Site See: New Views in Old Town Exhibition Series
Client: City of Alexandria Office of the Arts
Location: Waterfront Park, Alexandria, VA
Selected Artists: SOFTlab (2019); Olalekan Jeyifous (2020)
Pictured Above: Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies by Olalekan Jeyifous, 2020. Photos by Laura Hatcher Photography for Visit Alexandria.
Mirror Mirror by SOFTlab, 2019. Photos by Alan Tansey.
The City of Alexandria’s expanded Waterfront Park combines existing park sites with space formerly occupied by a building and parking lot to create a seamless transition between Old Town’s historic retail corridor and the Potomac River. This new public space was designed to be the keystone in Alexandria’s transformation of its waterfront, and temporary public art was envisioned to play a key role in activating the area as an arts and cultural destination.
To help achieve this vision, Via Partnership worked with Alexandria’s Office of the Arts to conceive and manage Site See: New Views in Old Town — an annual series of original temporary public art installations that bring residents and visitors to Waterfront Park to interact with site-specific contemporary art in a historic location. Via worked with a stakeholder Task Force to select each artist in the series and worked with the artists and the Office of the Arts to help manage design, fabrication, and installation of each artwork. In addition, Via helped develop programming for the installations, including developing an open call for regional performing artists to create new work in response to the installations.
Mirror Mirror by SOFTlab, a New York-based design studio led by Michael Szivos, was on view March – November 2019 and proved to be extremely popular, garnering attention in the media and on social media. This interactive artwork was inspired by the historic Fresnel lens at Alexandria’s Jones Point Lighthouse and played with ideas of reflection and refraction of light. Its interior and exterior were clad with a mirrored surface that reflected the surrounding environment, the river, and visitors themselves in unexpected ways. The artwork responded to sound by producing patterns of light. Visitors could interact with the artwork and affect its appearance using their voices and bodies, creating an infinite, colorful reflection that Szivos compared to “a forest of light.”
Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies by Olalekan Jeyifous, the second artwork in the series, frames Alexandria’s African American history through the lens of the city’s industrial and merchant history from the 17th to 20th centuries. It features a set of four sculptural seating platforms with ornate metal profiles of stoic figures facing the water, a subtle nod to histories and mythologies of resilience and resistance. The patterns that make up the four figures include symbols of the city’s merchant and manufacturing history – its factories, tobacco warehouses, fishing and shipping industry, and railways. The four figures are placed atop a painted ground mural that invokes African American quilting and textile traditions, which are historically tied to storytelling and oral tradition. Of the installation, Jeyifous says, “My hope is that the artwork resonates in ways that inspire and elicit engagement and dialogue.” Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies was on view at Waterfront Park until November 2020 and then was relocated to the Old Town Pool to extend the display period.
Via is continuing to work with the Office of the Arts to develop the third work in the ongoing series for installation in 2021.
For more info: siteseealx.com