Monday, July 18, 2011

The Singing Ringing Tree

This little beauty looks, at first glance, a lot like Dorothy's twister, oddly misplaced in the English countryside. Not so. It's a sculpture by Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu, one of a few works each year given the National Award for Architectural Excellence by the Royal Institute of British Architects. It's part of a series of Panopticons (structures with a comprehensive vantage point, originally conceived of by Jeremy Bentham as a prison in the 18th century), which I think is vital to the feelings you get from interacting with it. Like a defensible fortress, it's high on a hill. Think Rohan, or Minas Tirith. Lord of the Rings in general (geeking out, I know). But this reminds me of a sentry, or a beacon to be lit by one. Its isolation also gives it that tree-in-the-forest feel. If no one is looking at it, does it exist? Do sheep count? 
Anecdote: When my sister and I were little, we lived for a few years in this house that had a HUGE freezer in the basement. My mom used to put food that wouldn't fit in the upstairs one down there, and one fall, she bought our Thanksgiving turkey ahead of time and stuck it in that old freezer. This was in my pre-vegetarian days. Anyway, I can't remember whether the power went off, or whether the freezer finally gave out and broke, but that fat turkey rotted, a fact which was discovered by my 5-year-old sister as she innocently opened the freezer and was blasted by the odors of Hell. Why is this relevant? Because forever more there was something unsavory about that freezer for Jen, even when the offending poultry was long gone. I'm talking about inanimate objects that have an aura (or in the freezer's case, a smell). Something about them that's eerie, that doesn't sit quite right. Remember Kevin's fear of the furnace in Home Alone? Something like that. Sentience, which I talk about a lot when I'm dealing with art, I think because it's that quality that often catches my attention and makes me interested in a piece. Sentience is the reason I wrote my undergrad thesis on Rothko's Chapel and murals. So even though the Singing Ringing Tree is visually imposing, that's not what makes its magic. As its name suggests, it makes music of a sort, howling like the wind, in the wind.  
I'm not sure whether beautiful is the right word, but it definitely captures me.  I love the idea of sheep on the surrounding hills not understanding this howling metal thing. Perhaps they, like Kevin and his furnace, believe it's a monster, and give it a 3-hill-wide-berth. The wind on the bluff picks up at dawn, perhaps as the beast awakens. 

No comments:

Post a Comment