How exciting is this?
A guest post from a Cal graduate student!
Claire Ittner is from Atlanta. She got her B.A. from Davidson College in North Carolina. At Cal she studies twentieth-century modernisms, with an emphasis on the arts of America and the African diaspora. Her research interests include the spaces of creation and display, race and national identity, questions of influence, and archival theory and practice.
She is all about yard art, as they call it in the South.
Who took a class on material culture!
“Material Culture – The Interpretation of Objects” – This seminar looks at both material culture theory and the practice of interpreting objects in the West and in Asia. It draws on the practices and questions of multiple disciplines including archaeology, anthropology, cultural geography, and art history. We will consider the variety of ways and contexts in which objects have been understood to ‘speak’ as aesthetic vehicles and as cultural texts.
From a cultural historian at Cal who cares about – material culture!
Margaretta M. Lovell is a cultural historian working at the intersection of history, art history, anthropology, and museology. She holds the Jay D. McEvoy Chair in the History of American Art at U. C. Berkeley, and studies material culture, painting, architecture, and design of the eighteenth, nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries.
And who in her (Ittner’s) walks and runs has found examples of Quirky Berkeley that were not uncovered in my explorations!
Sorry – as Marc Antony said to Cleopatra as he stepped inside her tent, I didn’t come here to make a speech. Here is what Ittner found and wrote:
“If you had walked by Sudhu Tewari’s house, on Mabel Street, a year ago, you probably would have noticed the piano first. It was placed on the edge of the front yard, right up against the sidewalk — all but asking to be played. You wouldn’t have been wrong to give in to temptation and try out a few keys — nothing, in fact, would have delighted Tewari more. A recent PhD in music, Tewari specializes in handmade instruments, specifically those that are made from everyday materials, and his yards, back and front, are full of them: golf-ball cymbals, a propane-tank-turned-metal-drum.
“The collection is, in fact, not as chaotic as it might first appear. Tewari has a keen eye (ear?) for which materials produce which sounds, aided in no small part by his time as artist-in-residence at the San Francisco Recology Transfer Station. So he knows what he’s looking for when he collects: small boxes for the instrument he’s been imagining lately, contact mics from the insides of computers, the spoked rims of bicycle wheels. But a large and emphatic part of his practice insists on remaining open to chance. You never know what you’ll find on the street, Tewari believes, and part of his project is the repurposing of the cast-off, no-longer-wanted object: “rescuing” material, as he puts it, material that, although otherwise without value, retains within it the potential for sound.
There is nothing musical about this. Quirky yes, very quirky. But musical, no.
Yarn bombing AND cute little giraffe on the curb strip.
“Thankfully for us, Tewari gives us a chance to participate in this everyday orchestra, inviting us into his process of discovery-through-play. Located directly across from San Pablo Park – a large neighborhood park – his yard catches visual interest immediately: large wind-catching assemblages, versions of whirligigs, spin in the breeze that runs alongside his house, and further draw you in when you realize that their movement creates sound. There’s much to discover here, both visual and aural: a guitar whose strings are on the back, played by a giant wind-propelled panel; tiny sculptures half-hidden by grasses and placed at kid-level.
“It’s easy to see Tewari’s yard, in fact, as an extension of the park on the other side of the street: a different kind of play happens here, but one that’s just as fun. The piano at the yard’s edge has continued to evolve as it has fallen apart over the past several months, gradually revealing its inner workings. Today it has been tipped, its stings a kind of vertical panel; although it may no longer be the first thing you notice, it still invites playing: Tewari has tied balls to the top with strings, which can be sounded off the piano’s exposed insides. “Kids from the park come every day,” Tewari says, “they play me concerts everyday.”
Good find Claire! Good story Claire! Mr. bricoleur, junkyard maven, gadget-man, with his alarm clocks and coffee-makers and instruments constructed with the remains of discarded stereo equipment, kinetic sculptures and sound installations – all this coming from collecting, tinkering, and playing, deconstructing, manipulating and reassembling.
Lenny Bruce said that far out depends on where you’re standing. I don’t care where you are standing, Tewari is ninja-level far out, on a par with Eugene Tssui (seen here and here) or Frank Moore (seen here).
I walked this block of Mabel in February, 2013 – very early in my quest for all things quirky on every block of every street in Berkeley. Tewari hadn’t started. Proof?
This is what it looked like in January 2015. Nothing yet. I didn’t miss it – it wasn’t there. Big sigh of relief.
So Claire Ittner has proven that there is always new quirk to be found. We cannot rest on our laurels. A lot happens in five years – plus quirk, minus quirk, changed quirk. I get discouraged at times by the rapid development/debeautification/blandifying of Berkeley. But then Berkeley will surprise, with a gift like this find. If I take an evening walk I am almost guaranteed to see something quirky that I have not seen before. The quirky spirit lives!
She has also proven that this just isn’t a me thing. Walk around, see things, celebrate things, ask questions. And, if you are inclined, tell me about them.
Good job all around, Claire.
I showed the post to my friend.
He is just finishing the remodeling the bathroom in his quarters. Until a month ago, it looked like this:
About what you’d expect.
He flirted with recreating the bathroom in Raymond Loewy’s Palm Springs house, designed by Albert Frey.
In the end, he decided to stick closer to the Danish Modern roots of the decor in other rooms. His bathroom now looks like this:
Clean, simple lines. No clutter. Minimalist. I approve.
After he showed me how it turned it, he picked up the printed-out draft version of this post.
“You like words – I’m surprised you missed this one. ‘Dump Art.’ Dude coined it. In 2006 he was the Artist in Residence at the San Francisco Dump. Made installations and kinetic sculpture he called dump art. I went to see his show at the dump. Blew me right away.”
He wasn’t finished. “And, I’m surprised you missed your chance to self-promote and tie into your old post on artistic depictions of musical instruments.”
I thanked him for the plug for the old post and acknowledged his hipness about having seen the Tewari show at the dump. But what about Claire Ittner and her background in lawn art and her finding this and writing this?
Delightful article about an artist who makes delightful whimsical sculptures.
Mr. Tewari is indeed a kindred spirit to my late wife who had wanted to do something similar with an old piano, reducing it to its pin block and frame and turning it into an aeolian harp, a modernization of an ancient Greek wind-powered musical instrument.
There is a custom modern example of an aeolian harp on permanent display at the Exploratorium.
Perhaps Mr. Tewari would consider doing the same to his piano installation as it slowly devolves from its structural pianistic constraints.