MSUToday
Published: Jan. 16, 2019

New exhibition addresses environmental issues, sustainability, water and land rights

Contact(s): Morgan Butts Broad Art Museum office: (517) 884-3909 cell: (517) 884-3909 buttsmor@msu.edu, Beth Brauer University Communications Beth.Brauer-Delaney@cabs.msu.edu

The lineage of thinking around the interconnectivity and complexity of whole Earth systems form the basis for artist Oscar Tuazon's current conceptual and material research. His forthcoming exhibition at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University further builds on these ideas, as well as the importance of indigenous forms of knowledge and perspectives, in order to implement the newest iteration of Tuazon’s “water schools.”

The exhibition will be a space in which to explore the intersection of art, architecture, environmental issues, sustainability and water and land rights, all with an emphasis on water as a sacred element in the support of life on Spaceship Earth. Oscar Tuazon: Water School will run from January 26–August 25, 2019.

Part of the artist’s long-term effort to create a permanent water school in the American Southwest, Tuazon has partnered with the MSU Broad and Michigan State University to advance his project by engaging the immediate natural and intellectual resources of the region to inform his process.

Three modules of Tuazon’s major sculpture-as-architectural form, Zome Alloy (2016), will be erected in the museum’s galleries and create a space for both formal and informal learning opportunities to specifically address water and land rights, sustainability and other environmental concerns — connecting local issues with national and global concerns. To this end, various faculty, researchers, student groups and other communities will occupy this space and activate it through interaction and the exchange of ideas.

Tuazon has also embarked on the development of a new “water window” prototype, based on the work of architect and inventor Steve Baer, who has been an influential figure for the artist throughout his career. This prototypical passive solar architectural form will be developed in conversation with different MSU-affiliated entities, thereby leveraging the resources of the museum and university to propel the artist’s research further to create a new, potentially revolutionary design with wide-ranging repercussions.

Tuazon also continues to develop his series of Water Maps and will focus specifically on local and regional waterways — including the Great Lakes, the largest body of freshwater in the world — tracing the different watersheds, lakes and river systems. These maps simultaneously highlight the abundance of water in each locale for which they are made, and the ways such systems shape and define the ecosystems around them.

Other sculptural works in the exhibition point to Tuazon’s long-standing engagement with the work of Steve Baer, referencing his inventions and speculative designs. More recent sculptures also point to the water schools Tuazon has founded in other locations in the United States, connecting the conversation in Michigan with the artist’s schools in California and Minnesota.

In addition to the work by Tuazon and taking into account the university's academic setting, part of the exhibition will also be dedicated to research and archival materials related to the overall project.

Many of these materials concern the countercultural DIY architectural movements of the 1960s and 70s, of which individuals like R. Buckminster Fuller, Steve Baer and Stewart Brand were key figures. Much of the activity at this time centered around the formation of a commune in Drop City, Colorado, as well as the now infamous Alloy Conference that Baer helped organize in Alamogordo, New Mexico, in 1969. Such research and archival materials have long informed Tuazon’s practice, and provide a historical basis for his current interests and various artistic manifestations.

The opening weekend of Oscar Tuazon: Water School will include an evening opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25, followed by a daylong program of community conversations and art-making activities beginning at noon and running until 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26.