Birds Nest Wakefield
The Bird’s Nest continues the collaboration between installation artist Jan-Erik Andersson and sound artist Shawn Decker. This is a site-specific public work that includes sculptural and sound elements. This particular version of the nest, which has also been shown in Berlin (at the Klosterstrasse Ruine), Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art’s exhibition, “Wireless Experience”, coinciding with ISEA 2004, and at Hyvinkaa, Finland. In this installation, the nest was situated on the grounds of Wakefield’s Public Arts Center, which is housed in an old Orangery, near the center of this suburb of Leeds, in West Yorkshire.
The Bird’s Nest in part explores new ways of developing architecture based on forms found in nature. These forms are combined with kinetic sound works that are likewise derived directly from natural processes. The artists see these acoustic and kinetic elements as functioning within the context of architecture as a kind of ornamentation, broadening of the concept of the “ornament” to include sound and rhythm. In this setting, the birds nest was part of an overall “intervention” on the existing architecture of the Orangery being commissioned by the Public Art center of architect Will Alsop. Andersson, in addition to designing the nest, also designed ornaments for the building addition, in collaboration with Alsop.
Although the Bird’s Nest looks chaotic, it is made of a single, geometric, triangular shaped wooden ”module". The concept of the module has been widely used in modernist architecture, resulting in monotonous buildings with repeated patterns. In the “Bird’s Nest” structure, however, the arrangement of the triangular "modules" in a semi-chaotic manner creates a space which is more organic – and rooted in structures found within natural systems.
Visitors are invited to sit down by tables inside the Nest and experience the transparency of the structure and how it allows the surrounding environment to be a part of the experience, yet held at a distance as well. Visitors to the center, as well as center staff hold regularly scheduled meetings in the nest, and se it as an additional outdoor meeting space to augment their regular meeting rooms.
In the Wakefield nest, piano wires form a transparent roof over the Nest, and use the nest as a sounding board to create rhythmic patterns when the piano wires are struck by small electric motors. The sounds are constantly changing and never repeat, being generated by a computer program modelling patterns and processes directly derived from nature (in particular, from the patterns of local birdsong). As a sounding board, each separate “stick” of the sounding board yields a small amount of sound. Inside the nest, surrounded by these sounds, the listener is cocooned with the sound environment, which is quite audible, whereas outside the environment, where the listener can only be near to a small number of these “sticks” the sounds are quite quiet. In this environment, the interior sounds blend with the environment around the nest, in in an analogous way to the transparent visual effect, the nest also is transparent sonically – mixing its sounds with the outside environement, yet also shielding the listener from them as well.
Andersson’s and Decker’s earlier collaborations involving ways that sounds could function as ornament includes the Gerbera building in Kiipula, Finland, which also involved architect Erkki Pitkäranta. In this building, designed by Pitkäranta and Andersson, Decker’s permanent sound installation brings stylized sounds from the surrounding natural environment into the winter garden of the building, creating an “iconic” or “ornamentalized” contact with the nature immediately outside the doors of the building.
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