Engaging Space / Liriodendron

Engaging Space
consists an installation of multiple ranks sheets of semi-transparent plastic of very light weight and thickness. The overall installation which extends to fill the length and width of the Atrium in its configuration defines the space as well as interacts with the environmental conditions and the vicissitudes of light and air currents.

The dimensions and configuration of the individual plastic curtains invite multiple interpretations. They are flag-like, yet in the absence of identifying marking or color they suggest a transcendence of nationalism towards a common unifying human identity. They are like the sails of ships, calling to mind New London’s maritime heritage. The curtains are subject to ambient light and air currents causing them to move, movement that is reminiscent of the motion of water, re-enforcing our relationship to the nearby ocean.

In addition to its sculptural elements Engaging Space incorporates music as well in the form of the music/sound installation created by Joseph Butch Rovan. His piece Liriodendron is both interpretation of and response to the physical space of the atrium. However, this extraordinary sound experiences draws directly from the environment found at the Arboretum of nearby Connecticut College. In fact Liriodendron is also the name of a particular species of tree found there.

The ultimate effect is to focus attention to space and invite reflection upon and appreciation of our relationship to its ubiquitous yet integral presence.

Mark Gerard McKee: www.mckeestudio.com

Liriodendron, an 8-channel interactive sound installationThe Liriodendron Tulipiferis, or “Tulip Tree,” is a species known for its long straight trunk, distinctive foliage, and flowering canopy. The tree is not only beautiful but also functional, having been favored by shipbuilders in the 18th and 19th centuries for its use in the making of ships’ masts.

There is a stand of ancient liriodendron in the Connecticut College arboretum, astonishing for both their height and their graceful elegance. Watching the subtle movement of their high branches reminded me of the gently swaying forms of Mark McKee’s Engaging Space, and so I created this sound piece as a kind of musical response to his work.

All the sounds in this piece, then, come from the arboretum. The right front entry gate on Williams Street features, as a centerpiece, a decorative liriodendron leaf in wrought iron. Striking the gate, and listening through the leaf’s vibrating form, I discovered the gamelan-like resonances featured here, which suggest to me both the lyricism of the tree’s name and its mysterious past.

By walking through the atrium, listeners will be able to “play” this piece as well. Liriodendron reacts to their movement by offering up a series of high rhythmic melodies, like the tree’s high canopy, that rise to the building’s upper reaches.

Joseph Butch Rovan:www.soundidea.org/rovan/index.html

The Atrium, at HARRIS PLACE
165 State Street, New London, Connecticut

Opening Reception:  5:00 – 7:00 PM
Saturday, September 27, 2014
September 27 2014 – March 31, 2015
A temporary multidisciplinary art installation