August 24, 2012

Viewers' Sensorium

Jeanette Hart-Mann and Bill Gilbert
August 24th, 2012

A View South From Roden Crater
Photo: Lea Andersson

The first site/s of inquiry on the 2012 Land Arts of the American West expedition entailed a day spent between investigating Wupatki National Monument and Roden Crater.  In proximity to these built environments, strewn among volcanic accumulations, human habitation, transitional eco-niches, and James Turrell's monumental earthwork, conversations gathered around issues addressing the environment, art, land use, social processes, sensory perceptions, and sustainability.

Wokoki Ruins at Wupatki National Monument
Photo: Bill Gilbert

Wupatki National Monument is a series of "footprints," or architectural structures built within the Sunset Crater region in northeastern Arizona.  These ancestral Puebloan structures have been rebuilt several times over the last one hundred and fifty years in government attempts to hold in time a story of other.

Wupatki Visitor Center, information signage
Photo: Amelia Zaraftis

Students explored the ruins at Wupatki and Wokoki, discovering architecture literally embedded in rock outcrops with shards dispersed over the terrain, and a series of inviting places to sit and sketch.

Eric Cook discovers a small bead on the ground 
and shares it with the group.
Photo: Jeanette Hart-Mann
Eric Cook looks closely at a small bead
Photo: Jeanette Hart-Mann

Land Arts students sketch in the Wupatki community plaza
Photo: Lea Andersson
A circular structure filled with rain runoff, which is thought to have
been one of many things, from ball court to water reservoir
Photo: Bill Gilbert
Amelia Zaraftis and Heike Qualitz working on Safety Complex Series
Photo: Jeanette Hart-Mann

While camping at Sunset Crater National Monument, guest artists, Amelia Zaraftis and Heike Qualitz work on performing and documenting a language puzzle in action, performing semaphore to investigate place.  Both Zaraftis and Qualitz are Field Coordinators with the Field Studies Program of the School of Art, Australian National University, in Canberra, Australia.  This program is very similar to Land Arts of the American West, taking studio arts students into the field to explore the cultural action of art in relation to community and environment.  Land Arts alumni, Blake Gibson, Yoshi Hayashi, Joseph Moguel, and Cedra Wood joined John Reid and Bill Gilbert last summer for a month of travel through New South Wales and South Australia.

Driving towards Roden Crater
Photo: Amelia Zaraftis
Eso Robinson looks at an aerial image of Roden Crater
Photo: Jeff Nibert

At our final destination, Roden Crater, Tom McGrath greeted us with unwavering enthusiasm and generosity.  As a Roden veteran of seventeen years, he has been a key player in the engineering and problem solving of this megalithic earthwork, which James Turrell conceived of in 1974 and has been working on ever since.

Tom McGrath describes the multiple phases of construction,
while showing a model of Roden Crater
Photo: Bill Gilbert
Tom points to every detail and describes the way that architectural form, light,
and space, inform a bodily experience of the multitude of chambers and portals
Photo: Jeanette Hart-Mann

The project is built within a volcanic crater and consists of a series of architectural spaces, which frame celestial events and make space and time for the perceptual investigation of viewers' sensorium in relation to these phenomenon.

Tom talks to Land Arts of the American West Professor, Bill Gilbert
Photo: Jeanette Hart-Mann
Sunset arc observed from the rim of Roden Crater
Photo: Jeanette Hart-Mann

Waiting for the night-rise on the rim of Roden Crater, we observe a bizarre and ethereal play of atmosphere through the accumulated contrast of light and dark, performing a transitional movement of sunset.

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