, we have just completed a design for a dentist’s new office in Florida. This ambitious young dentist approached me and asked if we would work with him on how to design a new innovative space for his practice. I told him I knew nothing about dentistry technology, so for that he would need special professionals. However, I would like to be responsible for the aesthetic, how design can promote a feeling of comfort for people like me who are terrified of going to the dentist. They have some instruments that cause pain and we sit locked in the dentist chair. But they also make us better, so they also do good things. I thought: how can I create an atmosphere that can help the patient feel secure, comfortable and well cared for? There is a modest budget, as it usually is with my projects. I like dreaming of having a client who has almost unlimited funds available; a Frank Gehry would have someone like that. However, limited funds challenge creative thinking and I find we have been able to provide very special designs and keep costs down. For the dentist we put our budget into extra windows so that lots of natural light could come in. Further, we opened up the rooms to avoid small spaces that feel like they close in on you. That can create anxiety. We established gardens with fountains between the rooms. There are lots of birds and butterflies there. We also put a window in the ceiling so you can lie in the dentist’s chair and follow the clouds drifting across the sky. You can see tropical plants that are characteristic of Florida thru the large glass openings in the walls. We set up a place for an aviary as well with parakeets and other tropical birds. On the whole we gave the building an aura of peace and harmony that is calming."
The Wizard of Oz by Lisbeth Bonde (10.2011 Edited English Translation, Originally published in Danish in Weekend Avisen, Kultur Section 8.05.11 2
Contemplative Garden and Shelter, Private Client, La Jolla, California, 1990
Ritual Series/ Retellings 1999-2010 Pine, Cast Concrete, Bronze, Copper and Stone dimensions 3.81m x 5.18m x1.52m
The Wizard of Oz by Lisbeth Bonde (10.2011 Edited English Translation, Originally published in Danish in Weekend Avisen, Kultur Section 8.05.11 3
How did your interest in nature begin?
"When I attended Cornell University, which lies fantastically overlooking a large lake with gorges in the northern part of New York State. Growing up in a city and going to this natural area opened my eyes to nature. I even rented a little farm near the university together with some of my fellow students. That’s when I realized that I wouldn’t remain a city person and my sympathies lay with nature."
What does nature give you?
"Oh, God. What a question. Let me see how I can answer that. I thrive best alone. Of course I also enjoy social relationships. I am never bored with nature around me. Nature is so incredibly exciting - sometimes it even seems completely abstract. It gives me energy, whereas I get eternally bored in the city, which I only visit when it can’t be avoided - for example in connection with exhibitions and professional meetings. After three days in the city I start going crazy. Many of my friends are the opposite. They get crazy experiencing the quietness up at my place in Vermont. Nature gives me very strong sensations."
"For 34 years I lived the year round in Vermont and loved the winters, loved cross country skiing over the landscape, sometimes from hut to hut and went to bed when the sun went down. I felt like a hibernating bear. But about 10 years ago my work and projects had me staying in Florida for a winter and that changed everything for me. I felt the warmth on my body and it ended up that I bought a house near the ocean. I live in a special neighborhood with houses from the 1930s, which is old measured in Florida time. It is incredibly beautiful, tropical with tall trees. I have set up a studio not so far from there in the small town. Some of my studio team have moved with me down there. It suits me fine having this double existence where I have the mountains in Vermont and in Florida I enjoy the ocean.."
There is a similarity between some of your architecture work and your sculptures. Can you explain how you work when you have your architect’s hat on and when you have your artist’s hat on?
"It is a similar formal language whether I am working with houses or with sculptures. The Parker Huber house (in Vermont, built 1998-2008, ed.) is a good example echoing sculptures. You can see the similarities but within different scales. There is a direct connection between the two categories of work."
According to Øystein Hjort, whose article from the 80s about your art has now been reprinted in the book that Else Marie Bukdahl has written for the exhibition, your works are directly inspired by Vermont’s nature.
"Yes, in the 1700’s and 1800s Vermont was cultivated by farmers who eventually gave up agriculture there because it was rocky and difficult climate they travelled towards the West when it opened up. In Vermont they built stone walls creating terrace-like structures within the hilly landscape. When the farmers left, the woods grew back and took over the open fields. You can now walk for miles in what feels like wilderness and still see old stone walls and terraces, even old stone house or barn foundations in today’s deep woods. Now there is forest almost everywhere, but nature is still marked by early human activities. It is true that this culture-nature has inspired me a lot."
Many of your buildings have solar cells and let in more daylight than normal. How do you build houses in the name of sustainability?
"That is a long story but let me here focus on one aspect: daylight. It is both better and healthier for us physically than electric light, while contributing to conservation, saving energy by letting natural light into the houses. Living in a 200 year old farmhouse in Vermont one can learn a lot which has been forgotten in modern times. Those farmers knew exactly how you should position the house. In winter, when the sun is low, the sunshine penetrates throughout the entire house from one end to the other giving light and warmth. In summer, when the sun is high in the sky, the house is shaded from the sunlight by exactly the correct roof overhang, which is constructed so that the sun casts a shadow and the indoors stays cool in the summer. We can do things differently and better if we think it over and learn from the past. Current technology of highly insulated glass allows us to construct houses that are nearly transparent. Here in Denmark you are experts in opening up buildings and using glass to capture light."
"In the USA a movement has started, which could be called ‘back to the future’, where we want to learn from what worked well in the past. For example, there are many people who now produce vegetables locally; instead of transporting them half way round the world they can be grown hydroponically with organic fertilizer. These practices are spreading at the moment in the USA. We want to combine today’s technical know-how with the sensibilities of the old days. Young people who, for example, have taken a degree in philosophy or linguistics or business are cultivating their urban kitchen gardens and opening growing centers and urban farms on roof terraces in the cities."
The Wizard of Oz by Lisbeth Bonde (10.2011 Edited English Translation, Originally published in Danish in Weekend Avisen, Kultur Section 8.05.11 4
In the 1960s and 70s Michael Singer together with others, for example the six year older sculptor Richard Serra, broke away from the current dominant minimalism, in which artists such as Carl Andre and Donald Judd championed objective, depersonalized sculpture, which looked as if it had been produced on an assembly line. Serra worked with heavy materials such as lead and iron plates and calculated how they could be held in position with the help of their own weight and the angles that they made leaning up against each other. On the other hand, Singer prioritized the close dialogue with nature, the process, balance and the site-specific. During his education he participated in the American performance-pioneer Allan Kaprow’s (1927-2006) performance Household, which highlighted the surroundings and the moment-in-time’s significance for the work’s genesis, which without a doubt influenced Singer in his further development.
Singer’s Louisiana sculpture, Cloud Hand Ritual Series 80/81, which as far as I know is the only work by this artist in a Danish collection, is more fragile than traditional sculptures, which are put together as a mass of bronze, granite or marble. There is air between the elements and as with poetry, where the reader can move into the creating poetic mind’s universe and participate in a dialogue with it, the viewer can see himself or herself in Singer’s sculptural scenarios. Or, with Øystein Hjort’s words - it was Hjort who together with Louisiana’s founder, Knud W Jensen, brought the work to Louisiana in their time - Cloud Hand Ritual Series 80/81 is "a complex world, but a world where all the elements are placed in harmony with each other. The stone floats, light as a cloud. The beams, in their interaction with the stones, measure dimensions that can or cannot be sustained. Easiest to discern in this structure is a study in balance and equilibrium, a harmony of formal elements and materials - wood and stone - that are otherwise quite alien in nature." Let me continue: a puff of wind or a careless movement by a museum visitor would seem to be sufficient to reduce the sculpture to disorder, yes, to radically change the whole structure, just as happened in real-life’s Haiti last year, when an earthquake left most of the houses in ruins. It weaves together nature and culture, it is a reflection on its own process and elements - wood and stone - and at the same time it is a recreation of a landscape. Let us hope that this work will soon be taken out of storage in Humlebæk. However, before that happens you can take a trip to Aalborg and get a excellent introduction to Singer’s wise and sensitive art and architecture.
Michael Singer was born in 1945 in New York, where he grew up. He was educated at Cornell University in New York state in 1963-67. His solo and group exhibitions fill 6 columns; the start of his international career was a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, NY, in 1984. The exhibition was visited by the founder of the Louisiana collection, Knud W Jensen, who bought the work Cloud Hands Ritual Series 80/81 for the collection. Singer has been honored many times, has been awarded prizes, for example, four times by the National Endowment for the Arts and has received the Boston Society of Architects Award and the Simon Guggenheim Fellowship Award. He has, among other things, taught architecture at MIT, Harvard, Rhode Island School of Design and is now associated with Florida Atlantic University and James Madison University.
Michael Singer: ‘The Re-enchantment of Nature and Urban Space’, Utzon Center, Aalborg, Denmark, until 30 October. From 18 November 2011 until 31 January 2012 the exhibition can be seen in DAC, Center of Danish Architecture, Copenhagen. The title for the exhibition is "Engaging Architecture, Landscape, and Ecological Renewal: The Work of Artist Michael Singer"
Else Marie Bukdahl (authorexhibition initiator and curator): Re-enchantment of Nature and Urban Space, 110 pages, illustrated and published by the Utzon Center. For more information about the exhibition and the book, see www.utzoncenter.dk.
The Wizard of Oz by Lisbeth Bonde (10.2011 Edited English Translation, Originally published in Danish in Weekend Avisen, Kultur Section 8.05.11 5
Concourse C, Denver International Airport
Denver, Colorado, 1994
Alterra Institute for Environmental Research
IBN-DLO Wageningen, Netherlands, 1999
Atria Gardens, becton Dickinson Corporation
Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, 1986
US Embassy, Athens, Greece, 2007
Solid Waste Transfer and recycling Center
Phoenix, Arizona, 1989-1993
J. Parker Huber House
Bratleboro, Vermont, 1998-2008
West Palm Beach Living Docks
West Palm Beach, Florida, 2004-2009
First Gate Ritual Series 10/78 1978
Collection of the Museum of Modern Art
New York City
Ritual Series/ Retellings 1999-2010
Included in the Utzon Center Exhibition
Photography: David Stansbury