Toxic City

There are (at least) two aspects of the DePauw Nature Park that I haven’t written about that make this place fascinating to me. One is the structure of the ground. 

DSC 0071

There is some weird flaky stuff that I haven’t seen elsewhere, but besides that, the ground is just more complex than what you typically would call Indiana Dirt

DSC 0099

I have waited to show this until now because, with early frost, everything gets even better. 

DSC 0081

The other aspect is the sound. In principle, this should be a quiet place (there rarely is anybody, at least not at my favorite hours). But there are birds, of course, and other noises, from factories and railroad tracks just not far enough away to be inaudible. Somebody should record this.

DSC 0084

Which brings me to another theme, that of ambiance in general. I have been listening to what is called ambient music for a while now, with increasing pleasure. Ambient music is not a well defined thing. It can just mean the incorporation of everyday sounds, or the questionable pleasure of background music. I like ambient music best when it distills everyday noise into something exceptional. Examples of that are Richard Skelton’s compositions (that are, in a good sense, very much down to earth), or, a recent discovery for me, Evan Caminiti’s recent music, including his new album Toxic City

DSC 0102

In photography (or even in art in general) there is the “classical” way to idealize the object — remove it from its context, isolate it, and even alienate it, in order to show a possibly artificially construed intrinsic beauty.

DSC 0164

Ambient art, in contrast, tries to show you how much there is without interference. We just have to look.

DSC 0165

That is a lie, of course. Whenever we show, we select. But selecting what we feel is worth seeing (or hearing) is very different from imposing a verdict on how things are on the viewer (or listener).

DSC 0090


DSC 3971

I am one of those people who are often oblivious of their surroundings, which gives me the advantage to discover things even after years at the same place.

One of these things is Jerald Jacquard’s steel sculpture February, in front of the McCalla School in Bloomington.

DSC 3953

It first caught my attention through the sound it makes: Put one ear next to one of the three “legs” of the sculpture, and gently hit another part. Some ambient musician should explore this.


But the sculpture has more to offer. It is made of 28 blocks (one for each day of February). Each block is either a cube, or a halved cube. For halving a cube Jacquard uses two possibilities, both prisms over isosceles triangles, and both exactly half the volume of the cube. The usage of the (in my re-rendering, red) prisms is strictly limited to the lower part of the sculpture, making it to appear more open at the bottom than at the top.


The other (green) prisms are used to create roof-like slopes. Almost all blocks are placed in a cubical grid, but there is one exception.


The front-bottom cube in the image above is moved to be able to support the two prisms above. Maybe, in leap years, one should add another cube?