Mass MoCA incubates art in industry
By Charles Bonenti, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Posted: 09/23/2011 12:12:19 AM EDT
NORTH ADAMS — Two new sound and landscape installations opening Saturday at Mass MoCA give shape to a five-acre expansion of the museum complex begun two years ago and to be completed next spring with a dedicated space for the work of noted post-war German artist Anselm Kiefer.
The Speed Way, as the site is called, occupies a wedge of land between the Hoosick River and Route 2, just south of the main museum building. It surrounds and includes the shell of multistory brick boiler plant that served the former Sprague Electric Co.
There this weekend, a new sound piece within the boiler plant by Stephen Vitiello, titled “All Those Vanished Engines,” and an adjacent “industrial garden” designed by Jane Philbrick called “The Expanded Fields,” will join a fantasy space vehicle by Michael Oatman called “All Utopias Fell,” that was suspended on cables next to the boiler plant last year. All three of the works were inspired in different ways by the industrial history of the Mass MoCA site.
A musical dedication of The Speed Way project by bluegrass musican David Mayfield will take place at 5:30 p.m. during the 4 to 6:30 p.m. free public opening for the Vitiello and Philbrick artworks.”
It is the first significant expansion of the Mass MoCA campus “to inhabit the rest of the site” since a building to house a long-term retrospective of the work of the late conceptual artist Sol LeWitt opened in 2008, said Mass MoCA Director Joseph Thompson.
Vitiello’s narrative — inspired by a text commissioned from North Adams science-fiction author Paul Park — re-imagines the boiler plant as a cover for a secret, experimental project exploring the industrial production of sound.
With most of the original interior still intact, Vitiello said “The building is full of beautiful pipes that resemble pieces from a pipe organ, as well as tanks that look fit for a submarine.”
His installation includes 20 sources of sound from multiple locations throughout the building, with lighting designed by theater designer Jeremy Choate.
Philbrick’s “The Expanded Field” is a 1.5-acre series of paths, plantings and sitting areas that take visitors through a previously neglected section of the campus.
The cracks of a decaying parking lot and limited access road will become a meadow of native grasses and wildflowers. Cylinders of dry stacked stone and rammed earth, around which trees and grasses grow, and pocket spaces carved at the base of a stone retaining wall offer places where visitors can eat lunch or relax.
“It is the repurposing of an industrial site,” the artist said.
Philbrick collaborated with the Williams College-based vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth for a multichannel sound installation that will play through speakers embedded in the retaining wall. Brad Wells, director and founder of the vocal group, composed new music for the project, which was recorded during a Roomful of Teeth residency at Mass MoCA in August.
Brian Turton, owner and president of New England Landscape & Aquatics, worked with Philbrick in the execution of the garden.
The space for Kiefer’s work in the shell of a building adjoining the boiler plant is still under construction.