LANDSCAPE BODY DWELLING: CHARLES SIMONDS AT DUMBARTON OAKS
John Beardsleyintroduction to Landscape Body Dwelling suggests that artistic installations at Dumbarton Oaks will unexpected experiences and fresh interpretations”of its gardens and buildings. Charles Simonds, known for clay sculptures that document the wanderings of…Little People,”was the first to be selected for this experiment The book, which perhaps strives harder than the installations to make something substantial of this endeavor, contains essays by Beardsley (currently the director of garden and landscape studies at Dumbarton Oaks), by the former Director of Pre-Columbian Studies Joanne Pillsbury, by Gerrnano Celant and Ann Reynolds (not otherwise identified), and a of curiosities”curated by Simonds himself, with a scattering of bibliographical information supplied by Linda Lott in the Garden Library.
The volume itself offers a plenitude of eccentric imagery, not least by the strange juxtapositions of materials both within the book and displayed throughout Dumbarton Oaks itself. Besides Simonds s own art and photographs, we have botanical books with curious phallic forms, a reproduction of a wroodcut from the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, tail-biting serpents, and a mysterious photograph of the LoverLane Pool at Dumbarton Oaks in 1931 by Beatrix Farrand. All this has a somewhat
nostalgic feel: the surrealism of Comte de Lautreamont s meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella,”Rene Magritte s Les Reveries du Promeneur Solitaire> orT. S. Eliot s can connect/Nothing with nothing”in The Waste Land. Unexpected experiences, certainly; fresh interpretations, far less clearly.
Beardsley himself is bullish about the suitability of Simonds s work for Dumbarton Oaks, and Pillsbury offers some intriguing resonances between that work and pre-Columbian artifacts. The other essays address Simonds more directly. So we have, essentially, a book on Simonds s imagination on the one hand, and some concern to re-see the pre-Columbian works and the Dumbarton Oaks garden and buildings on the other. Undoubtedly among the concerns and challenges of Dumbarton Oaks as a whole are both how to meld that institution s three very different collections —Byzantine, pre-Columbian, and garden library (along with the garden itself) —and to continue giving visibility and ”to these collections.
Beardsley argues, rightly, that are transformed by changes in ownership and mission.”Yet his arguments on this present transformation, temporary as it was, are unconvincing, and he strains (it seems to me) in eliciting from the gardens adequate parallels to Simonds for this new ”: The cracked, open mouth with protruding tongue of Stugg, adjacent to the animalistic lead fountain mask on the Fountain Terrace, is a sleight of hand in both his text and in Simondsplacement Beardsley himself admits that the installation as a whole was universally loved,”yet (it should be noted) not all the exhibits were created specifically for Dumbarton Oaks. Both Beardsley and Pillsbury refer to visitors’reactions, but the book evades the task of using responses by individual visitors (de gustibus non est disputandum) to set out a useful repertoire of its reception.
Pillsburyelegant essay allows full appreciation of the collections and their installation in Philip Johnsonwronderful gallery, yet she seems, understandably, somewhat hesitant in making the connections to Simondswork —it to echo,”he ”to be overturning expectations, or he may us of the extraordinary growth of Americanist archaeology in the twentieth century.”Does his work really offer more glimpses”into a distant civilization than the original objects displayed here? Although we should not, certainly, belittle any invitation to ponder afresh the pre-Columbian treasures at Dumbarton Oaks, the need to do this by installing work such as Simondsis not persuasively advanced. His objects surely work much more excitingly without being forced into these particular meetings.”And that is, indeed, what the essays by Celant and Reynolds propose by
situating his work within modernist art concerns (albeit with much opaque language from Celant); they raise but do not grapple with notions of ”and .”Inot sure how those who did not love”this work will be tempted to change their minds.
This is not, in fact, the last artistic intervention at Dumbarton Oaks. Last year the oval ellipse of tailored hornbeams toward the bottom of the garden was infiltrated with random branches installed by Patrick Dougherty that slowly engulfed the shapely ring of hornbeam and even its roots. It is not clear to me why such an iconic garden needs to be subverted with material and forms alien to it. Landscape architecture and land art (on which Beardsley has previously offered useful commentaries) have always met some strange, not to say awkward, encounters —see the discussions in Udo WeilacherBetween Landscape Architecture and Land Art (1996); as most of those architects interviewed by Weilacher made clear, the two do not mix, nor even allow many fruitful liaisons. What has been more recently termed land art,”like Athena Tacha(see Dancing in the Landscape: The Sculpture of Athena Tacha, by Harriet Senie), is more inviting, but there, you select a landscape carefully, so that the land art itself can hold its own against, and yet augment, its social context.
Send flowers to Russia having addressed in the stable company. In more detail on a site http://megaflowers.com/