Banffire


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The competition proposed a piece of public art to be erected in a specific location in the Banff Center for the Arts campus and to exhibit the project in a show at the Walter Phillips Gallery. This offered a multiplicity of choices as to how to approach the task, since there were at least two projects (one for the competition and another for the exhibition), and the aims of the exhibit could be applied to either or both of them. Of all the possible combinations, we chose to enter the competition with the design of a piece of public art that did not respond to the explicit intent of the invitation leaving this particular task for the installation accompanying the display of the project in the gallery exhibition. it is clear that for us the short life of the (meaning of the) "critical object" belongs to the gallery, while public art should address more complex and subtle issues. Which may result in works that would rise above public ornament, purely programmatic concerns, and strict political motivations. We believe that public art that shocks and antagonizes people, or, worse, art that makes unaware lay people part of a "work of art" that in turn is watched by experts, has had its day, and it has failed. Our aims are those pf producing a piece that may be more related to the subjectivity of a culture, which elicits desires that can be widely shared and produces direct experiences that are unique to the site.

But also and importantly, a piece of public art, in refusing to be a political statement, does so not just by distancing itself from an avant-garde position (to shock the public) but also from a populist one as well (to give 'em what they want). Our proposal is neither critical/deconstructive nor patronizing, it is about creating an object of cultural and aesthetic appealand making explicit our consciousness of its real social and historical possibilities. The proposed piece is based purely on issues emerging from the site: landscape - the cliff, the forest, the mountains beyond; fauna - the elk, who reign sovereign and sacred in the area. weather - the cold, the snow, and local mores - paranoia of (and fascination with) fire. It consists of a stone fire pit at the border of the cliff in front of Donald Cameron hall, marked by a metal sculpture representing the skull of a colossal elk, which is silhouetted against the imposing mountains. It is a communal gathering spot in one of the most used areas of the campus (between the cafeteria, dormitories, and administration buildings). It attempts to create a strong emotional communal experience for guests, students, faculty, etc. of the Banff Center for the Arts, as they gather around a confire in the coldest nights of the Canadian winter. Such experience is heighthened by the attraction and the fear that fire produces in the context of the Banff National Park.at are unique to the site.

Year: 1992
Client:
N/A
Location:
Banff, Canada

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