Transmuted Tracings by

2023 Other / Georgia / USA / Built in 2022 /

Maybe I’m just asking you to pay closer attention to the land.

Maya Lin, Boundaries

The research which would inform Transmuted Tracings began during an artist residency in Rabun Gap, Georgia during the Spring of 2021. The residency was pursued during the formation of a new creative partnership, aiming to generate an unconventional place-based approach to the interdisciplinary design work which the studio would undertake. An excerpt from the residency proposal:

“We propose researching and developing methods for understanding a “site”… by referencing Robert Smithson’s theory of “sites” and “nonsites.” His theory focuses “on the interplay of outdoors and indoors, there and here, open and closed, scattered and contained, natural and built.” A site will be selected during the residency, and will be studied and represented using tools both historical, existing, new, and antithetic. We will develop writings, installations, recordings, or other artifacts to represent different site-specific interrogations. We will borrow from our varied disciplines (urban design, landscape architecture, architecture, interior design, art and scholarship) to develop an approach to understanding our “site” and to developing unconventional representations of it.

We anticipate our study to fall in line with what landscape architecture researchers Karen Lutsky and Sean Burkholder call “Curious Methods.” They describe their alternative approach to studying space based on an “open-ended, ground-level exploration.” They argue that relying on methods for “proving glorifies a finite ‘truth’ and shuts down the process of inquiry by which knowledge grows deeper and changes over time.” They offer instead to actively probe, or to question based on experience, as a better method for the study of constantly fluctuating landscapes. They further define “probing” as, “a mode of exploration that informs but does not limit, a creative process that involves asking and enacting questions, and; a non-linear analysis comprised of inquiry, insight, and impression.”

And thus the work began, with the creation of a land boundary at a “site” in Rabun Gap. The boundary was informed by features which implied edges in the landscape– the convergence of a grassy field, sandy path, and a sparkling creek bank. Over the course of several hours spent reading, observing, and gathering materials from the “site,” the abstracted boundary was filled with a grid of survey ribbon, twine and braided yellow mason line (all materials derived from a nearby hardware store). Additionally, the gathered materials were collaged in situ onto cyanotype paper. Following this exercise, the land boundary and collected objects were moved to a different setting where they were cataloged and acted upon within the context of their new “site”.

Whitespace is a contemporary art gallery in Atlanta. The gallery grounds include a Queen Anne Victorian home built in the 1890’s where the gallery owner resides. The main gallery space occupies a renovated carriage house at the back of the property. In addition to the main whitespace gallery, there are two other small experimental exhibition spaces: whitespec (in the cellar of the main residence) and shedspace (a 96 square foot former garden shed). The shed is accessed through a series of gates, steps, gardens and paths. The shed’s rusted metal roof sits deceptively low to the ground, with a row of steel-framed windows below. The interior of the shed steps down to a depressed pea gravel “floor,” which has the effect of beckoning visitors down into the space. Once inside, there is a direct dialogue with the exterior garden and even the sky, through a single square skylight.

At shedspace, the work which began in Rabun Gap is again transmuted. The yellow boundary weaving is re-installed within the shedspace yard, responding to the ground, plants, and objects in its particular landscape. The other collected objects are re-interpreted within shedspace, where a richer and more layered interpretation of sites past and present is enacted. Cyanotype prints created at the original “site” have been digitally collaged into a repeating pattern and risograph-printed onto paper in shades of blue (referencing the color and texture of the original cyanotype paper). The prints are envisioned as a lacey wallcovering depicting trout lilies, found steel, a found thumbtack, and the striped shadow of a wood railing. A photograph of the Rabun Gap site is printed on a vinyl banner placed in one of the shed windows, merging the view of the shedspace yard with the original “site.” The shed interior is accessed through a false forested façade– another photograph from Rabun Gap which is enlarged and printed on vinyl, camouflaging the tiny shed. The installation was installed one year after the initial residency, March19-April 20, 2022.

Location: Atlanta, GA
Design year: 2021-2022
Year Completed: 2022


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