Torn Notebook

Madden Garden, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska

Stainless steel, steel, aluminum; painted with polyurethane enamel
Three elements;
Notebook: 21 ft. 10 in. x 23 ft. x 26 ft. 1 in. (6.7 x 6.4 x 8 m)
Page (1): 10 ft. x 14 ft. 1 in. x 7 ft. 1 in. (3.0 x 4.3 x 2.2 m)
Page (2): 11 ft. 8 in. x 8 ft. 7 in. x 8 ft. 2 in. (3.6 x 2.6 x 2.5 m)

Commissioned March 1995 by the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery
Installed August 20, 1996
Inaugurated September 6, 1996

Torn Notebook, 1996 Torn Notebook, 1996 Torn Notebook, 1996

Statement by the Artists

Torn Notebook, 1996 Torn Notebook, 1996 In preparation for a commission by the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery at the University of Nebraska, we drove from Kansas City, Missouri, through the Missouri River Valley to Lincoln, the capital and location of the university, while setting down our observations along the way. Coosje's notations took the form of lyrical phrases, such as "falcons atop flagpoles," "fields of corn one ear per stalk in wayward winds swing," "crows on the butte," and "buffalo peas." Claes mostly wrote down names of things, for example, "barbed wire," "goose," "hoop," and "roller skate." Only when we were back in the studio in New York did we realize that a sculpture about the process of collecting observations could be the perfect subject for a university site.

For some time, as part of the process of making sculptures out of fragmented objects, or "flotsam," as Coosje called them, we had been collecting Claes' discarded spiral-bound pocket notebooks. His habit of tearing them in half after removing the pages he wanted to save resulted in a sculptural form that had already been the subject of a number of table-scale works. It was apparent to us that the torn notebook, with its twisted spiral binding and curled fragments of pages, also had the potential for a dynamic curvilinear outdoor work in large scale.

The Torn Notebook, as executed, appears as if it had been tossed onto the lawn that runs along the border between the campus and the city. Barely touching the ground, the sculpture seems to rise like a huge bird spreading its wings. The "pages," formed out of rolled aluminum, look "torn" roughly in half. Selections from our earlier notations are water-cut through the metal, creating a continuously changing interplay of light and shadow. Coosje's script is on the top half of the "pages" and Claes' on the bottom, in reverse relation to each other, so that one set of script will always be read backward. Loose "page" fragments are strewn over the lawn, as if blown by the wind.

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