@ the Harwood Art Center . Albuquerque . New Mexico . Fall 2009 - [Now Under the Forces of Nature]
And...a Thank You, to all that supported the project and a special Thank You, Thank You to our most generous hosts!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

MTRL. Common to the Southwest and commonly considered a nuisance, the tumbleweed holds within it the romantic lure in the isolation and promise of the “American West” and at the same time, the invasive qualities of an unwelcome weed. These contradictory attributes point to an, as yet, unrealized potential for the diaspore, tumbleweed.

Dense≠Diaspore. With the cultural contradictions of the tumbleweed at hand, it is also in contradiction that the project finds its algorithm. Through the Open Space Division of the City of Albuquerque and theHarwood Art Center, the community outreach program of the Escuela del Sol, 200-300 tumbleweeds are “harvested” by volunteers and brought Together in built-form (approximately 900 gross square feet and 450 net square feet interior space). The project posits a number of questions: What form might the community of tumbleweeds take; to what form will the tumbleweed lend itself? What can be made of its hook and hold, its lightness, and its transparency? How does it stack? How does it take to being contained and coupled en masse?

Built-Form. It is proposed that through the investigation of these questions, the tumbleweed will yield architectural and sculptural answers. Through stacking, threading, and if necessary, tying, pinching, and binding, the proposal seeks to materialize space and form with a most delicate, natural material—one that can be inhabited, one that can be empathized with, formalized, and experienced through gestalt. It asks, What are the sculptural and architectural possibilities of the tumbleweed?

Harvest. Through the Harwood Outreach Program of the Escuela del Sol, the project calls on the community and students to harvest over 200 “free range” tumbleweeds from the Open Space Division (over 28,000 acres) of the City of Albuquerque. Each tumbleweed will then be strategically bundled into the sculptural/architectural form on the highly visible front sculpture garden of the Harwood Art Center.This hands-on collaboration brings not only the tumbleweeds together as a sculptural and communal form, but also encourages a public discourse through community engagement in the making, planning, and facilitation of art.

Collaborative Form. A number of architectural details, both bearing and shear, will be proposed, developed, and tested for their structural merit in tying each individual tumbleweed to the next. Using these details, the form will begin to grow into shaded exterior and interior niches and circulation walk-throughs, continuing to develop into an ever-changing, communal, architectural/sculptural form.

Abstraction/Synthesis. The repurposing of a mundane object into Art allows for a reevaluation of one’s everyday experience with that object. By abstracting an object out its context, the object can then be seen with new eyes. Here, the tumbleweed—independent, nomadic, dynamic—is brought together as a “community of nomads” where the individual movements, patterns, and dispositions of following-the-wind now work as a whole, one who’s sum is greater than the sum of the parts. Being as such, the tumbleweed assemblage is analogous to the community of volunteers that make collaborative art possible.

MTRL and Honesty. Architecturally, the logic—and beauty—of a structural system can be measured by the appropriateness of the material and assembly chosen for each tectonic condition: a brick for compression, a cable for tension. Similarly, the aesthetic qualities of the tumbleweed—it lightness, its phenomenal transparency, its color, its botanical architecture— can be realized to its full experiential end. And, it is in this honest treatment of the parts and process of the assembly that give the Assemblage beauty.

Resource. The nostalgic cultural symbolism of the tumbleweed has mostly given way to the pejorative experience of those that must deal with it daily: It is a weed, it is an infestation. But it may also have an unrealized potential: Through the collaborative examination of the logic inherent to its structural form, the project posits that the tumbleweed can seen as a Resource: an inexpensive (free), readily available, unorthodox, lightweight building block. The tumbleweed assemblage rethinks, re-evaluates, and proposes a new Opportunity available in the natural environment.

Gestalt. Through the collaborating partners, the Harwood Outreach Program of the Escuela del Sol and the Open Space Divisionof the City of Albuquerque, the project taps into two of Albuquerque’s well established, but separate, volunteer networks.

Art + Education. The Harwood Outreach Program brings students together with community organizations for educational, art, and cultural programs that benefit and foster the larger Albuquerque arts community.

Environment.Open Space works to acquire and protect the natural character of land designated as major public Open Space in the 1988 revised City of Albuquerque Comprehensive Plan. These lands are managed to conserve natural and archaeological resources and define the edges of the urban environment.”

Graft. Using the volunteer bases and mission statements of both organizations, the project 1) collects and removes unwanted tumbleweed from Open Space’s protected lands and 2) reappropriates the tumbleweed into a collaborative art form.

-from a March 2009 Funding Request