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Growing A Bambu Forest In the Sky

By Peggy Roalf   Tuesday May 18, 2010

On the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a bamboo forest is growing. The work of Doug and Mike Starn, New York art world regulars since the 1980s, this is Big Bambu - a sculpture, an installation, and a performance piece all in one.

Rising 50 feet above the roof garden, with heart-stopping views of the city, Big Bambu is constantly growing and changing as rock climbers add to its height and length during the run. Made of 5,000 bamboo poles measuring 30 to 40 feet long, lashed together with 50 miles of colorful climber's rope, the art project is also a demonstration of sustainable materials. The bamboo, which comes from Georgia and South Carolina, grows faster than any other structural building material available.

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Saturday evening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photos: Peggy Roalf.

The project began as an experiment at the Starn's Beacon warehouse, which I visited last Spring for a preview in DART. In the former Tallix Fine Art Foundry, which is roughly the size of a football field, you could see the piece in its entirety. At the Met, it's jammed into a much smaller space, resulting in a denser thicket of poles which, in a way, makes it nicer to walk through.

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Big Bambu at the Tallix Fine Art Foundry in Beacon, NY. Photos: copyright and courtesy Doug & Mike Starn.

Best of all, visitors to the Met can ascend its heights and walk along a bamboo path that rises nearly to the top. Each day (except Mondays, when the museum is closed - and weather permitting) guided tours are offered to small groups on a first come, first served basis. If you go, be sure to read the conditions posted on the museum's website; without the right shoes, you will be turned away.

Doug + Mike Starn: Big Bambu continues through October 31st at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. 212.535.7710. Enter the Uris Center at 81st Street for guided tour tickets.
Read the Guided Tour Guidelines and Restrictions.
See the video about its creation on YouTube.

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