A busy little beaver was hard at work to build this mind-boggling installation made from recycled wood scraps. Phoebe Washburn, an American installation artist, works primarily in wood and cardboard scraps to build what she calls "spontaneous architecture." Her work explores generative systems based on absurd patterns of production created by banal rules that she sets up when working on an installation. Known for reusing materials from previous installations, Washburn requires a team of assistants to create her complicated site-specific installations that take on a life of their own.
Her 2011 installation, Nunderwater Nort Lab at Zach Feuer Gallery in New York City, juxtaposed two seemingly unrelated activities – art and lunch. While not necessarily two subjects you think of together, many people do in fact eat their lunch in places filled with art, like galleries, public parks, plazas, lobbies, etc. The main structure was built from blocks of scrap wood that had been repurposed and reworked from previous installations. In this installation, visitors were able to smell lunch as well as see it being made and eaten inside. Wormholes provided viewers a peek into the mismatched interior.
Washburn’s off-the-wall installations are often named for a play on the sounds and meanings of words. Nort, for instance, is a derivation of Ort and a play on the word Art, and was a name she applied to a previous work. Some of her other installations are like small cities filled with building-like objects and vegetation, while others are abstract sculptures composed of wood or scraps of cardboard.
Washburn describes her art: “My sculptures depend a lot on the spaces where they are shown because they often are anchored into the wall but chance is definitely more of a factor in the final product than is any predetermined design. I just let the structures evolve by repeating the same action again and again. The process has a slightly neurotic element in that it involves adding little behavior habits. As silly as it sounds, I often feel as if my assistants and I are beavers building a dam. The shapes are less about form than they are about the activity involved in amassing and assembling the forms.”
Images © Phoebe Washburn