Arnie Zimmerman-Sculptures Tiago Montepegado-Installation: Inner City

By Baas, Fredric | Ceramics Art & Perception, December 2008 | Go to article overview

Arnie Zimmerman-Sculptures Tiago Montepegado-Installation: Inner City


Baas, Fredric, Ceramics Art & Perception


The concept Inner City arose from a collaboration between the artist Arnie Zimmerman and the architect Tiago Montepegado, respectively the master builder and town planner of this metropolis.

The collaboration between Zimmerman and Montepegado that resulted in Inner City involved two creative stages. The first was creating the sculptures in Zimmerman's New York studio, the second centred on designing Montepegado's installation and then combining them as a unit.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Lisbon and Leeuwarden

INNER CITY WAS FIRST EXHIBITED IN LISBON (LISBON Architecture Triennial 2007, Museu da Electricidade) before being brought to Leeuwarden. The arrangement of the sculptures and the resulting interaction with the exhibition space differs between locations. The Electricity Museum in Lisbon is located in a former power station where the generators loom large in this industrial environment. In this location Montepegado decided on a simple yet effective form of presentation: pedestals constructed from blocks of aerated concrete that complemented the brick building and copper machinery.

Of a completely different character, the design of the Tuinzaal (Garden Hall) at the Princessehof suits the main theme of the work itself--an expanding city. This spotless museum hall, another notorious 'white cube', lends itself perfectly to being transfigured, even to being deconstructed. The artists decided to use scaffolding, a common sight on any construction site which, because of its spatial construction, offers almost architectonic possibilities. The objects are arranged in a grid--similar to a map of Zimmerman's living and working place in New York. He also used a grid during his working process, ensuring that none of the objects were thicker than 13 centimetres, resulting in a uniformity redolent of a map of Manhattan. The buildings are placed in parallel or at angles to each other on the 'city blocks'. The contrast between New Yorkers' powerful urge for individuality and the constraints of the city grid that governs their movement through the city is another theme Zimmerman embraces in this concept.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Working class heroes

Both the form and the content of the installation refer to contemporary cities or urban structures. The artists sought to create an environment that provokes questions about individuality, the scale and levels at which life in a city unfolds, and the turbulent and reckless character of the human desire to build. The installation also succeeds in drawing in visitors and repeatedly offers new perspectives and scenes that captivate the attention.

All sorts of things happen in this 'expanding city'. Montepegado tries to impose structure on the city while Zimmerman continues to expand it unrestrainedly. In Montepegado's words: "It is impossible for a designer to plan for a city without limits and this installation can therefore be construed as the physical manifestation of that limit." This unbridled growth, so typical of metropolises today, is an important source of inspiration for Zimmerman. His Inner City is propelled by the artist's creative drive. In a way, the working class heroes, the builders, mirror this creative drive. The kind of work they do appears to confirm this theory. The figures are representations of craftsmanship; machinery is missing. Several of them carry ceramic objects such as pots or stones. In its staging and use of materials this work thus refers to traditional craftsmanship. The use of salt glazes and earthy colours underscore this intention.

Although the construction is being done using manpower, the scale of the activities is anything but modest. The builders swarm through the city like ants in an anthill. And, as with all large projects, miscommunication and other setbacks occur--the city as the Tower of Babel. Perceptive visitors will discover clues indicating that supervision over the workforce is insufficient or even absent.

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