Environmentally themed exhibition at Rice runs through April 24
If the sun had been shining the week of March 7, Rice School of Architecture students would have worked in the shadow of the rising Moody Center for the Arts as they assembled a temporary arts outpost for FotoFest.
As it happened, students working under the banner of the Rice Building Workshop (RBW) had to deal with clouds and a whole lot of water while they installed an environmentally themed set of exhibits that opened to the public on March 12.
“The rain adds a nice patina,” said Eric Burnside, hammer in hand, on Thursday.
“It’s hard for the installation but it’s perfect for the art,” added Joseph Campana, an associate professor and the Alan Dugald McKillop Chair in English. “It’s exactly what we’re talking about.”
The exhibition is part of FotoFest, a biennial, citywide event. This year the theme is “Changing Circumstances: Looking at the Future of the Planet.” This exhibitions will be open for six weeks.
The arts outpost is only one of several FotoFest exhibits at Rice this year. Other exhibitions are taking place inside at the nearby Rice Media Center and the Anderson-Clarke Center, home to the Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies.
The outdoor portion features two collections by five artists. One, “Dear Climate,” shows the work of Marina Zurkow, Una Chaudhuri, Fritz Ertl and Oliver Kellhammer, while “Another Storm Is Coming” features photos and videos by Judy Natal that view the impact of current energy use and the future of the climate. Both were commissioned by Rice’s Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (CENHS).
The work is on display inside and around three solar-powered containers deposited between the Moody Center construction site and Tudor Fieldhouse last fall. Since then, while the artists developed their exhibitions off-site, Rice students and their mentors designed and built the elements that bring all of the pieces together.
On Thursday, they anticipated finishing just in time.
To that end, graduate student Burnside, freshman Sirui Zhou and fifth-year student Ian Griffith were assembling ramps and the outdoor elements of the show late in the week. The three self-sustaining containers are encompassed by freestanding frames that hold images by the artists. “I guess this is a good day to hammer these guys in,” Griffith acknowledged, looking at the mud beyond the ramps.
“We’ve had beautiful weather all semester long for most of the work, which was great,” said Danny Samuels, a professor of architecture and RBW director. “But right when we got down to the critical, last few things, we got days and days of rain.”
Those things included mounting artwork and signage outside the containers, called Mobile Grid juiceBOX, which were donated to Rice by MetaLab principal RSA alumnus Joe Meppelink ’00 and Joey Romano, the president of Mobile Grid.
The artists were perfecting their presentations until the last minute as well, said Campana, a member of the CENHS faculty steering committee. “The photographs are going up, and the frames are up and look great,” he said as the installation neared completion. “We’re fine-tuning the video projection in one of the units. Another has a kind of library, with objects and books and images that were in Judy Natal’s mind as she was taking the photos that became ‘Another Storm Is Coming.’
“Marina Zurkow likes to think of hers as a kind of faux FEMA trailer,” he said. “Dear Climate” links “all of that signage and rhetoric and imagery” to connect visitors in a playful way with the dimensions of climate change, he said.
The spring semester crew also included junior Katherine Tees, while students who took part in the initial stages last fall are fifth-year students Kelly Beckman, Helen Seldin and Hazal Yucel, senior Elodie Graham, junior Caroline Brigham and graduate student Evio Isaac. Serving as auditors and volunteers were fifth-year student Adeline Koleva; Amanda Chang, a staff researcher at the Kinder Institute for Urban Research; RBW fellows Eric Hester and Jason Fleming; RBW assistant Haley Koesters, Nonya Grenader, a professor in the practice of architecture and associate RBW director, with her husband and son, Jonathan and Sam Grenader.
Campana said the RBW crew was invaluable as the exhibition came together. “They’re a hidden treasure here at Rice, and we’re lucky to work with them,” he said.
The full schedule of programs and events appears on the FotoFest website.