Permanent Art Installations for Grace Farm
Venue : Grace Farms
Organization : Grace Farms
Olafur Eliasson, Teresita Fernandez, Thomas Demand, Beatriz Milhazes
Grace Farms can be described as a unique project, representing beauty and harmony, underpinned by the concept of providing a new public ‘place’, and involving a synergy between the public, nature, architecture and art.
Grace Farms’ natural environment includes wetlands, woodlands and ponds, but it has also been inhabited by man, as is evident by the paddock and stables. The new building designed by SANAA is located right in the middle of Grace Farms. True to its name (the River), the building seems to flow in a gentle curve, down a hill, from a height of 18 meters, offering multiple viewpoints that alter, depending on the perspective of the visitors as they walk. Looking out at the panoramic landscape stretching out in front of the sanctuary, our eyes are drawn to follow the line of the silvery roof glittering in the sun, and this process reveals people inside each of the building’s volumes, engaged in different activities. Indeed, the interaction of nature and people going about their business weaves a single piece of fabric, with art representing one of the “threads” have been incorporated into that fabric.
Art is both an opportunity to share an experience with others, and an opportunity for self-reflection. One of the issues that came up during the conceptual process of this art project was how best to bring together SANAA’s architectural language—conveying the relationship between the exterior and the interior, and subtly joining the boundaries separating the public and the private—with the works on exhibit. A prerequisite in selecting the artists who would be participating in this project was that they relate to the Grace Farms mission, with its emphasis on nature, community, art, justice and faith. The artists’ works would need to embody this concept, and moreover, a creative relationship would need to be established between the works, the building and nature.
The visitor is first welcomed by Beatriz Milhazes’ collage in the ‘welcoming space’ that is the Barn. This collage, which references the richness of Brazilian culture as represented by, for example, carnival decorations and music that are an integral part of the everyday lives of Brazilians, conveys a warm welcome to the Grace Farms mission while providing an entry point to the many public participation programs scheduled as part of the project. The next work that enters the visitor’s view is Olafur Eliasson’s Suspended Rain, located in front of the foyer of the Pavilion. The glass spheres, positioned at different heights and in a way that appears rhythmical, are like individual cosmoses, each reflecting the viewer standing in front of the sphere and the world around him. They "encourage introspection and global thinking, evoking a powerful feeling of connection with our fragile, shared earth.” At night, the tiny LED lights inside the spheres are illuminated, creating another world altogether.
Teresita Fernández’s Double Glass River, which resembles an undulating galaxy, expands horizontally across the curved wall at the end of the Commons. The small glass cubes are mirrored, so that the shining reflection constantly alters depending on where the viewer is standing, which has the effect of the work as a whole appearing completely different from every angle. The resulting sense of fluid motion, of floating in nature, is a clear response to and reflection of the River building.
Beyond this, the Library features the photographic works Farm 56 and Farm 88 by Thomas Demand. The subjects are models of the River building created at the SANAA office during the design process. The works convey the focus of the designers during the process of concept to realization, the multiple possibilities of design, and the role of the model as a communication tool in the SANAA studio. The viewer is able to imagine SANAA’s creative processes and at the same time see, and easily grasp, the overall design of this building.
Going out of the building and walking a little way, the visitor then encounters Susan Philipsz’s sound installation, New Canaan, beside a small pond in the wood. It is inspired by shape notes, a music notation that originated in Connecticut and was designed to facilitate choir singing amongst members of the public with no musical training. The song Parting Friends—selected from an anthology of 19th century songs—has been divided into three parts, while it is the voice of the artist herself that travels across the pond. The melancholic song, the lyrics of which convey the singer’s desire to meet her loved one in Canaan, finds its way into the viewer’s heart. It is a simple song which anyone can sing, and yet is a powerful symbol of human encounters and separation.
"Grace Farm" Yuko Hasegawa