I sat in and watched the dancers rehearse before I started designing so I could brainstorm on what I wanted to make. I mapped out all my ideas and I came down to two ideas based on availability of time and on Anna's wishes for the piece - a pile of rocks (the cairn), and a stump/tree/perch. In addition to these sculptures, Anna asked me to make a "portal" through which the audiences could enter and exit the space.
I kept in mind the following ideas for these sculptures from my brainstorming:
- Not overpowering the space but rather complimenting it
- Abstract yet suggestive
- Dual use of design - neutral yet changeable to fit the mood - designs that can
be comforting, bare, full of life, dead, and imposing depending on the mood of
- Natural yet clean - do not clutter the space, but it's okay to be a little messy
since it is natural for things to be imperfect
- Interactive pieces - sculptures for the dancers to play on and use, not static.
- How to display these things in space - what do they sit on, how big are
In the end, the portal fit into the door perfectly. I used a 2x4 frame and painted it black then stretched white fabric over it and stapled that to the frame. The fabric was white so we could project an image onto the flat surface, and it was stretchy so people could stretch it open to walk through it. It ended up looking like a vaginal opening leading into a womb - much to Anna's delight as it fit in well with the feminine mood to the piece.
Here's the projector stand I had to build in addition to the portal in order to hang the projector from it to project a movie of the ocean with a full moon reflecting in it.
The tree was bare, and accomplished many of my original ideas for what it had to accomplish. It was somewhat abstract since it was all made out of driftwood, bones, and a single branch, yet still suggested and resembled a tree due to its size. It helped break up the space and created levels - it was tall and skinny in contrast to the short, stout cairn on the opposite side of the space. It was neutral, yet changed according to the mood of the scene and the relation of the dancers and audience to it and the lighting. It looked especially dry and bare and dead during the desert scene because of the bones; it looked menacing during the mountain scene because of the red light on it; and it looked alive and comforting because of its form and the cool blue lighting on it during the rain scene.
The cairn became the mark of the human since it was strategically placed by us, and since it was added to and taken from every night as audiences added rocks to it, and as I took them back at the end of the performance to heat them up and start over again. Not only that, but they were real rocks in the space. We didn't simply create a hollow core then put rocks on the outer surface to make it seem like it was a solid rock pile; it actually was a giant rock pile. The presence of each rock and the process behind acquiring, moving, storing, and placing them (not to mention their origins and how they were created by nature) gave the cairn a lot of character and helped to ground the space.