Peering out from the gallery windows on the Contemporary floor, the intersection of suspended wires that is Maya Lin’s Above and Below inspires as much confusion as it does awe. This concept is what urged the work of the Viewing Project team, who created an interpretive space in the Davis Lab on the 2nd floor that highlights this site-specific sculpture located a floor above.
The Viewing Project, which is in its final year, is a three year series of small-scale educational installations providing innovative ways to reactivate the IMA’s permanent collection. The Viewing Project’s main goals are to encourage new ways of looking at artworks by mixing up the collection in unexpected ways and supporting an enjoyable visitor experience. This includes but is not limited to: hands-on models, comparative artworks across time and culture, videos, flip-labels, technology, and thoughtful questioning.
Typically the Viewing Project installations are located directly next to the artwork they are referring to. With Above and Below, the Viewing Project team bravely took on the challenge of placing the installation in a separate location from the actual work. This method of separating the informational from the experiential aspect of an artwork allows not only new educational connections to be made but also helps visitors make the journey to the sculpture, which is something that hosts its own set of navigational challenges.
The museum has previously experimented with way-finding methods such as arrows on the floor, the walls and posted signage. For this particular project, the team brainstormed about using GPS mapping methods with verbal descriptions, but in the end, they decided the most user-friendly guide would be a handout using photographs of distinct views leading upstairs. This process, along with an overview of the project, is explained by Annette in the video below:
Maya Lin was chosen for this project because her sculpture was not found readily in the museum and certainly deserves more attention. She combines her unique background in both art and architecture to create forms that quote both industry and nature in a complex way. The sculpture is loosely based on the Indiana Blue Springs Cavern system, which Max Anderson talks about here. Above and Below was a commission-based project by the IMA in 2007 and is currently on view on the 3rd floor balcony.