Karen Miranda Abel



{a subterranean symphony in C}

Salvaged violin and viola cases, alum crystals, cotton velvet, audio installation (10-minute loop)

Recipient of the 2013 Ontario Association of Landscape Architects/GROUND Award, Geogarden is a large wall installation consisting of crystallized violin cases arranged in an organic composition. The interiors of over 20 salvaged instrument cases – some close to a century in age – were propagated with mineral salt crystals of the octahedral structure. The work considers the musicality of crystallization processes with reference to the ancient, oblong-shaped “cathedral geodes” formed in cavities inside volcanic rock. Creating the work required an intense 4-month studio practice during the winter of 2013 in which the artist grew the crystals on the restored velvet linings.

Soundscape installed and performed as part of 2013 exhibition composed by Rose Bolton

This staging of a landscape as an operatic event does not belong to the Romanticists alone. Stone Age man might have had a similar sense of inner landscapes.

~ Werner Herzog, Cave of Forgotten Dreams

In his documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010), German filmmaker Werner Herzog embarks on an exclusive visit to the oldest known rock paintings in the Chauvet cave of southern France – a prehistoric art site closed to the public for conservation since its discovery in 1994. At the cave opening, high on a limestone cliff above an ancient riverbed, Herzog muses on distant geological pasts. Standing at this precipice of time and space, he juxtaposes the experience of the cave and its environs with that of a Wagner opera, describing an experience of “inner landscapes.” Herzog’s notion of “inner landscapes” alludes to a timeless aesthetic of sublimity; a lingering kinship of perceptual sensation that we might share with early humans.

An outcropping of crystallized violin cases exposed by an unseen disturbance, Geogarden {a subterranean symphony in C} – “C” for crystal – considers the musicality of natural processes. The restored velvet interiors of the weathered, rock-like forms were propagated with mineral salt crystals of the octahedral structure, a form in sacred geometry meaning “seed of life.” In this garden of vacant instrumentation, glittering substrates evoke distant mineralogical events. As if excavated from a primordial orchestra pit of the imagination, the sculptures suggest crystal “cathedral geodes” – time capsules unlocked to reveal pristine micro-landscapes like sheet music of millennial age.

A geode forms as aqueous solutions travelling through a hollow rock body deposit minerals, populating the cavity with geochemical crystal blooms over thousands or millions of years in complete darkness. Like a musical composition, the slow process of geode formation is a meticulous arrangement of micro matter culminating in a unique rendition – a specimen – of time and place.

Visitors were invited to consider the concept of a garden in geological time, to contemplate the virtually imperceptible process of mineral crystallization through the act of listening, where a single note might convey a thousand or ten thousand years. This anachronistic visual juxtaposition of ancient mineral formations with contemporary found objects is intended to generate a sensation of time travel for the visitor, like a rhythmic movement, as if being simultaneously suspended in past and present worlds, transcending time through a symphonic confluence of environment and culture – an inner landscape.

I wish to gratefully acknowledge the in-kind support of The Sound Post in Toronto and Ottawa. Special thanks to Bonnie Foster Abel, Jessica Marion Barr and Rose Bolton.