Aluminum, steel, glass, and architecture
Two forms: 191 x 124 x 34 and 156 x 124 x 34 inches

Commission, Landmarks, The University of Texas at Austin, 2022

Location: Peyton Yates Family Bridge at the Gary L Thomas Energy Engineering Building
GPS: 30.287883, -97.735634

This work is temporarily off view for conservation.

A portion of Sarah Oppenheimer’s C-010106 is temporarily off view as it undergoes repairs and conservation.

New York–based artist Sarah Oppenheimer creates works of art that alter the built environment and shift our frame of spatial reference. Pushing the boundaries between sculpture and architecture, Oppenheimer questions the limits of both mediums, upending our experience of inside and out, and inverting our sense of what is near and far. By reorienting the spaces we inhabit, the artist sets out to reconfigure the way we see and are seen.

With an MFA in painting from Yale University, Oppenheimer operates within the disciplines of mechanical, structural, and behavioral engineering. The artist’s relationship to these fields makes C-010106 ideally situated between two buildings at the Cockrell School of Engineering.

At opposite ends of the footbridge, a pair of diagonal reflective glass plates are sandwiched between a pair of clear glass sheets. At the intersection of the four panes, the glass passes through an incision in the bridge surface. The reflective surfaces within the incision create unexpected views, enabling pedestrians on top of the bridge to see the reflections of those underneath, and vice versa.

A bridge serves as a connector between spaces and people by making travel from one building to another more efficient and direct. By placing glass forms on the north/south and east/west axes of this bridge, Oppenheimer creates a “switch” that interrupts the normal flow of traffic and habitual ways of movement. This alteration invites us to embrace observation and encourages unexpected social interactions. As a result, C-010106 introduces new relationships between people and heightens awareness of the shifting light, sound, and seasons that surround us.

Oppenheimer names each work of art using a system that describes the relationships between the art and its surroundings. The title C-010106 begins with C as shorthand for cinema, which the artist defines as the way an image is perceived as a projection on a flat surface. The remaining numbers indicate additional characteristics such as position, sight lines, and boundaries. For a detailed breakdown of the system, click the tab “Naming C-010106“ below.

ACTIVITY GUIDES

A black and white version of Sarah Oppenheimer's "C-010106"

C-010106

2022

Sarah Oppenheimer

American, born 1972

Subject: Reflections

Activity: Double reflection life drawing

Materials: Two mirrors (that can stand on their own, or be propped up), 8.5 x 11 cardstock/paper, pencils or varying hardness, colored pencils (Optional: tracing paper, markers, glue stick, phone camera)

Vocabulary: Apparatus, architecture, axis, pedestrian, reflection, transparency

Introduction

Sarah Oppenheimer is an artist who blurs the boundaries of sculpture and architecture. C-010106 consists of precise forms that alter the environment and shift our frame of spatial reference.

At opposite ends of the footbridge, a pair of diagonal reflective glass plates are sandwiched between a pair of clear glass sheets. The glass acts as a mirror and gateway, allowing those walking on top of the bridge to see those walking beneath, and vice versa. By placing one glass form on a north/south axis, and a second on an east/west axis, Oppenheimer creates a “switch” that interrupts the normal flow of traffic on the bridge. This interruption encourages new relationships between people and a heightened awareness of the shifting light, sound, and seasons that surround us.

Oppenheimer uses the word “apparatus” to describe the forms that comprise C-010106. An apparatus is part of a larger system that typically has a specific purpose. While the works are designed to create the opportunity for infinite possibilities, the creative process includes many controls. While the artwork appears minimal and sleek, the design process was extremely complex, involving a team of architects and engineers working alongside the artist.

Questions

Looking into the structure, what do you see that is unexpected?

How does this art reorient your relationship with space? How does it interact with the surrounding environment?

How is the orientation of the glass important to human interaction?

Activity

Set up two mirrors to create a double reflection. To do so, arrange the mirrors so they face each other, but slightly angled. It may take some practice, but try to align the mirrors so you can see the reflection of the second mirror in the first mirror.

Play with this until you find a reflection you want to draw on your paper. Can you arrange the mirrors to create an image that is unexpected?

Optional: You can also add a second layer, or reflection, to your drawing. On a piece of paper with pencil, sketch a photo you took of yourself in the reflection of the art, including the surrounding nature, buildings, etc. Place a sheet of tracing paper on top and trace your final drawing in marker.

To combine your two drawings, use a glue stick to lightly glue the edges of your colored drawing, sticking the tracing paper on top.

BTW

The glass is held in place in the bridge with a steel embedment. Rather than being directly built into the pedestrian bridge, the steel embedment allows the bridge to move without shattering the delicate glass. Bridges can naturally move very slightly during strong winds and harsh weather.

Look again

While the sculpture itself is minimal, the construction of this project was very complicated. What are some obstacles you think Oppenheimer, architects, and engineers faced?

How does your view change being on top of the bridge vs. being on the bottom? Do you prefer one or another? Why?

Vocabulary

Apparatus ‒ A complex structure within an organization or system.

Architecture ‒ The art or practice of designing and constructing buildings.

Axis ‒ A straight line about which a body or a geometric figure rotates or may be supposed to ro- tate, a reference line for measuring coordinates on a coordinate plane.

Pedestrian ‒ A person walking along a road or in a developed area.

Reflection ‒ The return of light or sound waves from a surface that create an exact image, similar to a mirror. A reflector is something that makes a reflection.

Transparency ‒ Having the property of transmitting rays of light through its substance so that bodies situated beyond or behind can be distinctly seen, admitting the passage of light through an object.

A black and white version of Sarah Oppenheimer's "C-010106"

C-010106

2022

Sarah Oppenheimer

American, born 1972

Subject: Compound Images

Activity: Transparent Portrait and Landscape

Materials: 8.5 x 11 cardstock, tracing paper, markers, pencil, glue stick, phone camera (optional)

Vocabulary: Architecture, diagonal, pedestrian, reflection, transparency

Introduction

Sarah Oppenheimer is an artist that blurs the boundaries between sculpture and architecture. Many of the artist’s works are made in a way that change what we typically see in the environment around us.

Glass is the primary medium of the two structures that make up C-010106. Placed at opposite ends of the footbridge, the forms feature a pair of diagonal reflective glass plates sandwiched between a pair of clear glass sheets.

A bridge is a connector between spaces. The glass sheets within Oppenheimer’s forms act like mirrors, allowing people walking on the bridge to see those below them, and vice versa. The work encourages new relationships between people who would usually be separated by the bridge.

Questions

What surprises you about this artwork?

How does your view change being on top of the bridge compared to the bottom?

Is the orientation of the glass important?

How does this art fit within the surrounding space? Pay attention to both buildings and surrounding nature.

Activity

Take a walk around the art, taking different views from below and above the bridge. Make sure one of your photos has a picture of yourself in the reflection of the art.

Choose one view of the work you want to draw; you can draw from life or take a photo to draw.

On cardstock, sketch your drawing in pencil and then trace it in a black marker. Add color with markers.

On a separate piece of paper, sketch the photo you took of yourself in the reflection of the art in pencil. Place a sheet of tracing paper on top and trace your final drawing in black marker.

To combine your two drawings, use a glue stick to lightly glue the edges of your colored drawing, sticking the tracing paper on top.

How does combining images change compared to looking at them on their own? How does this activity relate to Oppenheimer’s artwork?

BTW

When assembling the glass sheets, the crane operators only had a gap of one-sixteenth of an inch between the bridge and the glass. It was installed using suction cups. The work had to be done exactly or else the glass would have shattered - now that’s some precision!

Look again

While the sculpture itself is minimal, the construction of this project was very complicated. What are some obstacles you think the artist, architects, and engineers would have faced?

How does your view change being on top of the bridge vs. being on the bottom? Do you prefer one view over the other? Why?

Vocabulary

Architecture ‒ The art or practice of designing and constructing buildings.

Diagonal ‒ Straight lines that slant in any direction except horizontal or vertical.

Pedestrian ‒ A person walking along a road or in a developed area.

Reflection ‒ The return of light or sound waves from a surface that create an exact image, similar to a mirror. A reflector is something that makes a reflection

Transparency ‒ Having the property of transmitting rays of light through its substance so that bodies situated beyond or behind can be distinctly seen, admitting the passage of light through an object.

A black and white version of Sarah Oppenheimer's "C-010106"

C-010106

2022

Sarah Oppenheimer

American, born 1972

Subject: Reflections

Activity: Drawing with Foil

Materials: Aluminum foil, white colored pencils or chalk, dark colored cardboard or poster board (at least 6 x 6 inches), glue, scissors, access to outdoors and/or an artificial light source

Vocabulary: Diagonal, glass, mirror, reflection

Introduction

Sarah Oppenheimer is an artist who makes works of art out of building materials. C-010106 is made from glass sheets that pass through a bridge.

Some of the glass stands straight up and down, while other pieces are diagonal. Because of the way that Oppenheimer made her art, the things you see change as you move around the art. People walking below the bridge can see people walking on top, and people on top of the bridge can see the people below.

Questions

What do you see reflected in the glass?

Where do you think the reflections are coming from?

How does your view change when you are on top of the bridge or when you are on the bottom? Do you like one view more than the other? Why?

Activity

Draw a picture of what you see outside. Use white or light-colored pencils or chalk on dark- colored paper. You can draw trees, flowers, buildings, or anything you see!

Cut aluminum foil in different shapes with scissors, with the help of an adult.

Shiny side facing up, glue the foil on the cardboard, overlapping your drawing where you choose.

Take your art outside to see reflections in the foil. The foil will also make its own light that will reflect on other objects.

BTW

The glass used in this art was made in Germany and shipped to the United States. Because the glass is fragile, it had to be moved with suction cups to make sure it wouldn’t break.

Aluminum foils are excellent reflectors because they are smooth and shiny, almost like a mirror.

Look again

Looking at the different of sheets of mirrored glass in the art, you will see images that are reflected. For each image you see, can you find where it’s located in real life? With a friend, can you try to find each other in the reflection?

Vocabulary

Diagonal ‒ A type of straight line that is at an angle. A diagonal line does not go straight up, down, or across. It is a line that connects two corners of a shape.

Glass ‒ Glass is a material that lets light shine through, but keeps rain and air out. Glass is easily breakable, but it can be made very strong. It can also be cut into many different shapes.

Mirror ‒ A smooth surface that reflects an image of whatever is in front of it. Mirrors are usually made of glass over a thin coat of silver, nickel, or tin.

Reflection ‒ The image you see when you look in a mirror.

MORE INFORMATION

Sarah Oppenheimer’s artistic practice considers how our behaviors adapt to architectural spaces and the permissions and possibilities perceived through the regulation of bodies. By questioning assumed spatial relationships to portals such as doors and windows, one could say that Oppenheimer’s work gives agency to the viewer instead of what is on view. As such, the work often disrupts the unidirectional gaze that is endemic to traditional displays of art objects. From one project to the next, the through lines of Oppenheimer’s research and process are made clear, consistently utilizing three-dimensional space with the ideas of perception and participation at its core—thus ultimately conjuring a fourth dimension.

Oppenheimer’s permanent intervention in the contemporary galleries of the Baltimore Museum of Art, W-120301 (2012), interrupts the typical museum gaze by inviting interchanges between visitors on two separate floors of the museum. With aluminum and reflective glass imbedded in the walls, the artist creates a picture plane divided into four sections. These include two windows into different museum spaces: one looks directly into a concrete atrium filled with natural light, while the other looks down at visitors in the gallery below. Both views can be taken in at once, without changing the body’s relationship to the wall. It is useful to note that this perspectival play rejects a dominant position of surveillance in favor of exchanges that are activated by what is seen and unseen.

Another way in which Oppenheimer subverts expected order can be seen in a series of works that shifts the relationships between museum visitor and guard. Accustomed to having their bodies on view, guards monitor the activities of those who come too close, intervening before surfaces are touched. At the Perez Museum of Art (2016) and the Wexner Center for the Arts (2017), Oppenheimer gave visitors the ability to not merely touch, but also to physically change the orientation of the works. Large forms made from plates of glass that reflected fluorescent and natural light could be rotated into different positions. Instead of playing a prohibitive role, guards embraced participation and demonstrated the license that Oppenheimer granted visitors, encouraging them to manipulate the objects through touch.

Later exhibitions at Kunstmuseum Thun (2020) and the Wellin Museum of Art (2021) continued the artist’s research into creating networks of actions. In them Oppenheimer devised systems in which our bodies’ energies became “inputs” that produce specific and multiple “outputs” with varying degrees of visibility. Visitors could not only observe but also determine the positions of walls and lighting mechanisms. In this way they were encouraged to collaborate as a group for greater impact.

Among many influences, Oppenheimer feels most connected to artists who may be initially regarded as object-makers, such as Lygia Clark and Senga Nengudi. Although their work is presented in museum settings, it also functions as an agent of social exchange. Clark began her artistic career in the 1950s as an abstract painter, establishing the Neo-Concrete movement with fellow Brazilian artists. Over the next thirty years, she transitioned into imaginary architectures, relational objects, and eventually devised her own body work technique called Structuring the Self in 1976. Nengudi’s most exhibited and collected works were sculptural installations created with pantyhose, which she debuted in 1977. Commonly installed without the evidence of the performances Nengudi conducted within them, their forms are radically changed. R.S.V.P, the title she gave this series, was an explicit call for audiences to respond.

Because Oppenheimer’s works are made of solid objects with great physical presence, one might identify the artist’s practice as sculptural. However, sculpture is a term that Oppenheimer pushes against. Such works are meant to be autonomous and they maintain their presence whether or not we interact with them. But in Oppenheimer’s view, the work is not complete without the conditional relationships it has to the light, the built architecture, and especially the people who surround it. Not surprisingly, “architecture” is consistently listed among Oppenheimer’s media.

To Oppenheimer, the word “apparatus” more accurately describes these relational qualities. An apparatus is part of a larger system and it typically has a specific purpose. One might not see Oppenheimer’s work as having a determined outcome. Perhaps that is precisely the point. While the works are designed to create the opportunity for infinite possibilities, the creation process includes many controls: the materials are chosen meticulously, their arrangements are modeled in the studio, and they are rigorously scripted and tested. The development is carried out with an acute understanding that the works become part of their environment, and that each environment is dynamic. For instance, Oppenheimer uses ADA accessibility regulations—often seen as cumbersome restrictions for able-bodied architects and designers—as a starting point for imagining the apparatus. This allows for what the artist calls “gestural access”—a type of embedded access that departs from purely utilitarian function—and demonstrates how readily mindsets can shift. By applying such codes into each step of the creative process, the end result becomes an “operational field” as opposed to a discrete object. As Oppenheimer states, these structural changes are not only problems to solve but also modifications of the “material, optical, social footprint” of the work. They would not exist as such without these limits of administrative and legal governance, controls that are enforced in all institutions

It is not only the architectural structures at the center of Oppenheimer’s work but also the mechanics that influence human interaction. As a critic at the Yale School of Art, the artist has long collaborated with the university’s school of engineering. Sensitive Machine, Oppenheimer’s Wellin Museum of Art exhibition (2021), shares a title with a workshop Oppenheimer taught at Yale’s Center for Engineering Innovation and Design. In it, students isolated a single gesture to be translated into mechanisms that became extensions of the body. Participants investigated how machines can become sensory conduits—a concept that signals how people come into contact within Oppenheimer’s exhibitions. The artist is equally curious to investigate these quotidian objects that shape our existence in built environments and enable social collaboration, including tuning forks, clocks, and barometers.

Oppenheimer’s relation to mechanical, structural, and behavioral engineering makes C-010106 ideally situated between two buildings at the Cockrell School of Engineering. Located on the pedestrian bridge between the Engineering Education and Research Center and the Energy Engineering Building, the floor-to-ceiling glass features prominently as a way to showcase students at work and to promote multidisciplinary collaboration through formal demonstrations of transparency and access. While C-010106 also uses glass as a material, its function shifts significantly.

C-010106 consists of two apparatus at opposite ends of a pedestrian bridge. At each location, a pair of diagonal reflective glass plates are buttressed between a pair of clear glass sheets. At the intersection of the four panes, the glass passes through an incision in the bridge surface, making the apparatus visible both to those above the bridge as well as to those below it. The reflective surfaces within the incision create a surprising effect—permitting pedestrians on top of the bridge to see the reflections of those underneath and vice versa.

The bridge serves as a connector between spaces and people. Its utility is clear; it makes travel from one building to another more efficient and direct. Into this transitional space intended for movement Oppenheimer invites new behavioral functions such as observation, contemplation, and social exchange. By siting one apparatus on a north/south axis and another on an east/west axis, a “switch” is created in the flow of traffic and the habitual patterns of movement. The viewer is not limited to a frontal confrontation with the object, but is able to engage through it. As the artist remarks, this act of transition is processional, rather than manual in the way one might open or close a door. C-010106 encourages a choreography between people as well as with the shifting light, sound, seasons, and greater environmental rhythms that are in constant flux.

The social impact of the architectural and art histories that have informed Oppenheimer recalls the literary theorist Caroline Levine and her expansive concept of “form,” which she defines as “any arrangement of elements—any ordering, patterning, or shaping.” By using the concept of “affordance” from design theory—the idea of what the environment offers the individual—she asks how material or design can be applied to the aesthetic form:

“Affordances point us both to what all forms are capable of—to the range of uses each could be put to, even if no one has yet taken advantage of those possibilities—and also to their limits, the restrictions intrinsic to particular materials and organizing principles… Form emerges from this perspective as transhistorical, portable, and abstract, on the one hand, and material, situated, and political, on the other.”

The affordances of glass are manifold. We understand its veracity, its one-to-one representation through translucence or reflection. The seamlessness of our glass screens is posited as the threshold between the individual and the network, becoming an all-encompassing source of information, labor, leisure and memory. But the glass itself is intended to disappear.

Oppenheimer uses these associations to reinscribe our relationships to matter and the knowledge it supports. The apparatus provides not only reflections of the condition of each precise moment but also representations of our individual selves with each other and the encounters that may regularly be dismissed or ignored. While the environmental and social convergences conveyed by C-010106 are fleeting, the apparatus is highly present. It insists that each individual is positioned amongst others—not only in the instance of contact but also in the continual approach and retreat of our collective body.

Lumi Tan is senior curator at The Kitchen in New York. 

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Oppenheimer names works of art according to an alpha-numeric system. Each character indicates spatial relationships and other unique properties, such as perception and sight lines, light and air flows, and physical access. However ordered the typology may seem, it arises from a deeply personal system that is modified over time and results in titles that can be idiosyncratic. While they attempt to define the qualities and character of each piece, they also reveal insights into the evolution of Oppenheimer's understanding. 

Because the artist's titles raise general curiosity about their meanings, the below definitions are provided to help decode the name C-010106:

C = Shorthand for cinema, defined as the way an image is perceived as a dimensional projection on a flat surface. 

0 = The adjacency of one form over another; in this work glass is above and below the bridge surface.

1 = Flow indicates that light passes through the form.

0 = Flow indicates that air circulates through the form.

1 = Flow indicates sight lines; that one can look downward and upward through the form. 

0 = Flow indicates physical passage; that a person cannot walk through the form.

6 = The boundary (of the bridge surface) can be physically occupied both above and below.

This chart offers a more detailed view into Oppenheimer's naming classifications. Although the system may evolve, this typology was used to name C-010106 in 2022.

 

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Sarah Oppenheimer bibliography

Oppenheimer, Sarah. “The Array,” Art in America, May 2014, https://www.filepicker.io/api/file/yNdd3z84SbCUAhEb7mC8.

Galloway, Alex. “Interview with Sarah Oppenheimer,” BOMB, September 5, 2016,  https://bombmagazine.org/articles/sarah-oppenheimer/.

Stalder, Laurent. “A Switch.” Sarah Oppenheimer: S-337473. Wexner Center for the Arts, 2017.

https://store.wexarts.org/books/art/exhibition-catalogues/sarah-oppenheimer-s-337473

https://www.filepicker.io/api/file/cx43GFXbTZGWHeJ3Wqk9.

Weber, Stephanie. “Ekphrasis.” Sarah Oppenheimer. Mills College Art Museum, 2015.

https://mcam.mills.edu/publications/

https://fdocuments.in/reader/full/weber-stephanie-ekphrasis-sarah-oppenheimer-mills-college-art-.

Yoon, Soyoung.  “Buffer Zone.” N-01. Verlag für moderne Kunst, 2020.

https://www.vfmk.org/books/sarah-oppenheimer

https://www.filepicker.io/api/file/3Wsfy8LnSwWnrFWsbFNT.

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Landmarks commissioned artist Sarah Oppenheimer to create a work that activates the pedestrian bridge between the Engineering Education and Research Center (EER) and the new Gary L. Thomas Energy Engineering Building (GLT). C-010106 is comprised of two monumental glass forms that transect the surface of the bridge, creating new sightlines from above and below. 

Funding for C-010106 was provided by the GLT building capital improvement project for the Cockrell School of Engineering. Landmarks gives special thanks to the following:

Leadership

Darrell Bazzell and Financial and Administrative Services
Andrée Bober and Landmarks
Roger Bonnecaze and the Cockrell School of Engineering
Campus Master Planning Committee
David Darling and the Office of Campus Planning and Facilities Management
Jay Hartzell and the Office of the President
Landmarks Advisory Committee
Ramón Rivera-Servera and the College of Fine Arts
Michael Uyeda and Capital Planning and Construction
Sharon Wood and the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost

Project Team

Arcadia, fabrication
Andrée Bober, curator and director, Landmarks
Nisa Barger, project manager, Landmarks
The Beck Group, construction
Ennead Architects, architecture
Jacobs Engineering, engineering
Sarah Oppenheimer, artist
James Richardson, engineering
Sedak, fabrication
Patrick Sheehy Fine Art Services, art installation
Werner Sobek, engineering
Thorton Thomasetti, engineering
TriPyramid, fabrication
UAP, project management
Keith Westmoreland, Capital Planning and Construction

Special Thanks

Kevin Alter, School of Architecture
Megan Ardery, Resnicow & Associates
Maggie Bailey, producer
Paul Bardagjy, photography
Richard Barnes, photography
Frank Bross, collections, Landmarks
Haley Carloni, ArtTable
Nathan Carruth, Jacobs
Anoush Crane, event planner, Landmarks
Elizabeth Danze, School of Architecture
Douglas Dempster, former dean, College of Fine Arts
John Ekerdt, associate dean, Cockrell School of Engineering
Eliot Fisher, ARCOS
André Fuqua, development, Landmarks
Robert Gilbert, Cockrell School of Engineering
Erica Gionfriddo, ARCOS
Austin Jarvis, Folding Enterprises
Bill Haddad, technology manager, Landmarks
Ken Haughton, Jacobs
Teresa Hubbard, College of Fine Arts
Andrew Ina, photography
Mary Margaret Kennedy, operations, Landmarks
Grant Kightlinger, Pivotal Lighting Design
Emily Kirkland, Ennead Architects
Logan Larsen, communications, Landmarks
Ryan Lewandowski, Ennead
Rubén Martínez, Martinez Moore
Andres Mazry, Jacobs
Christina Murrey, photography
Alex O'Briant, Ennead Architects
Meaghan Perry, conservator, Vault Fine Art Services
Matt Pickens, The Beck Group
Kevin Preuss, CPC construction inspector
Vanessa Rabe, Jacobs
David Rea, former campus planner
David Resnicow, Resnicow & Associates
James Richardson, engineer
Ramón Rivera-Servera, dean, College of Fine Arts
Kyle Sanderson, The Beck Group
Ron Seder, Jacobs
Jim Shackelford, former director, Capital Planning and Construction
Kathleen Brady Stimpert, deputy director, Landmarks
Story Minute, videography
Lumi Tan, curatorial contributor
Stephanie Taparauskas, development, Landmarks
Lauri Tredinnick, Pivotal Lighting Design
Mike Watson, The Beck Group
Catherine Whited, education, Landmarks
Michael Williams, building manager, Cockrell School of Engineering
Justin Wing, The Beck Group
Reagan Woodlock, design, Landmarks

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ArtTable Talks
A Conversation with Sarah Oppenheimer and Andrée Bober

Participants:

Andrée Bober, Landmarks Founding Director and Curator
Sarah Oppenheimer, Artist
Haley Carloni, ArtTable National Programs & Chapters Manager

Download a PDF version of this Conversation

The following conversation took place on September 1, 2022. Transcripts have been edited for length.

Haley: For those of you who are new to ArtTable, welcome! We are very excited to have you here today. ArtTable is the foremost professional organization dedicated to advancing the leadership of women in the visual arts through our membership network and community initiatives. We expand professional opportunities for women from diverse backgrounds and at all stages of their careers, supporting and fostering a stronger future for all women in the arts. You can learn more about us and our initiatives at ArtTable.org. I am now very excited to turn the conversation over to today’s speakers: Sarah Oppenheimer, the artist, and founding director and curator of Landmarks, Andrée Bober. So, I will turn it over to you now.

Andrée: Haley, thank you so much. It is such a pleasure to be invited by ArtTable to have this conversation today. And, Sarah, welcome! I’m looking forward to our talk.

Sarah: Thank you so much. And, Haley, thank you very much for putting this together. It’s wonderful to be here.

Andrée: I was thinking about how to kick off this conversation, and I realized that some people joining us might not be familiar with Landmarks. So, I thought it could be helpful to share a little bit of context about our program and how you and I came to work together. How does that sound?

Sarah: Perfect.

Andrée: Good. I guess you’ve gathered that Landmarks is the public art program of The University of Texas at Austin. We currently present about 50 works of art across UT’s main campus, which occupies about 433 acres in the heart of Austin, Texas. About half of the works that we show are on long-term loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the other half are works that we’ve acquired either through purchase or commissions.

Our project with Sarah was funded through a building project at the Cockrell School of Engineering. Our funding comes through a percent for art allocation. So, when UT builds a new building or has a major construction project on campus, we receive 1–2% of that construction budget for the purpose of acquiring art.

In the very early stages of planning for this project, I started thinking about artists that might be a good fit. At that point, Sarah, I knew your work and I had seen a number of pieces in different places over the course of several years. I always admired the gracefulness, the economy, and the sense of whimsy that they have. But it was our mutual friend, Ann Hamilton, who connected us and who encouraged me to take a deeper dive into your practice and work.

Reading more, and having those first conversations—that’s really when I started to grasp the complexity of what you’re doing. I began understanding the nature of your process, which I found pretty staggering because it relies on so much experimentation and collaboration. You’ve even registered patents for your discoveries, and then you use those in the different works you create.

Just getting to know a bit more about you and your process has been a revelation. And that’s what I’d like to explore in our conversation today. So, would you like to start by talking a little bit about the work that you’ve created, or would you rather start with the video that introduces it? What would you prefer?

Sarah: I’d love to start with the video, Andrèe, but before we do that, I do want to just say a few words about my experience with Landmarks, which has been really extraordinary. I believe that this, for me, has been an amazing opportunity, not only to realize an incredibly ambitious and exciting new work but also to meet and collaborate with the Landmarks’ team. This team has been extraordinary on every level and incredibly supportive and attentive. I just remain grateful to everyone at Landmarks and everyone who has worked on this project as well—the installers, the photographers, the conservators. So many levels of people and attention, and I’m incredibly grateful for those relationships.

Andrée: Well, the feeling is mutual. It has been an extraordinary journey these last years working together, and I’m eager to share it with our group. So, let’s go ahead and start with the video and then we’ll pick up the conversation there. How does that sound?

Watch the Sarah Oppenheimer Artist Video here.

Andrée: I love these very short, concise videos because they pack in a lot of information that would otherwise take a long time to explain. And in your narrative, I like that you talked about the co-authorship of location, and about how your work shaped spaces that we experienced together. I thought that might be a good starting point for talking about your practice and about this piece in particular.

Sarah: It’s interesting to think about where we are at any given moment and to start to imagine the histories—the social histories, the material histories—that underpin where we are. Often we’re so distracted that we don’t pay attention to the specificity of our environment. My hope with this project was to bring into focus the immediate environment and our relations to others in an immediate environment, so that we could start to think about the co-authorship of the space, perhaps historically, how that sculptural apparatus comes to be there, but also to become sensitized to what’s happening in our immediate surroundings. How are people making the space that we’re immediately occupying?

Andrée: That makes a lot of sense. It’s interesting to me, as I said in the beginning, that there are so many different layers to this idea of creating a new social experience and the chance of that. And then also, the incredible amount of precision and thought that goes into the actual construction of these pieces as well. You really lean heavily into architecture and engineering in your work, and it informs every aspect of what you do from the conceptual framework to the ways that you undertake scientific experiments, and ultimately the materials that you use to realize your pieces. Now your MFA is from Yale in painting, but I’m curious: how did your interest in and knowledge of architecture and engineering evolve and how did that become part of your work?

Sarah: I often ask that of myself because I think at a certain point as a student, as a graduate student, I wouldn’t have been easily able to recognize what I do now as artwork. I didn’t have the language or understanding of artwork as encompassing such an expanded field. And as that knowledge grew, I began to wonder, how could a picture pull within it a representation of the world around it? And how could our encounter with that picture be shaped by the encounter with the picture, so that it didn’t simply freeze some segment of life and reflect it to us, but so that it would in some ways be magically transformed by our presence within that picture? As that started to happen, I became increasingly interested in the world that surrounds us as reflecting where we are. And each problem led to the next problem. But in the biggest framework, the question was really: how could the picture hold the world while we’re in it?

Andrée: Right, and related to that is something I’ve observed throughout our time working together, which is that you have a tendency to reject artifice and decoration, and you like to get to the core of things. So, it’s interesting to imagine you as a painter, as an emerging painter, discovering physical space and ways that you can actually use space to create more authentic exchanges than just a pictorial one. Do you think there’s a relationship there?

Sarah: Yes, I think that in some ways, I suppose for me, it’s not a question of artifice. Because artifice in some ways seems confusing. I think that it was more about a kind of immediacy, where the more immediate things in our environment are actually, generally, not very complex.

It’s like if I’m looking down at the surface of the desk, or looking beyond the computer frame at the wall, and those things are very immediate, very sensorial, very present. And they are also pictures of these social relationships and of where we are. In some ways I feel that to add more stuff to that picture is a distraction. It desensitizes us to the world.

So, the simple myths of, let’s say the geometry, or the form (and I’ll say a little bit about the form itself in relation to this), but the simpleness of the form is important to allow space for being sensitive to it. These two pieces are each constructed of four pieces of glass. That was very important to the work that it wasn’t made of many, many parts; it could simply be these four sheets which would connect in such a way as to create a kind of visual and material continuity between these different spaces.

Andrée: Well, it’s interesting that you have this idea of simplicity. There’s a juxtaposition between the simplicity that you’re talking about and the actual complexity of your work. I’ve noted that through your process you’re really inventing, creating these new problems that no one has thought of before and you throw yourself at them. You really want to figure out how to solve them. In this case, it was how do you get four pieces of glass to be suspended in a bridge. But in other cases, you’ve tackled things that people tend to take for granted, like how does a door work and why does it have to work that way? Or how does a screw work and why does it work that way? I’m curious, how do you identify problems like the one you’ve tackled here, or others that deserve your attention? And what drives you to try to find solutions to those problems?

Sarah: Well, this conversation is really interesting to me because it’s touching on this idea of becoming sensitive to your environment. What seems like an obvious problem—like how a person opens the door—is actually a whole world. And inside that very, very simple idea, where you walk ahead and you grasp the handle and you turn the handle and the door opens, or it doesn’t open, is a tremendous amount of complexity.

What interests me in a problem is to find something extremely simple, especially if that simpleness involves the bodily engagement of a person with the world; if it involves them touching the world or having a kind of close immersion in their immediate environment. Then if you untangle that problem, you have beautiful, beautiful questions. And you’ll see in some of these videos and slides, there are some views where you’re very deep in it and you can’t entirely understand if you’re inside, you’re outside, where you are in that space and where someone else is in relation to you. And what I find interesting in the psychological and physical intimacy is that it’s in those moments of closeness with other human beings, where we’re most intimate with others, that we lose that larger contextual frame. That’s true, also, when you walk through a doorway—you turn the handle and you feel the door come around your body and it’s almost like you’re inside the visual world. This work, I’m hoping, allows for being both inside that visual world and also being very much outside of it. So, you can understand it as a diagrammatic universe.

Andrée: So, it operates as a sort of threshold. A threshold in the way a door is, but also visually seeing through it and seeing reflections across it.

Sarah: Yes. And it also operates as both a threshold and as a boundary. One thing that was exciting to me about this work and in conversation with you, Andrèe, was that I was imagining the wall as transparent. So rather than thinking of these two large, vertical planes of glass as opaque, cladding material as they’ve been in prior projects (such as in my permanent commission at the Baltimore Museum of Art), here the wall becomes a transparent glaze surface that still has what we think of as poshé, that thickness, that mass between the wall surfaces on either side.

Andrée: Right. So, this is your first standalone outdoor work of art that you’ve created. We’ve talked a bit about that challenge of not having architectural limits or boundaries once you’re out in the open. So, when you’re in a built space, there is a stable horizon defining your field of vision. But can you talk about how—when you’re trying to conceive of a work of art outdoors—how do you define space? And how do you create that sense of intimacy when there are no boundaries?

Sarah: One of the really exciting aspects of watching this piece emerge over many years was thinking about location. Initially this piece was imagined in the interior of the building, and then we began to imagine it possibly outside of the building. And once it migrated outside of the building, I started to think about where boundaries, or where bounded spaces, might exist outside of the building. A bridge is a beautiful, beautiful boundary, because it bounds the area above the bridge, from the area below the bridge. And that’s dynamic. Suddenly, it’s almost as if you created these two exterior rooms where you have an upstairs and you have a downstairs. And these spaces then allow for a kind of dependency as opposed to autonomy, and a threshold in an exterior space that otherwise, I think, wouldn’t be there if it was simply just dropped on the ground.

Andrée: Are there juxtapositions or things that you discovered seeing the piece realized that you hadn’t anticipated?

Sarah: So many! It’s so exciting to see this piece and it partially has to do with, well there’s so many things! So, for example, when you stand below the piece you watch people walk toward the piece, they come into and out of reflection in different cadence. And similarly, when you stand on the bridge and you watch people walking down those stairs, they come into view at this different sort of pattern cadence, but you also start to catch glimpses of other people. And I think one of the things that was the most surprising and unanticipated was not the view of people, but the view of the sky. Because suddenly from very, very far away you look at the piece and it’s simply transformed into this monolithic slab of sky and it’s actually really astounding.

Andrée: I might add that looking up and seeing patches of grass where you expect sky is equally disorienting and awesome.

Sarah: One more thing actually: this view—in some ways the piece, because it sits above the bridge and below the bridge—it was designed to be observed in certain ways from certain axial processions and also cross views. But there were these unexpected locations from which the piece suddenly had this incredibly exciting life, because you can see how that blast then penetrates the bridge. So, when you’re off path, you’re off script, you’re outside of the paving that’s been laid down by UT’s master plan, it is so cool to just see the kind of relationships that are set up that are not expected. It’s really interesting.

Andrée: I remember the last conversation that we had with some faculty members back in April. At that point you hadn’t yet had an opportunity to really watch people interact with the piece or observe their relational patterns. So, I’m curious, what have you discovered since then and how has that shaped your thinking?

Sarah: So, this speaks to a bigger issue of my feelings about public art more generally. I’ve often wondered how public art—given all of the constraints of the site, of an institution of an urban environment—how public art can actually really do anything unexpected. I think one of the things that is exciting about this work is, when standing around and watching people, people really circle back. They’re surprised at what’s going on. And then they actually turn around and they sort of start to probe and inquire and look and then they go down, and it just creates like a massive hiccup or some kind of bubble in their general trajectory, which is unexpected. And it was so fabulous to be able to experience that outside of any sort of artistic frame, because they don’t know that they actually understood they were looking at an artwork. It just did this thing and that was remarkable.

Andrée: And that is at the core of what you’re trying to create—the unexpected. There are things that we do routinely throughout the course of every day: we walk across bridges, we open doors, we do these really basic things. And there’s an anticipation that those processes are going to unfold in a very predictable way. So, in a sense, the core of your work is pivoting from that and saying, okay, there’s going to be something unusual in what would ordinarily be a very routine walk across the pedestrian bridge. There’s going to be something to encounter and something to discover. And I’ve seen it, too. I’ve seen people stop in their tracks, and I like to count how long it takes for them to pull out their phone to start snapping pictures of it, because they’re trying to make sense of it. It’s like they’re thinking, “What is this thing, and why is it here?”

Sarah: Exactly. And it’s almost as if they suddenly become aware they’re walking down this bridge. They’re trying to go from Point A to Point B. And there’s this moment of just extreme slowing down. And I think that I would have not expected that as much as it’s occurred. It’s been a real gift. And I’ve also often thought of the art institution as a frame which allows for that to happen; a necessary frame. So just to return to the work at the Baltimore Museum, that piece—which in some ways is very much a cousin of this work—is framed within the institution such that it’s all about slowing down and looking. And here there’s no bracket—there’s no architectural bracket—and it’s really exciting that it doesn’t need a bracket.

Andrée: That’s such an interesting point because if this same work were situated on the grounds of a museum, then there would be an expectation that you would be encountering a work of art. But here, in this environment, that is not the expectation. And so it really does change the way that people interact with it and make sense of it. This also relates to another aspect of your work that I’ve heard you talk about a number of times: patterns. I know that you think a lot about flow and sequencing and syncopation and rhythm within your work. How does that play a part in this particular work?

Sarah: So, I’d say over the last 5–6 years, I’ve been very engaged in building networks of spaces where, if you touch something in one space, you change something that is not immediately connected to it. And that allows for a set of relations where if you touch something here, that it creates a rhythm, some kind of oscillation or a modulated change in movement elsewhere. That process, which is a design of phased patterns of motion, has made me incredibly aware of the phased patterns of motion that exist all around us, all the time.

I think this work really allows those phased patterns of motion to come into view in ways that are very exciting because the campus has its own life. There’s a sense that students are constantly moving, but they’re moving on a timetable and they’re moving with purpose, and the faculty are moving with purpose, and they’re often moving at the same time across campus. So suddenly, you start to have these flows of people and these rhythms of people with the buildings and the architecture and the schedule set into motion. And you start to feel those things and, not only that, you also have to change the kind of diurnal and nocturnal patterns that start to emerge. You see the change in light, you see the change in weather, and all of that is amplified and overlapping in the piece. And in some ways this piece feels like some sort of record or imprint of those patterns.

Andrée: And there was also an element of orientation involved: the east, west, north, and south. Could you talk a little bit about how you came to decide to orient them in this way?

Sarah: Yes. You’ll notice that there’s one access that is from the engineering building across a kind of secondary axis that runs underneath it. And the two pieces are situated so that they are also at right angles to each other where they’re reflecting the two axes—the primary accents of procession—and they’re also transparent on the opposite axis. So, I suppose, the simplest way to say this is that at every juncture, you’re able to look down into the space below you, but you’re also able to look through and that side of you is a diagram of a cross section of how you would look down.

Andrée: That makes sense.

Sarah: Perhaps a simpler way to describe this, which is a bit hard without a plan or view, is to imagine two paths that are at 90° and stacked on top of each other and that there are flows that are happening on both axes all the time. The works mimic and amplify those flows.

Andrée: Terrific. I thought we could also talk a little about our process of working together. We’re not going to sugarcoat it—there were a lot of challenges with this project along the way. We found ourselves in this kind of Sisyphean loop of preparing and presenting a design, and then discovering an entirely new set of conditions that we were completely unaware of, and then going back to the drawing board and starting over. We did this again, and again, and again. I have to give you credit because despite all of those setbacks, you never seemed discouraged at all. In fact, I think in some ways the challenge energized you. But we’ve talked about constraints in your work and how you take an unusual view, in my opinion. You tend to welcome constraints and you have talked about how you view constraints as generative in your practice. I’m curious if you could talk a little bit about that in relation to the overall development of this particular piece.

Sarah: Yeah, I’m thinking about it in two different ways. One way is that I do view constraint as a hugely generative dynamic, and it allows a space, a bounded space for creative thought that allows things to really push against the envelope. And in the case of developing this piece, one constraint that I think was extremely generative and will remain so for me moving forward was ADA code.

The reason ADA was so extraordinary is because it’s actually a code that has to do with human motion and how the body or how our different bodies address space. So, it sets parameters by which we, as makers of space, or thinkers about space, have to modulate our system according to bodily motion. Those parameters really drove the shape and form of this piece. They also allowed me to think outside of more predictable ideas about barriers so people wouldn’t fall through it. As a result, the geometry of that lower piece of glass is now hitting exactly at handrail height, which means that there is no additional necessary barricade around the work. In that way, I think constraints have been really an extraordinary thing.

Another thing I will say about this project is that there were many, many iterations of it, and the constraints kept being added on. But the iterations allowed me to notice something that was really important to this work, which is not simply that the constraint helps the work, but that constraint and boundary—the “boundedness” of this work—is necessary so that it can perform kind of powerful conditions in this situation. So it can perform as a switch in a certain way, a kind of optical perceptual switch. Because if it’s sort of bled out in between the entire environment, you wouldn’t have the ability to contain or intervene in a larger pattern.

Andrée: Fantastic! That’s very helpful to understand. I know we’re getting a little close to when we need to start wrapping up. So, let me ask you, is there anything else you’d like for us to understand about your work generally, or this piece in particular?

Sarah: I think something that’s very central to this piece and often isn’t talked about in terms of artwork in general is joy and play. And I think it’s really important that a work invokes openness and playfulness in the world and creates a joyful sort of universe.

Andrée: You can see this even in the little clips in the video. You can see they’re smiling and waving, and they’re delighting in this unexpected relationship that they’re seeing to each other and to the world around them. You’ve talked a good deal about play in your work, too. I think it’s a minimal piece, but it’s also a very playful piece when you get down to it.

Sarah: I think that’s so undervalued actually. I think play and joy are very important.

Andrée: I agree, especially at a university where for so many of the students it’s their first opportunity to have a meaningful engagement with art, when they step foot on our campus. For them it opens a world, the whole world. And I think to an extent that can be an engaging invitation and a welcoming threshold; I think that it’s opening a lot of minds. We’re so very happy to have this piece at UT, and really in this location, specifically within the world of engineering. You have made a lot of friends at UT engineering over the last few years. So with that, shall we move to any questions that the audience might have? Haley, do you want to join us and let us know where to go from here?

Haley: Yes, absolutely! So we did get a handful of questions in the chat during the discussion. Thank you both so much for your time. That was incredible and fascinating, and great to hear more about the process behind the work and the struggles that you went through to make it finally happen. I think we’re all very glad that it did. So we had one question come in from Susan. She said the work reminds her of the Gwyneth Paltrow film Sliding Doors as well as works by Dan Graham. Are you familiar with either of these things, Sarah, these people or that film?

Sarah: I’m certainly familiar with Dan Graham’s work. I’m not familiar with that film but thank you for the tip because I will definitely watch it. I do have a lot to say about the relationship of my work more generally to the work of Dan Graham. I’ll just sort of briefly summarize: I think his work is fascinating. I also think that his work is often about a kind of media transposition where you’re understanding yourself through a kind of media material, or media reflection, such as a video camera or a time-lapse display. And I think in some ways the glass operates as a signifier of those things. And this work is certainly playing with that kind of social overlap. But I think there’s a real immediacy and sort of spatial inversion that is very absent in that work. And I think that you know, it’s a trajectory in the conversation.

Haley: Great! Thank you, Sarah. We have a question from Kathleen. Sarah, how different is your approach to museum shows versus public art? Besides the obvious space considerations, what other things come into play for you?

Sarah: Well, I think there’s multiple things that have happened. One major issue is the question of who is making the work, who is installing the work? A piece like the scale of Landmarks’ was not made materially by me, and it was not installed materially by me either. So it set up a set of social relationships that were much more nested and required a very different sort of attention to how things were made and how things were processed. In some ways it was a much more remote piece. For a museum work generally, I will be very, very tactically involved in its manifestation and I will generally work very closely with the museum crew or staff, which is a part of that institution. So, I think that there’s just a much greater immediacy in the work at a museum.

Haley: Excellent, thank you! And our next question comes from Nancy. Can you talk about your process? For example, do you start with drawings? Do you work with an engineer or others? She also would like to let you know that you have brought joy all the way to her today, so, thank you.

Sarah: I generally start with models, with physical models. I actually start with drawings of the site. I’ll have many, many layers of the drawings, which are generally architectural drawings. My studio works primarily in CAD–based software. So we’ll take whatever drawings are emerging in this case, but generally already exist in other cases, and overlay them with a set of proposed transposition of a place. And then those will become increasingly materialized.

But most important in this process for me was that everything is evolved at a 1:1 scale. So the studio floor became the grid, a taped-up 1:1 grid of those pavers. The profile of that glass became taped on the walls. We did a 1:1 mockup of the glass connection and a light. We had the lighting designer come from Chicago to build this very, very large glass section of the piece, so we could understand how light would behave in the daytime, and would we want to illuminate this in the evening. So I think the process starts very abstractly, and it becomes increasingly concrete and materially present as it evolves, even if I don’t actually physically make it in the end.

Haley: Great, thank you Sarah. And then we have a multipart question from Kathy. So the first part: Sarah, what thinkers, writers, or artists have influenced you over the years in your practice?

Sarah: I think that there are three amazing women that immediately come to mind as really incredibly influential. The first being Lygia Clark; I’ve been really interested in how the human gesture animates these architectural frameworks that she’s developed and how the material itself becomes a form of interconnection. So, Lygia Clark has been very, very important. The other person I want to mention is the architect and designer Eileen Gray. I’ve been very interested in how Eileen Gray has created these deeply intimate relationships with objects, where they sort of mediate between you and others. And the last person I want to mention is Lena Bobardi who is an extraordinary person whose work is far more immediate than Dan Graham’s in its deployment of glass. If you take a look at her glass easels, they’re really extraordinary conditions for looking.

Haley: Excellent, thank you! And then the second part of Kathy’s question: If budget was not an issue, what would be your dream project and where on this earth or what space would you like to create your dream projects?

Sarah: That’s such an interesting question because I feel like the dream project is a question that assumes it has to do with a place. And I’ve never known how to answer that question actually. But this time, hearing this question, I have a slightly different response, which is, I don’t think it would have anything to do with the place, but it would have to do with the problem. And the problem, I think I really would want to sort of take on, is the problem of the door handle. That simple problem: it has worlds of things in that problem, and I would love to just get in between that hand and the handle and make that happen.

Haley: I feel like we would all love to see that, so hopefully that comes to fruition one day. Amazing! We’ve addressed all of the questions in the chat. I just have one last thing, or if anyone has any other questions, please feel free to drop them in the chat. But looping Andrée back into the discussion, I would love to know a little bit more about the overall process of getting a work of public art onto the campus? How does it start from the beginning? Who selects the artwork or do the artists come to you? What is that process? And I know you said a lot of them are on loan, but I’m just curious from your side of things, how it looks.

Andrée: Well, Landmarks is a pretty young program, and we only launched in 2008. But from the outset we decided that it would be curatorially driven. We identify the artists that we think are best suited for the collection. And we have a whole list of criteria that we look at. Essentially, we want the campus to become a kind of classroom for the entire university to have an entry point into the world of contemporary visual art. Each piece has to work on its own merits and exist by itself and have its own perspective. But we also try to create a cohesive whole within the entire group.

The process is really pretty simple. I reach out to someone, like Sarah, and we begin a conversation and we begin dreaming. And over the course of several years, we bring a lot of people into that conversation—the host of the building, our president’s office, and a lot of other people along the way, like the project managers, and we build these teams. I joke that our list of thanks looks a lot like movie credits because there’s so many hundreds of people involved, especially in a complex project like Sarah’s. I do think this is technically the most ambitious project we’ve ever undertaken at Landmarks. And that’s because the level of precision was so great that every little detail required so much thought and attention. So that’s kind of how it happens. Does that answer your question?

Haley: Yes, that definitely provides some more clarity to the whole thing. I’m just kind of curious because I can only imagine how involved the process is. As you said, there’s so many different people who come into the equation. It’s just amazing to think about and to see it all come to fruition. The project is installed and it’s there, it’s happening. It must be so rewarding for you all! So congratulations!

Andrée: I hope anyone who ends up coming to Austin will visit Sarah’s piece. Come visit us and take a tour of the collection.

Haley: Amazing! Well, if there are no other questions, we are going to wrap up for the day. Thank you both so much for joining us and for having this conversation. It was absolutely wonderful and I hope you enjoyed this conversation.

Back

A Conversation with Sarah Oppenheimer, including Andrée Bober, Elizabeth Danze, and Teresa Hubbard

Participants:

Andrée Bober, Landmarks Founding Director and Curator
Elizabeth Danze, Bartlett Cocke Regents Professor in Architecture, School of Architecture
Teresa Hubbard, William & Bettye Nowlin Professor, Department of Art and Art History
Sarah Oppenheimer, Artist

Download a PDF version of this Conversation

The following conversation took place on April 14, 2022 and the transcripts were edited by the participants.

Teresa: To start, could you talk about the title of the work?

Sarah: Certainly! To a large extent, I imagine our built environment as an array. Generic spatial zones are reproduced in different permutations. The UT Austin campus is a wonderful example of this. The construction company, Beck, their subcontractors, and the architecture team, have designed and built multiple buildings across UT’s campus. The footbridge where C-010106 is sited is unique but not singular. The team uses the same tools, codes, materials, workflow logic, and so forth in other buildings and locations on campus. They operate within an architectural vocabulary, a building information and management model, where digital and physical objects are identical.

The titles of my work identify these generic spatial conditions. I’ve created a classification system that encodes relationships, such as orientation and spatial adjacency. What’s next to what? What flows from one zone to another zone? C-010106 is located within a footbridge, and borders two discrete spaces, above and below. The title describes the circulatory pathways between these spaces.

Each digit in the title is derived from this alphanumeric code. The first digit indicates a how the piece operates. “C” designates “cinema,” referring to the projection of light on a planar surface. In C-010106, views are displaced and re-sequenced. What appears over is under, what appears under is through.

The second digit of the title indicates the position of the work within a greater array: the number of spatial zones that the piece spans. The designator zero, signifies two spaces (A and B). The remaining digits describe the directional flow of light, air, and passage between these two spatial zones. If another piece shares these spatial relationships, it would have the same title. The system is simple and generic.

Andrée: That’s an interesting segue to my question: how do you align yourself in the tradition of other practicing artists, or in the broader art historical realm?

Sarah: I’m interested in artists, architects, and thinkers whose work extends and expands our patterned entanglements. These engagements do not need to involve objects – or even artworks for that matter.

In the 1980’s, sociologist William Whyte performed an extensive empirical study of social circulation through public squares. Using time-lapse photography, Whyte identified patterns in habitation, such as pedestrians flocking towards sunlight in winter, and shade in summer. Whyte’s studies, among others, have enabled me to anticipate circulatory paths and to imagine how patterns might be tweaked and distorted.

But Whyte’s time-lapse stills are frozen - and I’m aiming to stretch these discrete intervals into an entangled continuum. Lygia Clark’s work investigates this temporal threshold. She proposed an organic line, a boundary that differentiates the temporality of organic and inorganic materials. Her work uses the tactile transmission of energy to manipulate this boundary, playing between time scales. This is also true of Eileen Gray, in part because her architecture seems to be driven by gestural pattern. Both her furniture and architecture amplify bodily action.

Andrée: It's interesting that your points of reference are spatial and relational, as opposed to more purely formal. When Teresa and I were first talking about artists we would associate with qualities of your work, Gordon Matta-Clark came up and Dan Graham too. Do you ever think about your work in relation to them?

Sarah: Well, I think those artists are very different from one another. Matta-Clark performed a kind of social extraction – by cutting through an uninhabited building, he severed it from its functional pathways. This recalls Duchamp’s readymades: an object is taken out of circulation and becomes aesthetic form. Graham’s work, on the other hand, engages with relationships across the fabric of a built space. He creates complex temporal relationships through overlapping media, exploring how time is a result of media processing: the glass screen, the camera, video, the printed magazine. While I’m interested in these questions, I hope my work suggests a relationship to the material environment that is at once unmediated and reproducible.  

My work manipulates paths of circulation. Objects, bodies, light, air flow, are re-routed along new circulatory pathways. Lina Bo Bardi’s glass easels come to mind as a relevant material precedent to C-010106.

Teresa: But... I wasn't even thinking about cutting and splitting when I mentioned Gordon Matta-Clark—I was thinking much more about his project Food, and his interest in language in public space like his work with graffiti. I was coming at those projects with an understanding that there's something about urban space and architecture as a performative aesthetic. And that Matta-Clark was intensely interested in the bowels of buildings. That’s the way that I was approaching this particular aspect of your work. Porosity—the idea of a building as a porous, not only physical—but social and political structure.

Sarah: Yes, Food is surely relevant to this question.

Teresa, I have a question for you. I'm curious about the idea of a performative aesthetic. I'm wondering how you see that happening here.

Teresa: Well, I'm not entirely sure what or where I'm trying to get to–it's mostly just trying to get closer to understanding. On the one hand you talk about pattern behavior, but I would translate that as human interaction. It reminds me of Lisa Robertson’s work. She’s a writer, mostly prose and poetry, but I thought about one of her books when I saw your work in progress. It’s titled, Occasional Work and the Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture. It’s a short read and she takes on the voice of a person who experiences the exterior environment as though it's an interior room. She does this on seven structured walks in and around buildings in Vancouver, and I see some resonance with your work.

I think about the Latin and Norse roots of the word, window: vindr (wind) auga (eye) and I think about the Latin roots of the word, aperture: about that being an opening, to open, to uncover; and then I think about all of that not from a statistical or even an empirical position, but rather from a position exploring the relationship between visibility and materiality.

I'm also interested in the role of trespass with your work, and porosity. Those are the words that I wrote down in my journal when I saw your work in progress. I appreciate the language of your titles, and I'm interested in the kind of language used in architecture, for example: a gut renovation. It always comes back to the body as experienced in time and place. That might be uninteresting to you, but for me it makes for a deeply meaningful and memorable experience that that I take away. I'm interested in how your work functions as something in between—and for me, it’s a poetic experience. It's a collision between material and metaphor.

Sarah: That’s really astute. I’m particularly drawn to how the title, Occasional Work and the Seven Walks inverts the temporal relationship of work and walk. Suddenly work is the occasional and walk is the primary activity of the office. C-010106 also inverts temporal relationships, constantly recentering the relative motion of moving parts. The bridge shifts in response to a passerby, the person responds to sunlight’s reflection, the reflection warms the bridge surface and shifts the position of the glass, and so on.

Elizabeth: Something I've noticed is that there's a kind of specificity to the work. When you mentioned Eileen Gray, I think of her work as being materially oriented, very beautifully detailed, and specific. I'm thinking not only of her architectural work, but also of her furniture. There's also a dreamlike quality to it, a sort of fantasy, where it oscillates between very real, tangible detail, but also the incredibly experiential. And the same is true in Lina Bo Bardi’s work at the scale of the city, at a much larger scale. It also has this sort of fantasy, questioning what is exactly real, what's the frame of reference, or what’s my frame of reference relative to this piece. Where am I, relative to the piece and in the world? Where do I exist in this moment, with this, in this place?

These are some of the things that I thought about when I was on the site with your work. Where am I relative to these buildings that are surrounding us, that are surrounding me? Where am I in space? I'm not grounded, I'm not on the ground, I'm on a bridge, I’m elevated in space—floating.

All of those questions came to mind in a personal experience with the hyper-real and psychological, like experiencing wandering and emplacement relative to the hyper, all the while looking at how the piece was constructed, and the very, very slight tolerances that were necessary for it to work. I found that oscillation to be incredibly profound and interesting, and something that architects and architecture students try to articulate.

These things are seemingly opposed, but are very much in harmony. So, I wonder if that resonates with you and your work. Or maybe not, but it's what I experienced while I was there.

Sarah: I love how you're describing both Gray and Bo Bardi - I would never have thought about it quite like that. In both of their work, there is a tactile immediacy which shapes the experience of a situation, which radiates outward into a designed, orchestrated field.

I think what you're describing—an oscillation in locating oneself in relation to the world—is very much at the core of what I'm interested in. The last two years have been an exciting time creatively because it allowed me to register what is most immediate. I try to keep things close to hand. The more I can physically manipulate, touch, and absorb, the more I understand what I'm doing, even if what I'm working on ultimately operates beyond the range of my perception.

C-010106 is a singular example of this change in my working process. It required virtual coordination with a large team. It is embedded in a building project that was far greater in scale than any I had ever engaged with. The timeline was much longer. I was able to address this distance by asking: what is that detail, how close and intimate can I make it, can I model it at a 1:1 scale in the studio, can we touch it? The project has developed in this way from the beginning; it's kept everything very focused. It's very much what I hope would happen in the viewers’ encounter with the work – a reorientation of self within a much greater field.

Sarah: It's such a helpful way for me to think about this piece because as I said, it is so different from previous work. Everything I’d done previously occupied interior or interior/exterior space. Here it is all exterior: there's no stable horizon defining the field of vision, no threshold demarcating in and out. Creating intimacy within the scale of a city or campus was critical to the success of this work.

Elizabeth: Actually, it's interesting you bring this up, that you mention the horizon, because as we went up and then down the stairs, I was thinking about that—about how the horizon was changing with every step, that I was going into this other realm as I moved up and down. And then I turned ninety degrees and found myself in a new axial relationship to the space that existed between the buildings. I wondered about that axial relationship, and whether it was important to you that it exists.

It made me curious about the role of your piece in its physical context, how it affects this particular place, and how we understand that place now. You talked about a kind of generic-ness and I'm really interested in that; I like the idea of generic place and think that's fascinating because it’s not often how we think about the built environment.

I also wonder how your work will influence the way we perceive the larger existing space. With the axial relationship emphasized in a way that it wasn't before, other spaces come to life. We might not have been aware of them and of the horizon as we move up and down and across the bridge. I'll have to go back to your work again and again to see how I experience it over time, especially after the first time of being there which is always a unique experience. I find that interesting and I’ll be curious if my students notice it as well, or what they notice.

Sarah: These axial relations are fascinating and I find that they’re reflected in our daily tools. The design process for C-010106 required constant back and forth between the physical mockup and the 3d cad model. When navigating 3d software, the model is displayed in four view-ports. Each viewport has a different relationship to the horizon. For example, in the plan view, there is no representation of the horizon, while in the elevation viewports, the horizon is static. The software is unable to dynamically reflect the relationship between the moving body and the shifting horizon. Something as simple as walking up a set of stairs, or walking up a hill, always contains a beautiful flux. This embodied relationship to the world is the one thing that the digital model is always chasing after.

I love the fact that my work makes people aware of a changing horizon.

Teresa: I have one more question: what are your thoughts about misuse of the work? And what does that look like?

Andrée: To extend that line of thinking, I remember some time ago we talked about emergency responses, and risk, and we had a helpful conversation about experimentation in your work and in art practice. I’m curious if you might comment upon that again.

Sarah: I would just ask the question, what does use mean? Aldo van Eyck, the Dutch designer of post-World War II playgrounds, was a big fan of the sandbox. The sandbox has so many open-ended possibilities. What does it mean to misuse the sandbox? I am fascinated by the proposition that the urban environment poses all sorts of permutations for use. It’s my hope that C-010106 invites experimentation with public boundaries and expands our awareness of the actions of others.

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A Conversation with Sarah Oppenheimer, including Kevin Alter and Andrée Bober

Participants:
Kevin Alter, Sid W. Richardson Centennial Professor of Architecture, Partner, Alterstudio Architecture LLP
Andrée Bober, Landmarks Founding Director and Curator
Sarah Oppenheimer, Artist

Download a PDF version of this Conversation

The following conversation took place on April 15, 2022 and the transcripts were edited by the participants.

Andrée: There have been many twists and turns in the development of your concept for this piece. It seemed like each time you came up with an idea, we’d discover new conditions that were previously unknown and you’d have to go back to the drawing board again and again. I think most artists would have cracked, but at each stage—and there were dozens of them—you seemed to thrive on the challenges and were eager to invent solutions. Can you walk us through the overall arc of the work’s development?

Sarah: Yes, it's interesting to start with that question because there are constraints in every project. Constraint too often implies that a work is determined, shaped, and manipulated by its context. It is rarely recognized as an opportunity to manipulate these contextual parameters. But I find that constraints are profoundly generative. To imagine an artwork without constraint, or imagine anything without constraint, is to imagine it as autonomous. I'm not interested in making autonomous things.

This project in particular was an eye-opener in regard to constraints, because the work demanded I interface with a radically larger scale of operations. Collaboration with multiple players opened up a lot of possibilities while simultaneously imposing creative limits. I'm curious, Kevin, as an architect, what's your relationship to the constraints of a collaborative process?  

Kevin: I love hearing you talk about your work this way, in part because it reinforces my desire to see what you do as more like architecture than the autonomous version of art practice that you mention. In many ways, the most interesting part of architecture is working through a project’s constraints, rather than imagining a building as primarily the manifestation of the architect’s desire. In this way, the building and its conception evolve as they engage constraints.

I've always been interested in sculpture, but one of the things that drove me to architecture is that I enjoy the collaborative process with clients, professionals, other constituencies, sites, regulations, etc... There is a school of thought often present in academia that these constraints are difficulties to overcome, and they contaminate the purity of a project.  However, I often find that the most interesting ideas arise because of unexpected constraints, and the effort to negotiate these concerns both inform the end result and distill the conceptual apparatus of a project.

In spite of what I can imagine were myriad difficulties in coordination and concerns about liability (especially at the University of Texas), for example, I believe that this piece is all the more remarkable because it is in the public domain, and not privatized with a rope around it, for example. That constraint, I believe, has helped this work become so extraordinary.   

Sarah: What you're saying is so interesting. Every situation is composed of rhythmic patterns. There's a process in the development of a project where I'm looking for those primary rhythms within a situation, to play against them, or to play with them, depending on the work. Syncopation constrains and expands many of my works.

At the site of C-010106, architectural alignments and misalignments orient pedestrian flow above and below GLT’s pedestrian bridge, creating a rhythm, a pulse. In prior projects, these patterns of motion through a site were already in place. But in this instance, processional pathways emerged through the collaborative process between myself and others, as the architecture and the artwork developed in tandem.

Kevin: I like to see your work as architecture; architecture in the sense that it operates phenomenally, and through its experience invites the viewer to perceive the world with added insight.  One way in which we share common ground is in the experience of a work that might allow the visitor a new perspective on, for example, their circumstance, environment, or social & cultural conditions. I think what's most compelling in architecture, and indeed in this work, is that the experience of the artifact might provide a new perspective and an invitation to action.

I'm interested in shelter; I'm interested in construction; I'm interested in beautiful things. But in the end, I am most interested in architecture when it offers positive change and provides the opportunity to see the world, or the shadows of a tree, for example, afresh. I've always thought about your work in that way; the experience is not just looking at a handsome artifact, but one that allows the viewer to see their surroundings in an enlightened way.

I don’t mean to suggest that it is all choreographed. To the contrary, it’s clear that the many reflections, and kinds of insights from experiencing your piece are not preconceived – but you have set the stage, as it were. I’m thinking now of ceramics and the kinds of variegation in the glazes that come out of a gas kiln. There’s a kind of serendipity to it that seems similar in your work. Once it’s placed in the world its effects aren't entirely controlled, and I think it's richer as a consequence.

So much of the focus in architecture is on just addressing the constraints –  the problems of shelter, of order, of budgets, for example – that I think architects often get distracted from these more meaningful aspects of the field. The Roman architect Vitruvius is often cited for stating in his Ten Books of Architecture that architecture was firmness, commodity and delight. Firmness and commodity are easy to define and because it is more ephemeral, delight all too often is forgotten — but delight is where beauty and meaning are inculcated in architecture, and as a consequence is the most important aspect of Vitruvious’ three elements.

Sarah: That’s raising all sorts of associations for me; it's a very interesting notion of how architecture performs.

Kevin: I think if you asked a layperson what a modern building is, they’d probably answer with something like it's white, it's a simple form, it has a strip window. It is simple; abstract. However, I think if you asked the same layperson what modern art is they might point to Picasso or Braque, where one sees a portrait as well as that person’s profile; it shows them in movement as well as what they're thinking. There's a richer understanding of a person than what a previous portrait would have portrayed. I feel like the best modern buildings are the same. For example, glass is transparent, it’s reflective; but it is most interesting when it is transparent and reflective simultaneously.

Sarah: So are you saying that in some ways the strength of the modern is in its ambiguity?

Kevin: I think so; in its ability to address multifarious concerns and readings simultaneously. To be clear, I’m not particularly interested in work that is complex in its form, but rather in work that has a complexity to the way it is perceived and understood; the artifact might be abstract, but its experience is complex.

Sarah: Yes, that’s right. About twenty years ago, I travelled to Gifu Prefecture in Japan to Arakawa + Gins’ Reversible Destiny Project. They realized an architecture that was intended to reverse aging and undo death – an astonishing conceptual conceit. One of the most astounding pieces was an inverted hole covered in AstroTurf, approximately ½ km in diameter. Decaying Caligari-like house forms interrupted the convex green ground. There was a beauty and wonder in the structures’ material decay. It amplified the magnitude of Arakawa and Gins’ extraordinary claim.

There's something fascinating about conceptual architecture, and it’s potential to generate radical, unimaginable change. Does the material instantiation need to exist? Can the conceptual conceit do it alone? These questions are linked to the modern, and how we make relations between things both linguistically and spatially. That's what I think about associatively, when we talk about the promise of architecture to create a psychic or practical alternative. 

One related phenomenon I’ve noticed and tried to absorb in my work is that by greatly reducing the complexity of form, I am far more able to set up extremely complex relationships. If you begin with simple forms, you can explore the relationship between them, as well as the relationship between them and their environment. But when there's deep intricacy in each element, you lose the relational as a primary drive of inquiry.

Andrée: Something that struck me in your description is how great complexity and dynamic forms can arise from simplicity. It reminded me of when you were developing the concept for this commission. There was a moment where you pivoted from a much more complex proposal to a radically simplified form.

Sarah: Yes, that was such an important moment. I'm often preoccupied by the challenge of enmeshing a work, while allowing it to be distinguished from its environment. So that there’s some kind of bracket that indicates “this is not everything”. On the bridge, the artwork extends beyond its visible edge. Steel anchors are hidden beneath the pavers, structural rebar is buried in the slab. But the visual boundary between the artwork and environment is an essential perceptual bracket.

In an early draft of this project, the visual boundary of the artwork dispersed into the bridge’s paved surface. This blur between bridge and artwork limited the work’s potential. It became apparent to me that if an artwork aims to establish a relationship with a situation, it cannot become the situation. 

Kevin: I appreciate that observation. I think one often finds a desire, probably more among architects than artists, to control everything. But as you point out, if the work is fundamentally about setting up a relationship with the complex circumstances of this particular place – the people, buildings, and landscapes – then it must have its own identity and a distinction of its boundaries. 

Sarah: Over the past several years I've been interested in doorways, and prior to that I was extremely interested in apertures, specifically windows. Doors and windows function as thresholds, and thresholds are dependent on their environment to perform. A frame sited in an open field is not a doorway: when it’s decontextualized it becomes a ready-made. A threshold is distinguishable from the space around it and dependent upon the space’s variability – it’s both integrated and distinct.

I often imagine architecture as a hinge, a distinct condition that is not separate, a radial spoke in a wheel, or a switch in a larger network.

Kevin: I’m excited that you identify doorways or windows as an interest. I think thresholds of all kinds are full of possibility.  They are the elements that negotiate between different worlds, and I would argue that it is the threshold that identifies and defines them. Akin to Robert Irwin's early studies or the edges of so much of James Turrell’s work, we recognize how the frame both shapes the perspective of a space beyond and negotiates between different worlds.

I've often felt that much of an architect’s attention should be focused on the threshold; the moment that both separates and defines distinct spaces, as well as what is inside and what is outside. Modern architecture often tried to blur this relationship such that thresholds were ambiguous, and its authority often rested on the consequent intimate relationship of an interior with the immediate surroundings. Likewise, the physicality and a person’s engagement of a threshold matters in this relationship of circumstances. Grasping hold of a doorknob and cracking the door open is different than throwing it open entirely; as is the resistance that the door poses to opening. One becomes instantly aware of what is framed, what is not seen, and what constituencies are engaged.

I love thinking about your work in that way, as a threshold defining, connecting and highlighting the many conditions of its circumstance.

Andrée: I’d like to ask a question about thresholds. One thing that intrigues me about your piece is that you've taken this material—glass—which has a very high surface tension and is an amorphous solid. And you're inserting this fragile substance into a bridge which is inherently dynamic. This seems to create a new kind of threshold because we’re not accustomed to those materials being in relation to one another. How did you become interested in this juxtaposition? Did your interest arise more from the materiality, or from the logistical challenge, or from some other place?

Sarah: There are probably many answers to this question, but let’s start with materiality. For decades I’ve been interested in how a piece might engage with our built environment. When I first began manipulating architectural surfaces, I made everything by hand. Conceptually, the handmade acted as a citation of historically familiar processes of fabrication. This imprint of the hand had affect, a sort of cloud of nostalgia. I wanted to move past the imprint of the hand and integrate each piece into the material flows that comprise the built environment now. To do that, I had to acquire new tools and change how I worked. I learned new fabrication technologies and taught myself to manipulate 3D modeling software platforms. This process led to a very different relationship to materials. It has allowed me to integrate the materials of our contemporary urban environment - concrete and glass – into this piece. 

In the last ten years, I continued exploring the structural and conceptual possibilities of glass. In 2012 I completed W-120301, a permanent commission at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Like C-010106, the Baltimore piece is composed of two glass planes that pass through a hole in a concrete floor, ricocheting sightlines into the space below. Unlike C-010106, the surrounding wall of W-120301 is opaque and the structural support is obscured. In C-010106, the vertical glass planes operate as a transparent structural wall. The interior reflective relationships are legible – and the cross section of the reflective planes is diagrammatically present. You could say that glass transforms the structure into a drawing.

Kevin: That’s a beautiful piece. It’s interesting to hear you talk about glass and concrete being familiar; the norm. I agree. When you were talking about the Japanese architects and the pilgrimage you made, it seems to me that you were evaluating the presence of something unfamiliar, and I wonder if that interest had a role in this piece as well; that ‘normal’ elements were de-familiarized in the way that they were employed.

Sarah: Yes, that’s a really important tool I've used, the process of de-familiarization. I want to introduce a sense of the unfamiliar into the relationship between a human actor and the situation. I want the unfamiliar to cause a recalibration of our relationship with the built environment without resulting in radical separation or alienation.

Kevin: That seems important. 

Sarah: I want to refer to something you said earlier about serendipity, which is such a beautiful word. I am eager to see C-010106 completed. The work is not yet open to the public; I haven't had the opportunity to watch people engage with it. So, I'm incredibly curious about the serendipity that will emerge from these interactions, especially because the design process predicted many of the possible relational patterns.

Kevin: I think that it is brave to release control over the composition and invite the vicissitudes of circumstance to play a significant role in determining the character of the work. But it is this invitation that both allows a dynamism to the composition and focuses its relational content. I love the many overlapping relationships that are created through your piece, and how it is experienced with all the inclusiveness and serendipity of life, weather, people and place.

Sarah: And that goes right back to the beginning of our conversation, to the notion of constraint and how it holds potential for liberation from the autonomous object. Constraints direct chance operations. They make serendipitous encounters possible.

Kevin: That’s a beautiful turn of phrase, liberation from the autonomous object, while at the same time being so carefully composed. I had two more questions, albeit at opposite ends of the making of the piece. First, were there particular constraints that were formative, or more consequential in the final iteration of the piece? And second, on the more technical side, what elements of the construction were most consequential? I understand that there is some very precise engineering and detail that allows the final sculpture to appear almost effortless. I suppose that I’m contemplating the constraints that might be understood as consequential irritants – like the grain of sand that encourages a pearl to grow inside an oyster. 

Sarah: Well, one of the most positively generative constraints was the ADA code. ADA regulates the flow of bodies through buildings—establishing a range of horizontal datums shaped by human motion. For example, handrails must be between 34 inches and 38 inches above walking surfaces. I used this code requirement as a design parameter: instead of putting a stanchion around the piece, the uppermost edge of the lower sloped glass became the guard rail.

I also used material to set up its own kind of constraint game. By deciding that each apparatus would be constructed from four pieces of glass, our engineers had to focus on developing a modular connection detail between glass planes that allowed for material movement. These decisions constrained which engineers and fabricators I collaborated with, who could fabricate within certain tolerances and at certain scales—so much was driven by this material choice. 

Andree: That answers a question I had about whether the conditions drove material decisions, or if you chose the materials independently. In hindsight I recall those moments when we realized that if you were going to take this direction, then there were two fabricators who could reliably make the fittings, and only one glass manufacturer.

Sarah: It was exciting to get to work with this group of fabricators. It was an extraordinary fabrication challenge.

Andrée: I remember, Kevin, when we were on the bridge and you pointed out how fine the quality of the glass was, and contrasted it with the building glass.

Kevin: In the United States we tend to manufacture Insulated Glass Units (IGU) with tempered glass rather than laminated glass, and as a consequence they’re not entirely flat and bow, so they appear a little wavy when you look carefully. You might not notice it otherwise, but the reflections in the laminated glass of Sarah’s piece acts as a kind of datum against which one can measure the waves in the glass of the building.

Andrée: I loved that you pointed that out on the bridge, because you're looking with an architect’s eye and I doubt that I would have spotted that detail.

Kevin: I so hope that when this work is published that it will include documentation of the construction details that are mostly concealed and covered up with pavers. They are so very thoughtful and beautiful in their own right – and they address the very real differentials in expansion and movement between the glass and the bridge. They allow the piece to appear almost effortless, slicing through the bridge. In reality, that must have taken a great deal of thought and effort and precision.

Andrée: It’s an interesting question—how to share information about the structural thinking behind this piece, especially with students?

Sarah: I have a thought about this quite a bit. Materials expand and contract at different rates. Gravity and wind loads create dynamic change. So the project engineers had to develop systems that allowed materials to move. This occurred on many scales. The structural connection between the concrete ground plane and the glass planes had to allow each element to shift and yet remain tethered.

Kevin: Additionally, you had to contend with the other problems being outside of the controlled environment of a gallery. Environmental factors and social occasions add to the constraints with which you engaged. I think that publications tend to want to define the form of art and architecture as directly emerging from the will of its author. In contrast, I imagine that over the long period in which you worked on this piece that incorporating these other constraints that weren't part of a generating idea, became part of its conceptual apparatus and presumably made the piece richer.

Sarah: Yes. For many years now I’ve had an ongoing conversation about joints with the architect Julian Rose. This dialog has allowed me to think about architecture and the built environment as a site of constant flux. Everything I make, whether we think of it as still or moving, is always accommodating changing motion. And this has been one of the most interesting aspects of integrating work into the built environment: the work has located itself conceptually in the joint, between things.

Kevin: I think that is really astute. Moreover, I think the joint is most interesting when it is not the focus of visual attention and a form to elaborate upon.  At the scale of ameliorating the artifact to the bridge the joint allows movement to happen without drawing attention to itself.  Similarly, the whole piece is like the joint in a much larger circumstance, and it is that circumstance that is framed and highlighted.

Sarah: Exactly. If you make it really simple, then that joint can behave very complexly. 

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In 2022, Landmarks commissioned ARCOS to create a dance composition in response to Sarah Oppenheimer's C-010106

Watch the full video on Vimeo.

 

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