For years, I’ve admired the work of Maya Lin, the woman who designed the Vietnam Memorial. So much so that I bought a book called Boundaries filled with examples of her work, including “Reading A Garden:”
In her proposal for “Reading a Garden” for the Cleveland Public Library, Lin collaborates with her brother, Tan Lin, an abstract language poet:
“In my work, I have often combined text with sculptural forms, but I have always wanted the integration between sculpture and text to be less a surface applied event than one in which the words and their meaning correspond to the space and one’s movement through it…The sculpture will focus on the idea of reading. As you walk through the garden, words will be placed that will allow for a “reading” of the space.
Words will follow your path through the garden, on the walkways, benches, and walls. Yet unlike a book, the way in which you read the poem is multidirectional.”
Later in her proposal, she explains her purpose. She wants to answer the question: “What happens when sculpture and words can help to shape each other’s meaning–so that words become descriptive of the spaces they inhabit and the spaces are somewhat shaped by the choice of words?”
I think the answer is—magic happens. Watch the falling water as “a child falls asleep…”
For more photos, take a look at: CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY EASTMAN READING GARDEN
But it is the “word map” of the garden that I find particularly intriguing, the language structure provided by her brother.
You must find your own copy of the book to appreciate this poem that became a physical thing. Or wander through the library’s garden the next time you’re in Cleveland. I understand a giant reading nest was recently installed, the process documented at LAND Studio’s Website.
And closer to home, I’ve been finding language sculptures in unexpected places:
The entrance to the Tinkering Studio at the Exploratorium in San Francisco is a testament to materials and how they’re used, a great place to take kids for a little tactile play.
Just down the street from Dogpatch, near the entrance to the UCSF Orthopaedic Institute in San Francisco, sits a word person, clasping knees to chest. I’m thinking it’s a commentary on all the “text” that now “overflows” our lives. Soon we will become nothing but piles of letters, scattered thoughts. OR, it could be a commentary on how words define humanity. You be the interpreter.
My question: Have you run into language in unexpected places in your local landscape?
Oh, and if you’re interested in seeing more of Maya Lin’s exquisite work, take a look at her tonal Website.
Here’s a link to a temporary installation called “Winged Wisdom” from 2010 located in the Presidio, another corner of San Francisco.