Client: The City of Madison, Wisconsin
Location: Madison, WI, United States
Completion date: 2019
Artwork budget: $220,000
RDG Planning & Design
RDG Planning & Design
City of Madison, Wisconsin
Pierce Engineers, Inc.
Johnson Machine Works, Inc.
Krukowski Stone Co., Inc.
C. Green Contractor, Inc.
“Confluence” has been used to identify this special place on the State Street pedestrian mall on the University of Wisconsin – Madison campus. Confluence represents the merging of the City of Madison with the University. “Both/And—Tolerance/Innovation” speaks to the confluence of ideas and cultural diversity coming together in a dynamic cause and effect relationship. The installation represents a space where reality merges with abstraction. The space between the stone (reality) and the stainless-steel vertical sculpture (abstraction), embodies Aristotle’s philosophy of knowledge, “being qua being,” the metaphysical reasoning at the heart of learning. It is the space between “knowing” and “believing.”
Our studio goals for this installation are guided by three distinct and mutually inclusive elements: Story, Structure, and Site. The story for this project is about expressing the nuanced space between ways of knowing. The story of Confluence is the form that knowledge takes, a way of “knowing” that merges the world of research and discovery (the University Library on one side) with the world of belief (symbolized by three different religious denominations on the other). Site specific and contextual cultural textures inform the selection of the “rock” and its position as a standing stone – a touch stone. The “rock” in turn informs and influences the shape of the abstract metal plates. As the title “Both / And” suggests the story is a type of logic used in decision making that allows for a greater variety and scope of outcomes than a rigid either/or decision-making process. This approach is useful when comparing two or more possible tracks or outcomes in a real-world setting.
The monumental metal sculpture is fabricated of angel-hair stainless-steel plates. The individual plates are laser-cut with patterns that allow light to move between the plates to create a transparent moray effect. A cylinder, cut through the plates, is positioned to highlight the position of the sun during the solar equinox. The viewer can orient themselves to this position in the spring and fall, to be enlightened with sunlight. The installation incorporates LED lighting to create a dramatic, glowing ambiance, thoughtful of the site as it changes from day to night. The stone, native Wisconsin granite, lit from below, appears to “float” at night. The monumental stone, like ancient dolmen or standing stone, transforms from a mere rock to a “touchstone.” The companion sculpture is internally illuminated, an iconic beacon seen from a distance in both directions. The installation marks a new destination where people gather, and new traditions begin.
A synthesis of both the real and the ideal, of the literal and the abstract and of the space between is purpose of public art. It is the invitation to the public to consider deep questions and to challenge each other in this public space to be inclusive and tolerant of different ways of knowing to reach new and better outcomes.