Type A, American, founded 1998, Team Building (Align), 2010, aluminum, steel cables, telephone poles, (2 rings of 30’ circumference, each). Commissioned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Courtesy of the Artists and Robert Goff Gallery, New York.
Team Building (Align) is constructed of two 30 foot-wide metal rings suspended from telephone poles and trees, oriented so that their shadows become one during the annual summer solstice. Elements of this installation were determined in collaboration with a team of IMA staff members who worked with the artist collective over a two-year period on an experiential education performance. From conversations about art to rigorous challenges courses, Type A and the IMA team collaborated to develop a sculptural form that could metaphorically convey the complexity of their collaboration.
Working together since 1998, New York-based artist collective Type A is the collaboration of Adam Ames (b. 1969) and Andrew Bordwin (b. 1964). Employing a variety of media, Type A creates artworks that address issues of masculinity, competition and collaboration in contemporary society. They have been the subject of solo exhibitions at Addison Gallery Of American Art, Andover, MA and the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA, and have exhibited in group shows such as the 2004 exhibition Boys Will Be Boys?, which traveled to many venues, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, CO; Herbert F. Johnson Museum Of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; and the IMA. One of their videos will be included in the IMA’s exhibition Framed in 2010. Type A’s recent installation titled Barrier was presented at The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College Saratoga Springs, NY in 2009, and will travel to DeCordova Sculpture Park + Museum, Lincoln, MA in 2010 and The Aldrich Museum Of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CT in 2011.
Type A is the subject of a documentary video (above) produced by the IMA, and a monograph edited by Lisa Freiman and published by Hatje Cantz and the IMA.
Type A was invited to create a work for the Indianapolis Museum of Artʼs The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres in 2006. Since that time, Type A has developed a project that allows them to interact directly with a selected group of IMA Museum staff. The heart of the project, a series of team-building encounters with that group, has essentially offered opportunities for each individual to participate and experience an artwork in an entirely new and unique way, both on a personal and shared level. The focus of building trust, enthusiasm, communication and community is not often, if ever, addressed in the workplace. From the beginning, the Team Building project was described as a “gesture,” one in which Type A would produce no physical residue. Photography and video would be created by the participants themselves and posted online. Since Type A was originally commissioned to create an artwork for 100 Acres, the collaborative concurrently developed a sculptural component to the project. It is the relationship between these two elements of the work, one experiential and intangible and the other physical, that has driven the design of the sculptural installation.
Prior to beginning the actual team building portion of the project, Type A settled upon a sculpture concept that addressed how art institutions often keep their audiences at armʼs-length, both physically and psychologically. The piece, a large climbing tower suspended out of reach from the viewer, addressed the tension between utility and uselessness in the making and viewing of art. While this issue remains of interest, it began to feel less and less related to the experience of working with the IMA team. The team was invited into a discussion of the sculpture with the possibility that their input might influence the deign and installation. Although the discussions were open-ended and without resolution, they inspired a complete reconsideration of the sculptureʼs design.
The decision was made to start anew and approach the artwork without any preconceptions or assumptions. The focus was on creating a piece that connects fully with the experiential process the group had shared over the months, acknowledging both the topics that had arisen, as well as the formal elements of shape and movement that recurred during the Team Building project.
Several conceptual and formal elements have informed the project throughout:
- The circle, a form taken by the group in gatherings and discussions, was most prominent. Additionally, the Yurt Circle initiative, organized as part of the Ground Breaking ceremony in September 2008, stood as a significant moment of bonding and growth for the team specifically and the IMA generally. The circle offers a chance to make a self-supporting structure, a formal reflection of working with the group.
- 1 + 1 = 3, the idea of two entities coming together to form a third, distinct entity has applied to many combinations of people and groups throughout Type Aʼs relationship with staff at the IMA. What has resulted from this combining has become the soul of the project, as ephemeral and intangible as that may be.
- 100 Acreʼs natural environment has been a factor to consider and possibly incorporate.
- Territory, a place defined by an individualʼs or groupʼs action and experience, represents potential. The artwork creates a place where team members can reconvene or where people unrelated to the Team Building project can gather. This relates to Type Aʼs ongoing interest in the charged place — territory affected by event — as well as the daily lives of the group members. The applicability of the work done together in the professional and personal realities of the team members was discussed in terms of “scalability,” or a chance to effectively map the team building experience over daily life. This project offered them a new kind of “place;” the sculpture reflects that. The piece continues Type Aʼs interest in the definition of locus and territory as well as the challenging of those definitions.
- Intangibility, the non-object focus of the Team Building project is reflected in the design and installation of the sculpture itself.
- The visual and tactile appeal of the equipment used in team building, particularly climbing and belaying gear, continued to be of interest. Incorporating this gear into the sculptureʼs design remained part of the discussion.
Project Result: Team Building (Align)
After systematically discussing all these factors and further defining goals for the sculpture, a design evolved that is a direct result of the work done with the IMA group. Team Building (Align) consists of two large metal rings suspended from trees, one above the other, oriented in such a way that their two shadows become one at a specific moment in time. The designated time as well as the size of the rings and the height of installation, will be determined with the groupʼs input. The piece is meant to suggest a place on the ground connected with the groupʼs experience, a place to which they are always free to return as a group, or alone, to reflect. This open-source sculpture, offers appropriate and significant areas for the groupʼs input while maintaining Type Aʼs role as artists commissioned to make a work.
The area created by these rings exists as an important but completely intangible result of a collaboration between the sculpture and the earthʼs rotation in relation to the sun and the universe. Since the position of the rings will shift with the swaying and growth of the trees from which theyʼre suspended, the natural environment is a collaborator as well. The materials used will also come into play as the ropeʼs tension will be altered by the weight of the metal and the effects of time. On a sunny day with shadows or an overcast day without, the sculpture will continue to imply a territory, an offering to the group and an acknowledgment of what was accomplished.
Although Team Building (Align) will be installed to unify shadows at a moment in time, this in no way describes every other moment as insignificant. To the contrary, a place will remain whether defined by shadow or implication or imagination, directly inspired by the Team Building project, at every moment the piece exists. As such, the piece is a tribute and monument. It is a clock, a sundial that measures something more full of experience and potential than time alone.