With the unveiling of the recently restored Harlem Fire Watchtower, and renovation of the Acropolis on which it sits, we take a look back at a Marcus Garvey Park art installation in 2015, Caesura: a forum ~ a large-scale architectural and sound installation we frequented, but find our original post unretrievable ~ and worth a re-post.
Taking the installation description from New York City Parks Department ~ Located on the Acropolis of Marcus Garvey Park, caesura: a forum by artist Jessica Feldman and architects Jerome W Haferd & K Brandt Knapp is inspired by the park’s iconic antebellum Mount Morris Fire Watchtower, and by Harlem’s vibrant tradition of activism and rallies. The bell is silent now, as the tower was temporarily dismantled in 2015 as the first phase for its reconstruction. Simultaneously, Harlem is undergoing dynamic change and New York City is experiencing a resurgence of public culture. caesura seeks to temporarily fill an architectural gap – and create a social space – by echoing and inverting the form and function of the absent tower. Like the bell, caesura aims to call up the neighborhood, to preserve and revitalize Harlem’s histories, and to connect newer and older community members to each other, by reactivating this site for congregation, viewing, and listening. The installation will reframe history with a temporary structure and sound. A “caesura” is a break or pause, a place to catch your breath, most specifically in ancient spoken-word art.
The architectural component of this piece begins at the Acropolis ground as an open-air, steel frame that supports a “horizontal tower”, which the viewer can pass through and meander under. In the center of the piece, a flattened “bell” made of reflective steel.
The sonic component of the piece consists of Feldman’s interactive composition, made up of bell sounds and voices. Historical and contemporary recordings and live-streaming voices from speeches, rallies, chants, and assemblies in Harlem are alternated with a through-composed layer of echoing bells. Analogous to a megaphone, the formal profile of the tower has been tipped sideways, allowing sound to be projected outward. Taut, translucent film runs through this shape and is mounted with electromagnetic transducers that turn the material into a speaker, allowing sound to pour down from the spaces in between the arches above visitors. A microphone mounted at the entrance to the installation allows visitors to broadcast their own voices through the piece. Those not present can participate through an interactive online component, allowing them to trigger the bell and contribute their own live audio to the arches. New and old histories are recorded, spliced, and digitally scripted together, activating the acropolis throughout the day.
This exhibition was on view from June, 2015 to mid-April, 2016.
Since that art installation, the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance/Public Art Initiative have sponsored and produced a number of art installations in this park and others throughout the Harlem/East Harlem community. Looking forward to what will come next.