maya lin and systematic landscapes

vietnamYou may be familiar with Maya Lin because she designed the winning entry for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial competition during her undergraduate studies. Right now, an exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., features Maya Lin’s landscape installations. The exhibit, entitled “Systematic Landscapes”, includes works which make connections with our own studies in architecture. Some similarities dealt with craft and technique; some of the installations were milled and lasercut (the burnt edges were not sanded off), some dealt with x- and y-contours as in our first IDM2 assignment, and some incorporated techniques such as lamination – but on a large scale. Other similarities were more about the big picture, like the way she chose to represent or model her ideas or the way she approached her work. An example of this is her representation of the Caspian Sea. She considered land_04solid/void, positive/negative, as well as the viewer’s position and how many placements the viewer could assume relative to the pieces. She also related the concept of spacial perception to ordinary objects, such as atlases, by giving them topographical characteristics. While this exhibit is considered “art”, I can see through her models and process that she is an architect. There are qualities about the installations which are unmistakeable in this sense. What was so interesting was the matterof perspective she took in each installation. Maya took a unique approach to each of her installations which could in turn be interpreted in still more different perspectives. For example, one installation consisted of overlapping wires – they looked something like a tic-tac-toe board. The open ends were attached to the wall and the middle part, where the wires overlapped, was extended away from the wall. Because the ends intersected the wall, a shadow of each wire was created by lights which were cast on the installation. It was difficult to determine what was wire and what was shadow since the shadow connected to the wire on both ends, making a loop, so a second dimension was creatland_01ed. I was curious to see how I would perceive the piece if the angle or placement of the lights changed – I’m sure something new would come of it. Some of the installations were interactive. I was walking through one and I was amazed that with each step I took something completely new about the piece was revealed to me due to my change in position relative to that of the piece  as well as the speed at which my location was changing. This exhibit is a testimony of study and process. Above all, I was intrigued by the way she manipulated matter.



6 Responses to “maya lin and systematic landscapes”

  1. 1 Liza
    2009/06/15 at 2:55 pm

    I love the size of Maya Lin’s display. Is the third photo also of the Caspian Sea?

    Just to be clear, The modular nature of the display, while also practical for transportation, allows a viewer to walk around the model such that a viewer can be aware of the size of what is being represented in its actual scale. This is opposed to large train models with mountains and other landscaping that restrict a viewer to put his or her eye next to what is being represented because of its mere size. Instead, one feels like a giant overlooking the train model.

    Good find!

  2. 2009/06/16 at 4:35 pm

    The third photo is labeled “Blue Lake Pass” – it was interesting to walk through this exhibit and view it from many different vantage points.

    The second photo is a model of the Caspian Sea – it considers the depth and contours of the Sea and represents it through this mass which models the sea itself. In the background of that photo is also a model of the Red Sea.

    You can take a peek at some of the other works in the exhibit at this site:


  3. 2009/06/16 at 4:40 pm

    The third photo is labeled “Blue Lake Pass” – it was interesting to walk through it and view it from several different vantage points. Each location I viewed it from presented a completely different impression.

    The second photo is the model of the Caspian Sea – the depth and contours of the Sea were considered when creating this model of the positive/negative of the Sea. In the background of the photo is also a model of the Red Sea.

    You can get a peek at other parts of the exhibit at this site (it also includes a little more information about the Blue Lake Pass piece):


  4. 4 Liza
    2009/06/16 at 11:35 pm

    HOLY COW! Those images are incredible! I have seen the wire depiction of the Mississippi River. Today during lunch I went to the Cooper Hewitt and Maya Lin had a table made of either cherry or maple cores. It was beautifully executed. They also had two very tiny models (unsure of the exact scale, but fit in your hand tiny) and they were models of “Blue Lake Pass”, what a coincidence.

    The first image of her book was massive. Maya Lin is great. I think we should do instillation art around Margaret Morrison or CFA the make paths articulated by “landscaping” with scraps, really looking at spacial definition like the rising fourth year who had the instillation at the Frame. Matt Huber would know her name for sure. That would be a good exercise.

  5. 5 Danny Burdzy
    2009/06/16 at 11:59 pm

    I believe it was Kaitlin Miciunas.

  6. 6 Liza
    2009/06/17 at 1:18 pm

    Yes. Thanks, Dan.

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