Indicator Fur Burg Vischering: Proposed model showing the linden tree, Tilia tomentosa made of stainless steel concealing a cast cuculus indicator, bird, water flowing through the weir gate is key to monitoring the installation. 1999
Indicator Fur Burg Vischering: Aerial view of Burg Vischering
Indicator Fur Burg Vischering: Page from the original proposal made for Skulptur-Biennial 1999 im Münsterland. Westfälisches Landesmuseum, Münster. 1999
Indicator Fur Burg Vischering: Tilia tomentosa made of stainless steel concealing a cast cuculus indicator, bird, water flowing through the weir gate is key to monitoring the installation. 2000
Indicator Fur Burg Vischering: Proposed species for the cast cuculus indicator. 2000
Indicator Fur Burg Vischering: View of back side of castle where the linden flower pond sings. 2000
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ABOUT INDICATOR FUR BURG VISCHERING (1999 - 2001)
Indicator for Burg Vischering is a project intended for the medieval moated castle of Burg Vischering in Lüdinghausen. The site comprises three distinct areas: the first is the wooden footbridge and weir gate parallel to the main entrance A. The second is a circular area B approximately one meter in diameter in the receiving pool, fed with the controlled waters from the two interconnecting moats. The third site C is a small isolated pool on the north side of the castle’s moat.
At A a telescope is positioned on the wooden footbridge, beneath which is a waterwheel operated by the waters flowing through the weir gate. At area B is a cast of a tree rising from a conical drain, upon one branch is a cast honey-guide bird. An enlarged translucent cast of a chirping linden flower floats at area C, the flower is fed with water pumped from area B.
On the wooden footbridge parallel to the entrance a specially constructed telescope is mounted on a structural aluminum I-beam spanning the length of the bridge which will provide stability to the optical apparatus. Directly below this device a stainless steel waterwheel in the shape of a ball, is mounted to the face of the weir gate. This waterwheel spins as the water from the castle’s moat exits the weir gate. The waterwheel has two functions: it generates electricity which powers the optical mechanism of the telescope, it also operates a self-priming pump which draws water from the linden tree drain and transports it to site C.
In the receiving pool at B a cast in clear resin of a silver linden tree1 Tilia tomentosa, 3-4 meters high.is placed This tree would be positioned in a conical funnel which would function as a drain. The drain would act as an internal fountain or void: the linden tree appearing to be isolated in a black hole. The water around the drain would become smooth producing an ideal surface to reflect the image of the tree. A pre-cast concrete ring with an embedded stainless steel tube would be set in the center of the pool then the tree and funnel lowered onto the ring. To compensate for the fluctuating water levels in the receiving pool a float mechanism is incorporated so that the top of the drain is always parallel to the surface of the water. A flexible PVC tube would be attached to the base of the funnel, running along the bottom of the pool to Pump P at the side of the pond and then to the third site.
In the center of the linden tree, is placed a cast of a honey-guide bird, cuculus indicator. The bird would be life-size, approximately 15 cm. high, and cast in rhodium, it would be hardly discernible to the casual eye.
As visitors to the castle chance upon the telescope and look through its eyepiece an image of the transparent linden tree, reflected in the water, is visible in a circular frame. The action of the visitor’s eye against the eyepiece activates a pump attached to the waterwheel thus emptying the conical drain. The waters quickly begin to fall away around the trunk causing the tree to appear isolated in a void.
1The silver linden, or Tilia tomentosa, has been chosen for its mythological associations, it is a blood purifier and a talisman against misfortune. The flowers of the linden tree, although intoxicating to bees, produces a honey unsurpassed in flavor and delicacy.
The drawn waters from the drain are transferred to site C via a tube, where it enters an enlarged clear resin casting of a linden flower. It is only during the telescope’s operational cycle that the water flowing through the flower creates the imitated calling sound of the honey guide.
After the initial contact with the eyepiece of the telescope the lens begins to zoom slowly into the tree and onto the honey-guide; it continues zooming in on the bird, to its head and finally ends when the honey-guide’s eye fills the frame. Appearing to be reflected onto the surface of the bird’s eye is a magnificent hidden view of the castle. In fact it is not the view one would assume: the vista seen from the bird’s position, but rather the view seen from the third site C. This image is superimposed within the telescope’s apparatus by a b/w slide mechanically shifted into the focal plane. By the same method this idyllic black and white image of the castle is slowly faded into a mirror, reflecting the image of the sky, bleaching the ethereal image of Burg Vischering into a white light. The entire viewing cycle occupies sixty seconds, beginning again as the next viewer puts their eye to the telescope.
The interconnected objects and actions taking place at the three distinct areas transform the castle into a symbolic vascular system. The life-blood of the castle is the carefully regulated waters of the moats. As the water flows around the system it provides not only the physical material and force required to drive the mechanics but also serves as a transformative medium. The castle has always relied on maintaining a precise level of water in the two interlocking moats, not only to protect the wooden foundations but also, in the past, against marauding bandits. This passage of water through this final weir gate is the castle’s life-blood, the waterwheel becoming a monitor of its flow.
The situation of the telescope directly above the waterwheel is not merely a physical proximity. It is the water’s flow that permits the telescope’s operation and also the viewer’s engagement of the eyepiece that activates the water’s metaphorical functions. As the water flows so the viewer experiences the almost cinematic image through the telescope, in a manipulated, albeit real-time, frame.
The telescope is a familiar tool for cultural observation offering improved, if distorted, scrutinies. The telescope addresses the history of the castle, as it was in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries that this instrument changed people’s view of the world and their surroundings. Viewing through a telescope changes the viewer’s perception of reality, both literally and metaphorically. This object serves as both a scientific instrument and a cultural tool; the effect of displacement encountered by the viewer on seeing the ‘wrong’ view of the castle is a intimation of the mutability of perception. That experience of displacement through space and time returns to the viewer when they make the perimetric walk around the castle and encounter the previously projected view.
The honey guide has an extraordinary habit, as the name implies, of guiding humans (and honey badgers) to bees’ nests by flying back and forth with a chattering call. Humans or badgers once led to the gilded site break the nest for honey leaving the redundant wax for the honey guides. This bird has the unusual ability to digest wax; ceraphagous, or wax-eating birds, use special enzymes to break down the wax esters - a quite remarkable example of mutualism. A second quality the honey guide possesses is that they are parasitic, using other birds’ nests to lay their eggs in; the cuckoo is perhaps the only other bird up to this trick. Newly hatched honey guides have a calcareous hook on the tip of their bill that they use to kill their nest mates. The honey-guide bird was chosen as a metaphor for the castle’s precarious security, the honey as a symbol of cultural and physical wealth. The moated castles of Westphalia were constantly being overrun by the knights of Lüdinghausen and other ruffians, aping this familiar trait of the cuculus indicator.
Here the honey guide serves as an indicator, not to honey but towards a cultural experience or vista. As the bird produces it’s calling sound from within the linden flower at the small pond - beckoning the curious to that site - they will recognize the view of the castle already viewed through the telescope. Visitors to the castle regularly explore its inner towers before making the final circular walk around the grounds. Indicator for Burg Vischering uses the same form to create a metaphorical roundelay, both of images as they are presented and of experiences as they are introduced into the spectator’s regular route.
Indicator for Burg Vischering is an ocular investigation of the eye of a cuculus indicator and the mnemonic trace it leaves, presenting through manipulated mythologies a rarefied view of an exquisite site.