David Boeving reviews Eric Loberer & Barrett Watten BathHouse reading

It’s the first BathHouse review of Winter ’11. This one is courtesy David Boeving:

Eric Loberer began the initial reading for the 2011 EMU Creative Writing department’s BathHouse reading series by providing an extensive portrayal and interpretation of the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge (better known as the John Ashbery bridge) as it relates to the category of site-specific art. The bridge, which exists and thrives in Minneapolis, Minnesota between The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and a piece of land owned by the municipality, acts as a type of performative connection between not only the city and its art community, but also the citizens of the city, those that visit the bridge, and also the traffic passing below it daily. The construction of the bridge, designed by Siah Armajani is consciously reflective of at least two of these connections, if not all. On one side, the bridge is colored a hue of light yellow, on the other, a beautiful blue. This distinction of color seems to relate directly to the divergent sides of the ideological spectrum leading up the bridge itself: the government and the art community. This distinction also seems to be reflected by what can only be referred to as an asymmetric symmetry about the bridge itself. On one side, the support of the bridge arcs down, on the other it arcs up; this relationship creates a type of mirror image that, along with the color differentiation about the structure, separates, yet connects the two opposing yet interconnected sides. John Ashbery’s poem then, which is spread about two flat rails on either side, both leading the poem in separate directions, can be said to do a similar job connecting the art world with the municipality.

Speaking after a short break, Barrett Watten continued along the theme of the night by commenting upon and reading some of his own work that was utilized by Siah Armajani, as well as art’s relation to public space in general. One of the first topics he considered was the work of Robert Smithson, such as the infamous Spiral Jetty, as well as Broken Circle, and other non-site works. He introduced the idea of site specific works, such as the two mentioned above, but also some of Smithson’s non-site works, which include Heap of Language, and other works that have taken an entirely new look at language and art design. Watten’s own work (which was read brilliantly) and analysis seemed to be commenting upon the relation of poetry public space. Essentially, his work, as well as that of other writers whom have been published into public space seems to interact with the environment around it in many ways. It is an influence for the architect or sculptor considering it, and sometimes vice versa. It also, once published, has a powerful relationship to not only the space which it changes drastically, but also the people inhabiting that space. Sometimes this relationship goes unnoticed, but regardless, it is present by comparison to how the space existed prior to be changed by the artist and poet.

In all, both presenters did a wonderful job commenting upon art and public space, and the relationship that they share. The only stipulation that one may have about the evening, would be that the presentations were not indeed long enough. Although it was one of the longer readings/presentations that I had ever attended, it seemed a bit rushed at points. Regardless, the reading was a great success. The evening overall was informative and entertaining, to say the least.