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Doug and Mike Starn commissioned to create monumental installation for Israel Museum's Billy Rose Art Garden
The Starn Brothers look out at Big Bambu, Israel Museum. Photo: Elie Posner, Israel Museum.

JERUSALEM.- This summer, artists Doug and Mike Starn transform the landscape of the Israel Museum’s Billy Rose Art Garden with a monumental installation of bamboo and rope, towering 16 meters (52.5 feet) high and covering an area of more than 700 square meters (7,500 square feet). Opening to the public officially on June 16, visitors have been able to watch this immersive environment taking shape in the Garden since the end of April, as the Starn brothers and their team of rock climbers worked to construct the site-responsive installation and collaborate in the performative act of its creation. Composed of more than 10,000 bamboo poles, 5,000 Arms to Hold You, is being activated throughout the summer as visitors are invited to experience the work from within and without, ascending to its uppermost peaks and participating in cultural programming inspired by and performed within and around it. On view in its entirety through October 2014, the tower element that comprises the highest point of 5,000 Arms to Hold You will remain as a permanent sculptural installation in the Museum’s Garden.

“Set within the Noguchi-designed landscape of our Billy Rose Art Garden, and against the dramatic backdrop of Jerusalem’s broader landscape, 5,000 Arms to Hold You marks the first time the Starns have been commissioned to develop a work in their signature medium of bamboo in a setting without architectural constraint,” said James S. Snyder, the Anne and Jerome Fisher Director of the Israel Museum. “From the inception of its creation, Big Bambú has activated our Garden with the energy of its emerging form, representing through both experience and metaphor the Starns’ reflections on how chaos actually creates the order that is our lives. Through cultural programming and related artists’ projects throughout the summer, Big Bambú will become an even more dynamic setting that we hope will engage and inspire our audiences.”

The ninth work in the Starns’ Big Bambú series, 5,000 Arms to Hold You marks the largest and most complex sculptural installation undertaken by the artists to date. Its architecture builds upon the artists’ ongoing investigation of the interconnectedness of life, which serves as a foundational principal and guiding philosophy for their unique approach to making art.

“The concept of Big Bambú has nothing to do with bamboo,” said Mike Starn. "Big Bambú represents the invisible architecture of life and living things. It is the random interdependence of moments, trajectories intersecting, and actions becoming interaction, creating growth and change.” “It is philosophic engineering, a demonstration of chaotic interdependence," added Doug.

Beginning on June 16, visitors will be able to experience the sculpture’s inside and outside spaces, perching themselves on the elevated platforms that are part of its interior construction. Intended to be viewed from the inside looking out, as well as from the outside looking in, Big Bambú encourages visitors to explore their perception of the world around them from different vantage points throughout its interior. Its title refers to the web of bamboo that embraces visitors and is representative of the myriad connections that contribute to all individuals’ continual states of becoming.

5,000 Arms to Hold You is enlivened by visitors traversing its winding, intimate paths, encountering creative sculptural elements integrated within, and enjoying cultural programming that draws inspiration from the work. Beginning on July 10, visitors are able experience the work at night as it becomes illuminated with lights in conjunction with Contact Point, the Museum’s annual mid-summer night-long festival, during which artists and visitors engage with aspects of the Museum, its collections and its setting. During the month of August, 5,000 Arms to Hold You is further activated by visitors participating in the Museum’s annual Kite Festival on August 6 and its Wine Festival on August 11 through 14.

American artists and identical twins Doug and Mike Starn (born 1961) work collaboratively to create artworks that merge a range of traditionally separate mediums, among them photography, sculpture, and architecture. Beginning with their participation in the 1987 Whitney Biennial, the Starns became internationally known for their photography, which examines the concepts of chaos, interconnection, and interdependence. Over the past two and half decades, the Starns have pushed their practice into new mediums as evidenced in their Big Bambú series. The brothers debuted the first project in the series in 2010 in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden, where it was the ninth most attended exhibition in the Museum’s history. They have since been commissioned to create site-responsive works in bamboo for the 2011 Venice Biennale; Museo d'arte contemporanea Roma (2013); and the Naoshima Museum in Japan (2013). In each country, the Starns create the installation in response to the venue to characterize the place in which it was constructed.

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