Magazine article School Arts

The Nomadic Museum

Magazine article School Arts

The Nomadic Museum

Article excerpt

Extending 672 feet along Pier 54 on the Hudson River, the Nomadic Museum's checkerboard walls contained cargo crates that had traveled all over the world. Inside the museum, the exhibition "Ashes and Snow" documented a different kind of odyssey, artist Gregory Colbert's thirteen-year photographic journey. The photographs, along with a film and novel, are the components of Colbert's installation, "Ashes and Snow," for which the Nomadic Museum, which opened in New York City on March 5, 2005, was created.

The Structure

Architect Shigeru Ban created the temple-like museum by stacking and securing together 148 steel cargo crates. A double row of pillars supported the high ceiling, both pillars and ceiling made from recycled paper. Long translucent curtains sewn from a delicate patchwork of used tea bags hung from the ceiling, swaying gently. White stones covered the ground inside the structure, with a wooden walkway running down the center. On either side, unframed photographs, printed on 9 x 6' sheets of handmade Japanese paper, were wired to the ceiling and to the ground, each lit by a spotlight that outlined its shape on the rocks behind it. The photographs are evocative, sepia-toned scenes of human/animal interaction. At the end of the walkway, a continuously running film showed moving images of the subjects in the photographs, and its atmospheric music filled the space.

The Photographs

A small boy reads a book, facing a kneeling (and listening?) elephant; a crouching girl leans against an elegant, nonchalant cheetah; a woman holding a feather in each hand dances through a mortuary temple as a hawk flies above her head. One especially compelling image shows an elephant swimming on the water's surface above an underwater camera. In most of the photographs, the human subjects' eyes are closed or their faces turned away from the camera, while the animals are alert and sometimes even look out at the viewer. …

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