Christina Sporrong & Christian Ristow
Taos, New Mexico
Commissioned by Arroyo Seco Live & The Paseo Project
In the face of COVID-19 shut-downs, two arts organizations in Taos County — The Paseo Project and Seco Live — are teaming up to commission Capsule, a new interactive art installation by Christian Ristow and Christina Sporrong. It will open to the public in the village of Arroyo Seco in August and be on view through summer and fall. Visitors are encouraged to submit reflections, thoughts, and intentions that will be burned inside the sculpture at a festival-like gathering at a date TBD. Capsule kicks off an ongoing program of rotating outdoor art installations at Seco Live Space.
As COVID-19 swept the globe, forcing shutdowns of every kind, the small community of Taos, New Mexico faced its own disappointments. Ski season ended prematurely, the river running season is suffering, and the future remains opaque for an economy that depends heavily on tourism. While the community continues to suffer a hard hit, arts organizations are concerned with recovery of a different kind.
“We recognize that art is important to mental health and wellness. Especially during times of great change and civil unrest, art has proven to be an important tool for healthy expression,” says Cecilia Cuff, one of the project’s organizers. Cuff is the director of Parse Seco, an experimental creative space and art residency for underrepresented and emerging artists, located in the village of Arroyo Seco. She is also a board member for Seco Live, a local non-profit that showcases diverse talent from all over the world through community events, fundraising and promotion; one of many organizations that had to shift programming online and cancel large-scale events.
Facing the same limits, J. Matthew Thomas of The Paseo Project led the difficult decision to re-envision Paseo’s 7th annual festival of outdoor art. “We’re launching a summer series that can be enjoyed safely, from a distance — time-release art, so that you can get your Paseo fix all summer long,” says Thomas. “Our 2020 theme was already Transformations, so we’re stepping into the challenge. We’ll be presenting interventions, pop-ups, public art installations, and virtual experiences from June through September.”
Under these circumstances, Seco Live and The Paseo have joined forces to commission a new public artwork: Capsule.
Artists Christian Ristow and Christina Sporrong are both known around the world for making massive sculptural projects that incorporate robotics, fire, and interactive elements. Following solo careers through similar territories, they have each created iconic works for major art and music festivals. Though their lives have been intertwined for over 15 years, this commission is the couple’s first collaborative artwork. And though Ristow and Sporrong are some of Taos’ most beloved living artists, Capsule is their first local commission.
“Our idea came quickly,” says Sporrong of the assignment to conceptualize a site-specific artwork that meshed both artists’ talents. “We wanted to create an opportunity for transformation. We keep looking for a silver lining.”
Capsule will be a 14- to 16-foot-tall steel and glass sculpture. Its six-legged base supports a faceted body, atop which three large hands hold a radiant sphere. Flowers were one of the various inspirations influencing the piece — its forms mimic petals, stem and pistils, and also organic unfolding. Capsule will be installed in August at Seco Live’s outdoor entertainment space, accessible to the public for summer and fall. There, viewers will encounter the artwork in a “closed” position. All visitors are encouraged to approach the sculpture and insert a wish, fear, story or drawing on paper. In addition to visiting the site, there are also opportunities to participate online and through the mail.
At an as-yet undetermined date, the piece will be activated as the centerpiece for a community-wide celebration. Chambers inside of Capsule will be loaded with firewood and set aflame. As the wood and wishes turn to ash, the shift in weight will allow the piece to open. The hands will rotate outward to reveal the interior globe. After its initial presentation and transformation in Arroyo Seco, the sculpture will travel to other locations where it will close and open again. “We see it as a life cycle. We hope that it can bring meaning and catharsis to our town and to others,” says Sporrong.
While Capsule was commissioned in response to the novel coronavirus, it has revealed itself to be equally responsive to the civil, political, and economic unrest sweeping the country. “It’s good to be inflamed,” suggests Ristow. “Fire can be both destructive and purifying.” As the fight for racial justice heats up and New Mexicans are urged to wear masks in public — or better, stay home — the desire for transformation burns hot.
As Cuff states, “We long for a time when we can be together again, to feel our community’s solidarity and to breathe a sigh of relief.”
LEARN MORE AND INTERACT WITH CAPSULE
Facebook Live Launch: Join us on Thursday, July 23rd at 6pm MT as the artists and collaborators introduce Capsule to the world. Live streaming on Arroyo Seco Live and The Paseo Project’s Facebook pages.
Once installed, Capsule will begin accepting visitors:
Local in-person participation: 452 SR 150 Arroyo Seco NM (formerly Scott Carlson Pottery). Public parking is limited within the village; Holy Trinity Church and Arroyo Seco Community Center offer ample public parking a short walk from the installation.
Global participation: Write to Capsule at capsuletaos.com and select whether to share or keep your entry private. Every digital note will be transcribed and fed to Capsule to be part of the burn. Mail can be sent to Capsule ℅ Arroyo Seco Live, PO Box 285, Arroyo Seco, NM 87514.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
CHRISTINA SPORRONG is a metal sculptor who uses fire, kinetics, and performance to provoke interaction with her work. Her growing cadre of large-scale sculptures have traveled the globe, from the UK’s Glastonbury Festival to Voodoo Arts & Music Festival in New Orleans to Burning Man. She has worked in the blacksmithing trade for decades and founded her own commercial shop, Spitfire Forge in 1996. She teaches Women’s Welding Workshops as a means to empower women and de-mystify the process of working with metal, and is a welding instructor at University of New Mexico, Taos. https://spitfireforge.com/
CHRISTIAN RISTOW has been building mechanical art since he was a child. His large-scale interactive sculptures are influenced by studying architecture, the underground robot performance-art scene in the San Francisco Bay Area, and a decade of creating special effects for the film industry in Southern California. His work has been showcased at arts and cultural events on four of the world’s continents. While large kinetic sculpture remains Ristow’s lifelong focus, the scope of his artistic output has recently enlarged to include smaller-scale sculpture, traditional figurative clay sculpture, and oil painting. https://www.christianristow.com
ABOUT ARROYO SECO LIVE
Arroyo Seco Live is a non-profit organization founded in 2013 in response to a need for creative economic support for the largely arts-and-tourism focused businesses of the historic rural community of Arroyo Seco in north-central New Mexico. Seco Live focused on showcasing and promoting the place and the people through creative events, fundraising and promotion.
Seco Live has made a mark by producing events that bring a broad range of locals and visitors together for enjoyable experiences and into dialog around arts and cultural experiences. https://www.secolive.org/
The Seco Live Space, where Capsule will be staged is a newly dedicated community events space established for the mutual benefit of the community and Arroyo Seco Live programming. The Space will host arts events, markets and workshops, and private events like weddings and celebrations.