Words over pictures

By KEN GREENLEAF  |  September 3, 2008
Of the 16 tanks involved in the project, eight will be painted on their tops and sides, and eight will be done only on their tops. The tops will be mostly visible from airplanes or Google Earth (assuming the satellite photo database is updated), and the sides from cars, trains, boats, and walkways. None of the presented designs are final. When the winner is chosen, the final design details will be worked out before painting begins. The paint is expected to last 15 years. What happens then is anyone’s guess.

There are five individuals or groups who are semifinalists, one of whom will be awarded the project.

SARA LAMBERT BLOOM, from Maine, and BO NATHAN NEWSOME, from North Carolina, both oboists, have envisioned a process based on selected pieces of music, many Maine-related, that will be translated into animated graphic music notation, with a design and color scheme that reflects the music. From the animations, the artists will choose elements to be painted on the tanks. The music itself will be available for people to hear for free at kiosks around the city. It’s an innovative idea that would engage a great many people, but a drawback here is that the vast majority of the viewers will be seeing the paintings in passing and have no access points to the music. In a way, Bloom and Newsome have reversed the transition of programmatic music, in which the environment shapes the music. In this case, the music will be shaping the environment. They intend to seek collaborations with musicians and children in the process of developing the final design. There is no way to know how it will look. The only given is that there will be lots of people involved.

feat_tanks_Langille1_ChrisG.jpg
TOPS AND SIDES: Nicole Langille’s
swooping design.

CATHERINE CALLAHAN and BRET LEBLEU are both landscape architects from South Portland. They too have proposed a conceptual reversal — taking aerial photographs and graphic maps of the topography of the area and rendering them as nearly abstract designs on the tanks, thus reversing semantic philosopher Alfred Korzybski’s famous dictum, “The map is not the territory.” In this case, they are taking the map and making it part of the territory, after which Google Earth will incorporate it into a map.

NICOLE LANGILLE is an artist living in Columbus, Ohio, and a graduate student working toward her master’s at Ohio State. Her proposal is a more straightforward exercise in design. She has researched the history of the site and the area and has make abstracted references to the function of the tanks themselves and the way the tanks rise from the ground like ships from the sea. With its swooping lines and strong diagonals, her design reflects the overall shape of the site and the roadways that bound it.

JAIME GILI is a Venezuelan artist living in London. His abstract paintings contain strong contrasts and dynamic, almost explosive arrangements of sharp triangles. His proposal for the tank farm is his painting style writ very large, in many ways a relief from the other competitors’ attempts at relevance.

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