"We Move Still" at Franconia Sculpture Park
Jordan Rosenow (BFA, University of Minnesota, 2015) and April Martin (MFA, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 2016) were generously willing to talk with me in the middle of their hard-earned, short vacation up North in Grand Marais, Minnesota, before they head back for their opening reception and performance on Thursday. They spoke with me on speakerphone, in spite of having only one bar of reception, about the joys and challenges of their collaboration on this public sculpture and performance project at Franconia Sculpture Park.
Rosenow and Martin met at the ACRE Residency, on a farm in Wisconsin last summer, and immediately noticed the synchronicity in their sensibilities as sculptors. Jordan has been directly incorporating performance and bodily interaction in her sculptural work, while in April’s work the body is physically absent, but visible in traces and gestures.
They met several times in Chicago, where April is based, to discuss their proposal for a residency project at Franconia, which is located in the St. Croix River Valley in Minnesota. Franconia is a unique site for public sculpture because installations there are only required to last for a year. This makes it possible to create large outdoor pieces that remain somewhat ephemeral and permeable to the elements, rather than necessitating work in metal, stone and wood.
Rosenow and Martin were excited about the opportunity to create something on a much more monumental scale than they had ever worked before. They were inspired by the projects of Félix González-Torres, Ann Hamilton and Roni Horn, who use everyday materials in unfamiliar ways. For their giant blue curtains they settled on debris netting fabric, made of knit polyethylene, which is commonly used in the construction of skyscrapers. For the height of the piece, they decided upon 34 feet because that was the upper limit imposed by the logistics of constructing the steel support frame.
The structure is at once massive and surprisingly intimate, with a footprint of only 10x20 feet, similar dimensions to a small performance stage, so that the curtains can still touch in the middle and envelope a spectator who stands between them.
Working on this scale with these materials posed some new challenges for Rosenow and Martin, including sewing the 40-foot curtains with industrial sewing machines and cramming the cumbersome, 50-pound masses of fabric into the back of a car to transport them to the site. The project required a whole new level of coordination and planning, since they were not able to actually see what the piece would look like or how it would behave until the installation was essentially complete.
When the curtains were first unfurled, Rosenow said, she let out a gasp. It wasn’t clear from working with the fabric on the ground how it would interact with light and wind, so they were delighted and relieved to finally see it in all its glory, translucent and shimmering in the sunlight.
The two describe the curtains as a pair of performers, moving together in the breeze – they have only seen them hanging still once, at dawn. The name of the piece, We Move Still, is an invitation to spectators to interact with it – the day after it was installed, they were pleased to come upon a group of high school students practicing a choral piece, standing in the midst of the billowing curtains.
"As soon as we put it out there, it went from being just ours, to being for everybody."