ARCH 698 is a catch-all course in our grad program that offers credit-free learning and an excuse to bring the entire program together occasionally for shared lectures, readings, etc. I’m trying to see it as an opportunity, too, to curate a series of experiences that talk about what it means to practice here in the midwest–culturally, socially, ethically.
So, thanks to all-star GA Ben Kruse, today’s experience was a trip to Black’s Heritage Farm, a moderately historic seed production facility that now falls somewhere between use and disuse south of town. My good friend, colleague, and fatabenefratelli (look it up!) Pete Goche has taken over one of the drying buildings–a machine pour le séchage–and turned it into a set of site-specific installations, some done with students, some on his own over the last couple of years. The resonance between the agricultural buildings, the landscape beyond, and the intense sensory play that these installations produce is powerful stuff, and a solid but productively baffling introduction to the links between experience and geography that the midwest can do so well.r
All of Pete’s pieces are captivating, but the one that has generated the most buzz is on the upper floor of the drying building–a modestly arduous climb up a timber ladder required (and, one suspects, carefully incorporated into the experience) leads to a long, skinny, dark space, resonant with agricultural textures, a grainy scent, and, at the end, three inclined white metal panels framed–though not in any traditional way–by a pair of cables. Pete turns off the lights, total blackout sets in, and for four or five minutes nothing happens. And then, as your eyes adjust, something absolutely extraordinary takes place; the roof of the building appears, inverted and reversed, on the sloped screen. “Ghostly” is too substantive a word; if you look too hard at the image, it disappears, and only seems fully there if your gaze is averted elsewhere. More time passes, and the slow march of clouds across the sky takes place in front of you, in real time, in something beyond high definition. It’s a simple principle–camera obscurae have been around for centuries, but the immediacy of the vision, the investment of time required for one’s pupils to adjust, the minor but important trouble of climbing into this space…all of it adds up to a moment that stubbornly resists the pace of everything outside. It resists any form of recording–especially photography–too.
Welcome to the midwest, studenti. Space and time are here in limitless quantities…