Arts, On Campus

Artist Michelle Fornabai Demonstrates Work With Concrete

Combining various forms of art and art techniques create depth. For instance, adding visuals to a song can change or elucidate the meaning. Who knew concrete—yes, the building material—could also be used for music and visual art simultaneously?

Michelle Fornabai, a Boston Artist Fellow, took this cross-over technique and reinvented it through her project, Act 3 Mix: To a Water Lily. The past CURRENTS event on Thursday hosted Fornabai as the guest speaker. Students gathered in a Devlin art classroom where she revealed her journey of executing this performance-project twice.

CURRENTS is an initiative started by BC professor, Hartmut Austen, to “fill gaps in our [Art, Art History, and Film] curriculum with other thoughts … or views of art-making and topics that are not necessarily fitting or not appearing in our regular curriculum.”

Act 3 Mix: To a Water Lily is a part of concrete poetry—10 conceptual acts of architecture in concrete, which is a decade-long conceptual art project based on architectural construction documents,” Fornabai said. “The mixed design of the concrete was engineered to be less dense than water, which means that it would float. Its vibrational setting was used to affect the aggregate and pigments of the mix.”

Concrete and ink are her primary tools in architecture, and they did not fail to take stage during her two recent exhibitions: the first in October 2018 in Government Center and the second in February 2019 in celebration of City Hall’s 50- year anniversary.

A ‘mix’ is what she describes as the proportions of concrete and aggregate. Fornabai combines this concept with musical art, as she recreated Edward MacDowell’s “To a Water Lily” in 143 chords captured in floating cylinders. Put simply, it is almost like frozen music, and different notes freeze in certain positions, creating air bubbles that make different sounds. As a table vibrates, it shakes the concrete and creates sound. In addition to auditory aesthetics, the positioning of the cylinders makes for good visual satisfaction.

Fornabai prefaced her abridged, six-day performance summary by introducing some of her own mistakes while critiquing her own poetic and visual art.

“[The word] ‘I,’ the nominative, first-person, is the proper subject, so by misplacing the work, and misusing themes borrowed from the current context, ‘I’ will misunderstand ‘I’ … and I will suggest something is a miss to indicate what may be missing from contemporary critiques,” Fornabai said.

“I trained as an architect,” Fornabai addedsaid. “I am a conceptual artist sometimes mistaken as an architect who uses architecture as a mean. The architects tell me I’m an artist. The artists say I’m an architect.”

Featured Image by Tonie Chase / Heights Staff

March 17, 2019