Sunday, August 1, 2010

Big Bambu - on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum

That wacky weather in New York the weekend I visited kept the exhibition on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum closed for most of the day because of torrential rains, but when Binnie and I were about to walk out the front door of the Met at five o'clock, Binnie spotted the sunshine outside and asked if the roof had opened. Sure enough, it was open and we decided to delay our progress to the Whitney and take a look at "Big Bambu, You Can't, You Don't and You Won't Stop" by Doug and Mike Starn. (Link to Met site.)

Overview of early construction with Doug and Mike Starn at left (from the Starn website) NOTE: Be sure to click on this picture and others to enlarge them so you can see the detail. The Starns' wide pix especially are hard to see in this small size.

If you watch the video below, you'll see how the Starn twins finish each other's sentences without skipping a beat. Imagine how much more art-making you could achieve with a truly simpatico other half of your being - you could be in two places at once and have twice the creative power! It makes me envious just thinking about it. but surely it can't always be true? Anyway, it's true as far as Big Bambu goes.

Looking up through the forest of poles

Binnie observing (Doesn't this remind you of that Degas painting of Mary Cassatt looking at a painting at a museum? All the Binster needs is an umbrella.)

This is a massive work, ultimately to be 100 feet long x 50 feet wide and 50 feet high, that takes the form of a cresting wave made of 5,000 bamboo poles lashed together with 50 miles of nylon rope. The work combines sculpture, architecture and performance as it continues to be constructed throughout the exhibition period by the Starns and a team of rock climbers. By opening day on April 27th, the construction had reached its 100 feet long x 50 feet wide dimensions, but the height was 30 feet then and will continue to be built up on either end during the course of the exhibition until it reaches about 50 feet high.

Part of the rock-climbing team adding poles to the construction (also from the Starn website)

When you come out onto the roof garden from the elevator, you are surrounded by bamboo poles and it's pretty hard to get an idea of what's going on. The tendency is to walk outward toward the edge and the view of the skyline and then to look back at the structure.

Even when you go as far away from it as possible, you are still not able to get back enough to see the whole structure.

Browning hedges in foreground, exit on middle left with people leaving and to the right of that, a pile of bamboo branches with leaves still attached that are being added as construction continues.

And did I mention that when we went out on the roof from the air-conditioned museum, it was about 98 degrees and 75 percent humidity? That's the reason for the pained look on my face. I don't do heat.

The views of the skyline were really fabulous.

But I think that being in the midst of all the poles, what struck me most were the ropes and the intricate ties that joined the poles together. Apparently each thickness of rope was a different color and the rope had been cut in pre-established lengths so that any extra rope hung down from the ties.

I was really taken with the pathway coming down on the left side of the structure. It had amazing groups of poles that had obviously been put together with great care.

These conjunctions were my favorite part of the installation. As the Starns say in their video, "The interconnections are where all the activity happens and something gets made."

Putting this work more in context
In case you think this kind of construction is unique to the Starns, take a look at some of these sites that show how bamboo is used for scaffolding on building sites in Asia:  (I wasn't able to embed this video but it's pretty cool.)


lisa said...

Great photos!!
Sorry I wasn't there with you

Nancy Natale said...

Thanks, Lisa! I wish you had been there too. Maybe next time!

jeanne said...

Fascinating work, encourages me to risk the heatwave summer and visit NYC, always a stimulating place. Great Pictures.