Poetics of Space
In her 30-year career, international contemporary artistKristin Jones 79 SC has explored concepts of space and time with public art projects that are often enormous in scale. One of her most noted works,Metronome (produced with creative partnerAndrew Ginzel), is a soaring and perpetually running investigation of time – a towering, undulating brick wall with a “steam clock” and LED display in New York City’s Union Square.
Jones is also the founder and artistic director of an ongoing urban renewal effort aimed at the revival of the Tiber River in Rome. CalledEternal Tiber, it includes such pieces asShe Wolves, a series of massive stencils of wolves created by power-washing portions of the travertine walls along the Tiber. The piece, created in 2005, evokes the beast’s enduring place in Roman mythology while employing a method she calls ‘clean graffiti’ – meaning, just as the enormous images were made by cleaning the grime that appears on the walls over time, they will disappear back into the grime of time.
This year Jones has brought her powerful intuition for collaboration in public space to RISD, joining the Architecture faculty to teach the spring semester studioAdvanced Spatial Concepts. Open to students from all majors, the interdisciplinary studio uses buildings in Providence – and the spaces between them – as a creative laboratory to explore light, aura, vibration, memory and metaphor.
“A fundamental sense of wonder at the mystery of the world motivates me to construct contemplative work aimed at magnifying the sense of place and the present,” says Jones, who is currently in the planning stages for two major new collaborative projects that further this notion. The first,Behold, is a 24-hour multimedia art event celebrating New York City’s great trees. The project will begin in Newport, RI, where Jones will invite members of the RISD community to collaborate on a preliminary series of animated projections to celebrate a designated great tree with theNewport Tree Society.
For the second project, X-ing, she is working on a series of preliminary studies for large red X marks that would span the volume of space between buildings. Both projects will underscore Jones’ ongoing interest in “the absolute impermanence of the world to which we belong: the infinite nuances of light, the movement of air, the phenomena of chemistry and physics, the ephemeral nature of time.”
This spring’s Architecture studio stems from students’ own explorations of time – and the passage of time – in their own lives and in public spaces. Each week throughout the semester, students have been producing drawings that show a shift or transformation in time.
This spring Jones has brought renowned Italian composer Walter Branchi, whose music is intended to be listened to outdoors, to campus, along with Ginzel, her longtime collaborator, who has joined the seminar as guest speaker.
“It’s a great experience to be able to return to RISD and be a part of something like this” – a new course that’s responsive to students, Jones says. “I think of the students really more as collaborators rather than the traditional student-teacher dynamic. Student participation really shapes the direction of the class and how it evolves.”
“It’s really about an awareness of the present tense in its fluid form,” Jones says. “Once you start to concentrate on how dynamic a building is – in the light that’s entering it, the shadows it’s projecting – you start to see how alive an apparently static form is. Particularly for an architecture program, I think that’s an important thing to consider, and something I celebrate in my own work.”
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