STEPHANIE WILES: Hello? Hello. Thank you all for coming this afternoon. My name is Stephanie Wiles, and I'm the Richard J. Schwartz Director of the Johnson Museum of Art. And it's my great pleasure today to introduce Maya Lin and to welcome her to Cornell University.
As most of you know, Maya Lin was first brought to the world's attention when she won a public design competition for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. At that time she was only 21 years old and still an undergraduate at Yale University. The memorial was completed in 1982, and she went on to finish a Master of Architecture degree at Yale in 1986.
From that time forward, Maya Lin has been extraordinarily productive and creative in the way she interacts with the world around her. The clarity of her architectural vision is evident in projects like the Sculpture Center in Long Island City, done in 2002, or a personal favorite of mine, the Museum of Chinese in America, 2009. Underlying all of these many projects is her personal commitment to the adaptive reuse of existing structures and materials, paying homage not only to the built environment but to how this enhances the meaning and the context of what actually happens in those spaces.
After Maya Lin's lecture today, I hope that everyone will come over to the museum to see some of her new work that might be less well-known to people-- a lyrical glass wave sculpture; a stunning reclaimed silver piece depicting Niagara River and the two connecting Great Lakes, Erie and Ontario; and a really fascinating multimedia installation, the Empty Room, which is part of her What Is Missing? project.
It was through the What Is Missing? project, her brilliant conception of a memorial that does not exist as a static monument but instead exists in different media and in multiple places simultaneously, that Maya came into contact with Cornell. Although Fitz, John Fitzpatrick, the director of the Lab of Ornithology, couldn't be here this afternoon, I wanted to acknowledge that in addition to working with Maya for many years on her What Is Missing? project, Fitz and the Lab of Ornithology will be installing a permanent sculpture by Maya Lin at the lab. The Sound Ring, which is designed to project the sounds of threatened and extinct species, will be on view at the end of May, something not to be missed.
Before turning the podium over to Maya, I'd like to recognize my colleague Andrea Inselmann, who conceived of and curated the Beyond Earth Art exhibition and the many donors who supported the show, including members of the Bruce family, who are here tonight. And I wanted to thank also Mr. and Mrs. Atkinson, who generously supported the symposium that will be held tomorrow in conjunction with Beyond Earth Art, and that will be held in the lecture hall of the museum.
So for tonight's lecture, I'd like to say thank you to Dean Kent Kleinman and AAP for the use of the Milstein Lecture Hall. Thank you also to our sponsors of Maya's lecture, the Cornell Council For the Arts, a member of the Class of 1949 in honor of Jason and Clara Seley, and the Findlay Family Lecture Fund. So Maya, thank you.
MAYA LIN: Thank you, Director Wiles. Hi.
I'm just going to talk about my work. It's sort of like a tripod. There's the art, the architecture, and then the memorials. I've always seen the memorials as hybrids. They have a functionality, but their functionality is, in a way, purely symbolic.
So I'm just going to get started. And I always talk about all three together because to leave one out I kind of fall over, so there it is. They balance each other out, they inform each other, but I actually love the difference in the creative processes that I go through to make each one. Water is something that comes up a lot, especially in my artworks, whether it is Dew Point, a series of glass cast drops of water, or something that had its origins from an image of a naturally-occurring water wave called a Stokes wave, which became a piece in clay. My dad was a ceramicist, so I spent my childhood playing with clay, and I haven't stopped.
Which turned into this, which was the first of the Wave Fields. It was in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan. It was in front of their Aerospace Engineering Building. I'm very site specific, but it's not just the physical site that I react to, it's the contextual site. So I met with a lot of the scientists. One of them had given me a book on an album of fluid motion. I saw that picture, I knew what the piece would be.
So as you go there today, first, the scientists were a little reluctant. They were like, well, this doesn't belong over here. This belongs over at the Naval Engineering. So scientists can be somewhat specific. So now-- and I love talking to scientists, but I tend to caveat, I'm going to ask you a lot of questions and I guarantee you none of what you're going to say is going to end up in the piece, because I don't want them to think literally about what I might fish for when I go into it.
So this piece changes drastically with the light from above, different times of day, different times of night. It's 10,000 square feet, and I tend to work in series as an artist. So the next one in this series wasn't based so much on a water wave but the formation of the sand over the waves as it hits the beach. It's called Flutter. It was a very shallow piece, and I apologize. I actually have to go back and reshoot this one. It's called Flutter. It's in front of the courthouse in Miami, the federal courthouse.
And the odd thing is, it was perfect. I wanted to explore a wave formation that was a shallow formation. They loved it because they were so paranoid of snipers hiding in the mountains, so it kind of worked out. And it's called Flutter.
And it led to the third and final. When I do work in series, I tend to do odd numbers-- threes, fives, sometimes sevens. I'm going to end with a five-part series of memorials. But this was the Storm King Art Center. I went and saw the site. I fell in love with this area that was unused at Storm King. But it was a former gravel pit. It was closed down ecologically by the EPA, in that it was a Brownfield remediation.
And Storm King was so afraid that they wouldn't let me reopen it, that for three years we went back and forth and back-- actually, it was five years. And I tried to think of another site, but I couldn't in the end. And I went back. I proposed another artwork at another site. And as I was proposing it, within 30 minutes I called the director and said, look, I made a mistake. There's only one place I want to work at-- it's this site. Let's call up the state EPA and see if they'll re-release the site to us.
Turns out, not only did they re-release the site, they were just so happy that an artist would actually do a Brownfield remediation. So we started out, it's 11 acres, and you can see in this drawing-- it's really hard for me to be all the way back here. This pit was so unsightly, they hid it behind a huge earthworm. [INAUDIBLE] these pieces here.
So I did a displacement. I took the earth, chopped it back, and built, I would say, 75%, 80% of the piece with this displacement of the soil. And as it stands right now-- again, I start with models and I go larger and larger. I think the last models for this were about 16 feet. I mean, they were so big we had to bring them out to the site and work on them.
And then at a certain point in art, you just have to go out there and build it. With bulldozers-- so I'm not a bulldozer operator, so I work with a wonderful crew. You usually find someone who's a good sport and doesn't mind the fact that you're going to be saying a little bit more to the left, a little bit more to the right.
And when I did this-- again, third in the series. First one was 10,000 square feet, next one was 30, so this one was going to be 90,000-- also bringing in the question, what happens when a wave goes over your head and you lose sight wave to wave? I set it out, I did the seven rows, and I realized the site was much larger, and I had to go bigger. In fact, I went from 15 foot high mounds to 20, 25, which meant every single row had to get shifted. And he was so excited, because he had laid it all out. It was all there. And I said, well, we have to kind of, like, shift it a little.
He was a good sport, and we shifted each row. And that sort of gives you a scale of the piece. And you get lost between the waves. But as a wave dips down from side to side, you can see through it. Also, because of the way the site was framed by this upper portion-- it's sort of a berm area up there, protecting you from the highway-- literally, you have a high point to look over and down at the whole piece. Or as you drive along the low road, it reveals itself differently. And that kind of gives you an idea of the rolling waves, which both mimic the landscape around you but also, of course, are playing off of water waves.
And-- we sort of just went through a really fun winter, didn't we all, so I had to put that one. Where do I go? I closed the series down. I love working with the Earth, went to New Zealand.
This thing took-- they usually take about three years. Private collection-- he had built a very large lake. He had a lot of dirt. This was an area that was not drained well at all. And this is how it started. So even though it's not a water wave per se, it's called a fold in the field. And this is literally how it started, just folding up a piece of paper, laying it out, exploring this lilted plane, analyzing it.
And because it was in New Zealand, again, a lot of this was done model to model. Larger and larger models would then get shipped down. And then they started to build it. Each mound is about 60 feet high, just to give you an idea of scale. And then they built it, and I realized, uh-oh, they missed it. And literally, as opposed to being a continuous fold and a roll in the hill, each one stopped and created the separation between the flap and the roll. It just ended.
And so I sent these drawings in and said, we have to redo this. You have to pull from the top and feather it out. But we had to wait a whole other year, because we had missed the dry season again.
So after sending in the drawings, they said, OK, let's fix it. And so this is literally the difference, how that works. So you get this continuous roll. And this is what it looked like last year as we were dedicating it. And yes, those are sheep. And yes, they do help mow it.
So that was just finished last year, about March-- no, May of last year. And it's just called A Fold in the Field. And it, again, got its start with a smaller sculpture called Flow that I had done for a show for the Storm King Art Center at the time when the Wave Field was open called Bodies of Water. Again, water is something I play with a lot. And this is out of FSC-certified two by fours.
And it comes out of an earlier piece called Topographic Landscape, which was made out of a formaldehyde-free particle board and was part of my first show, Topologies, which, again, traveled five different places. It originated with [? Sica, ?] and it's 16 by 18 feet and is, again, in between a water wave and a sand dune formation.
And so I spent a lot of my time in art working between my inside and my outside works. This one was an unusual one. And when I was asked to create an artwork inside what was going to become Winter Garden, but I kind of behaved badly and I ended up putting on my architecture hat and I ended up redesigning and restructuring the entire Winter Garden because I was met with a really hideous superstructure with these really ugly columns in the corners. So we were able to convince them, even though it was under construction, that we could re-engineer the entire thing, change out all the mulligans-- OK, the architect was a little upset.
But we did it and met the schedule and then put in what I call a character in a hill under glass, were literally what would happen if you took a hill and brought it inside. Psychologically, again, I have this weird interest in-- when we all as kids found out that the earth isn't flat, it's round, we all ran around going, where is it, where is it? So I'm kind of interested in that peripheral level of perceiving that curvature of the earth.
And so, again, this is a public space. People come in. We rolled the landscape outside. There's a garden inside. And so what do people do? This is the American Express Ameriprise Financial Headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We indeed give you benches to sit on. And people have been known, guys in suits, to come inside, take their shoes off, and sit on the floor and eat lunch. So again-- again, what happens when we translate inside to outside, outside to inside? Things happen.
And that led to-- when I walked on it, I went-- so again, it's this relationship. So as I work on my artwork, inside and out, it's almost a constant dialogue. And so the minute I stepped onto this-- again, this is a public space. It had to be handicapped accessible to code. So our curve couldn't get too steep. Every angle we had to calculate. And all I could think of was when I stepped onto it-- but gee, just what if I could make a hill so as you climbed it inside, you could touch the ceiling. It took me eight years. I know, it's kind of funny.
And also it would become kind of the backbone of my second show. I don't show that often. You'll see with the architecture, it's a gentle balance between the two. But this was just the initial sketch because I knew I wanted to make a piece that unlike my permanent sculptures could travel, could disassemble. The show was called Systematic Landscapes. Everything about it was taking things from nature.
But then through computers and data beginning to systematize it and regurgitate it and build it-- and so this is a blueprint. Every single little square is a two by four. Every single height is called out. And became what the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, Washington, the Henry Museum started with-- there are three main anchor points in the show all dealing with our relationship to land or landscape, one you walked on.
It is in between water and land. From two approaches it begins to look like a cresting water wave. From the back side, it looks like a hill. And indeed, you could walk up it, though apparently-- OK, you had to sign a release because it was a little steeper than anyone felt comfortable. But that's two by four landscape. It's 3,000 square feet. The show traveled for about three years. And along with it, there were two other very large pieces-- again, one you walked through. So I took a site very familiar to me that was land-based, a mountain range in Colorado, Blue Lake Pass, flipped the topography sideways, and then pulled it apart and allowed you to walk through it.
And then the last of these anchoring pieces was the one I wanted you to walk under. I looked and looked for a water landscape. There's this little tiny island, the southernmost island called Bouvet before you hit the Antarctic. I wanted a singular point. And it's called Water Line because when it was first installed, balcony level was literally land level. Everything else is below the ocean. It's a point where three ocean ridges come together. Up pops this one mountain range.
And it's called-- again, it's a wire landscape, which I see as more like a sketch or a drawing in space, which led to my first permanent wire landscape piece for the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Nothing watery, river of note in Indiana. But then someone said, look underground. The second largest underground river system in the States is under Indiana. It's called the White River. It's been a little while.
So we went spelunking, and we started taking photographs. And then I would make drawings of each of these sections. And then we worked with a crew that came in and took sonar depths and seismic, so we could get the underneath, what was below the water. And that became-- and again, sorry, this slide washed out. But it's all the sections drawn above and below, which turned into this piece, which is sort of splitting its-- its split between-- on the upper level from inside, it's the contemporary art galleries, and it's the Asian Art galleries down below. And at one point the upper section and the lower section intersect forming the full whole.
Or this is at the California Academy of Sciences, permanently installed, the third of the wire landscapes, which looks at the San Francisco Bay above and below water. It's called Where the Land Meets the Sea. And again, it is a drawing. We take the data, end up hand-drawing all the elevations, and then we bend everything. And this is a stainless steel outside, so literally you can eat lunch and you're actually sitting under Angel Island.
This is another way of looking at the San Francisco Bay. I'll only touch recycled silver. So this is a recycled silver casting of San Francisco Bay. Interested in looking at rivers and major waterways around the world. This is-- again, sometimes they're also so evocative because they just look like something else. This, to me, looks like a tree or a ginger root. It's the Chesapeake Bay.
Or this was an installation for the US consulate in Beijing. Anyone make a guess? It's the Yangtze River. And I think when I was there, if you can see it, the consulate said, gee, it looks like a dragon. So I can't think of this river without thinking of a dragon.
And that's how it looks-- it's pins, specially made stainless steel pins. I love the pins sometimes because they talk about dispersion. But I also cast it in silver. Why? I kind of am deliberately playing with the preciousness of the material but also trying to show you something as a whole. I think we tend to look at rivers at the point at which we live. Many rivers span countries, let alone states. We tend to not worry as much what's downriver from us, but we might worry what's upriver from us if someone happens to be dumping. But I love showing these rivers as singular wholes, as connected systems.
I'm right now extremely interested in studying and understanding aquifers around the world, because just dig another hole, get more water, they're running out. So anything in red and in yellow, as in like the Ogallala Aquifer, we're tapping them too heavily. And it's going to be a disaster. So I'm, again, focusing in on that.
This was from my last show at Pace called Here and There. It was a joint show-- London, New York. And I saw this image of floodplain of Hurricane Sandy and turned it into a pin river, because, again, the idea that you could capture a moment in time of such a powerful destructive moment that did so much damage, and it exists completely temporarily.
Or this is the Hudson River, the Long Island Sound. Manhattan's the void. And again, it's a positive-negative. We tend to see the land. We don't tend to see the water. So there you see Manhattan. And it's all based on satellite imaging of the rivers, streams, waters, and then drawings, large-scale drawings that I take from that, and then end up building wax pieces out of it.
This is, again-- this was part of the Here and There New York, London show. Anything in the Here show in New York focused on New York, New York state. Couldn't resist. So this tiny little connector between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario is Niagara Falls. So maybe as an artist, I'm pointing out something that we all know what Niagara Falls is but we think of it as being this immense, massive power. And it is completely dwarfed by these two lakes. So I'm just getting us to see it in a different light.
Or sometimes I choose a waterway or a mountaintop or a natural system just because I think it is so, so evocative of something else, so beautiful. So whether this is like a coral, sponge coral or a peacock, this is the estuary, the Lena River in Russia turned into a pin river, which to me also looks a little like a brain cortex, brain stem.
Or a series that I just started on bodies of water, disappearing bodies of water. This is the disappearance of the Aral Sea from the 1970s till where it is today, cut in one piece of stone. So again, all that remains is the uppermost layer, or Lake Chad. Again, all that remains is the uppermost layer.
And then the Arctic ice, mean low ice temperature from the '70s, from '73 till the present day, cut into stone. Or another way of looking at the Arctic Circle-- and again, we're kind of having a land grab, if you haven't noticed, over the mineral rights, the petroleum rights around the Arctic Circle. So I'm kind of doing a whole series looking at both the Arctic and Antarctic circle.
Which gets me into these little cross-sections of going literally through the earth. Can anyone guess what that is? Hawaii-- tallest mountain in the world if you go ground to tip. So again, looking around, using science, using data to show the natural world. Maybe I'm no different from a 19th or 18th century landscape painter. It's just that we have a lot more ways of looking at the world around us with science.
And these are some other pieces where I literally took cross-sections through New York, both latitudinally and longitudinally, and turned them into two different stone cross-sections. Or could not resist when the show was in London. The London show, There, was all about looking at the world globally. This was Greenwich Mean Time-- zero, right.
So again, most of our mountains are underwater, which you might not really be thinking about. So architecture-- I'm not going to talk too much about it because I really want to get onto the memorials and to What Is Missing? Stone-- I've sort of returned to stone, quite excited. This is just a microscopic image of, I think, coral, actually. And it's led to a piece that I'm currently working on in Cambridge, Mass for Novartis.
And this is just a mock up of a local stone. It's a gold LEEDs-rated research and meeting room building for their headquarters in Cambridge. And this is Chelmsford stone. And it becomes a sunscreen of sorts. And Mass Ave. is right here. Everything along Mass Ave. has to be retail, and that's sort of-- the steel is up, but the stone [INAUDIBLE], the curtain wall is being built right now.
But so the promise to Cambridge was that Novartis would give all the retail back to retail and then live in the street. So I created this cantilevered portico so people coming in to Novartis will come in through here. And then it's a complex of three buildings that you can kind of see. Toshiko Mori's here, and there's a third, historic building.
So I had to maintain and respect the human scale of street and yet still go up with the tower which is all about research. And there's an auditorium in here and conferencing rooms. So this is under construction. And that's sort of how it looks from Mass Ave., or how it will look. It's a rendering. And again, at night, it'll just sort of glow a little bit as a beacon.
Again, Children's Defense Fund, one of my favorite clients. And again, it's built at Alex Haley's former estate, the Children's Defense Fund Retreat in Tennessee. And everything at the farm is a one-story log cabin. So how could I, as a modernist, work within and fit in contextually? I did two buildings-- one, adaptive reuse of an existing barn, one completely new. And twice a year, they go to max capacity, and there are roller furlings that come down.
And this whole area is used for graduations there. The imagery I chose was almost like a boat. The motto of the Children's Defense Fund is "Dear Lord, the sea is so large and my boat is so small." But it's also a very sort of simple sculptural modern form. And then it opens up completely so it can be used.
Then I'm just going to hop, go through. And that's the barn that we reused, slipped a modernist skin inside. It's a corn crib. They were about to tear it down and I said, don't touch it. And so we put a little-- this is, like, 7 and 1/2 feet under there. So by putting a little fountain there, it greets you as you come in. And then up you slip with this modernist new library.
Again, whenever I touch architecture, this is-- we actually used the pond right outside as a local heat sink. Everything's formaldehyde-free, recycled materials. I've been doing it for 20-some years. It is so great because there is so much more choices out there, and at maximum energy efficiency, super insulated. And then this is a house.
The other key with these buildings is I kind of like to play with creating. It's really hard to see this way. I guess, sorry, I'll have to look this way.
Indoor, outdoors-- so you can make a volume feel less large as long as you create outdoor spaces like at the chapel that can be used. So this is a private residence in Colorado. It's called the Box House, and this area will get built in, overgrown with aspens, but only this front portion will be sort of exposed. It's kind of a very small footprint. It's about 3,000 square feet, and the rest of the site is given over to conservation easements.
So I love doing adaptive reuse. I love doing urban infill. This client was really great and actually saved this area from development. So it was a pleasure to work on it. And everything shuts down when they're not there, so all the hinge slats literally shut down. And then that's the upper plaza.
[INAUDIBLE]. It's a funny house. It's called the Box House. And inside, there no sheet rock walls. A little wooden box in each room, and how you open that box exposes the functionality. So you can kind of have absolute flexible living on the inside.
And then Museum of Chinese in America which, again, old machine factory. I've joined their board. I spend much more time helping them institutionally. I have worked for and will continue to work for a lot of not-for-profits in my architecture, though I don't take on much architecture. I can't because I can't do my art, and I certainly can't work on What Is Missing?
I love architecture. I'm committed to it. And I am equally committed to helping out some not-for-profit institutions that actually don't think they can actually afford design. So, simple-- a lot of times these are built for $50 a square foot, $100 a square foot. I don't think architecture should just be really lavish budgets. It's just not what I believe.
So as you enter MOCA, you're met with the Journey Wall. And it's a way where people can donate smaller funds. But you say where you came from in China, where you ended up in this country. I'm from Ohio. And it's, where are you from? Ohio. No, where are you really from?
So from the very start, one of the goals was to change stereotypes. So we're not all from California or New York. And so when you come in at the Journey Wall, you see Iowa, you see Wisconsin, you see Chicago, you see Ohio. And then through the major core of the exhibit, it actually talks about time and unfolds through time, the changing immigration story of Chinese-Americans to this country.
So time is something that's played a huge amount through my monuments, the memorials. I didn't think I could play with it in architecture, but if you think about it at the Children's Defense Fund, one old and new at MOCA, being able to reveal sort of a timeline wrapped around this hidden courtyard with every era depicted, and then as you go down to the classrooms you see the changing face of Chinese coming to this country as one family. Time has also played in some of my outdoor landscapes.
And now this is going to really confuse you. The same way in my art I've got indoors and outdoors in my architecture I pursued both buildings and some garden spaces. This I just completed in China. We're greening a campus in China, and they asked for a bell tower-- not that I've ever done anything vertical before. And the light array is literally a fragment of the night sky over this poor part of China in the year that the university was founded. And it's this arc, which is made out of steel, is a calligraphic drawing. And then literally we've gotten them to rethink, take cars out of the university except for ceremonial occasions, and it's all about the flow of the water from here on down. And then we rethought the whole entranceway so they can drive people up through here, and then where they have to park will be going through here, though that hasn't been constructed. So that just gives you an idea of where we are. This also got completed last year. You can kind of see it.
And time is also played in a couple of other gardens. This is a skating rink in Grand Rapids. We put it in January 2000, so that is the night sky, constellation pattern, in January 2001. Or this we completed a few years ago. That's a man, and standing out in a pool of water, so he's floating out. This is for a very-- a garden. It's actually not really a garden. It's a very large urban space framed by a very important medical research facility in St. Louis where some of the worst almost terminally ill diseases are being dealt with.
The funder's wife was quite ill. We kept it secret and not public. The constellation array is actually her birthday. And sadly she passed away right before it was completed. But she saw it. We took her out there.
But this is almost symbolically a bowl of flowers. It's full of lilies. You get to walk out and be surrounded in it. And there's one quote. I love using language in these pieces. And the quote is from Emily Dickinson, "Hope is a thing with feathers."
And then this bowl of flowers, just sort of the water pours over and goes at the edge. You can kind of see the quote. And sometimes you're struck with what you get. This is, believe it or not, UC Irvine's Campus for the Arts. What were they thinking?
And this is what it looks like today. And I worked with a landscape architect. I am not a landscape architect. And there are three pathways in. And we just-- I repeated-- I wanted all five senses, since it's a school of the arts. So there's an olfactory pathway. So we took the same rosemary, thyme, orange and lemon trees, so as you come in you almost have the same olfactory sequence. Visually we used both pigment colors and mixed them, as well as the light colors and the lighting to mix the primary colors.
And then at the center-- and I love these water tables-- I left a water table. But what language would I use? And I thought and I thought, and I looked at dance notation. In the end, I just did a scribble. It's the school of the arts, and the water percolates up from this little drawing.
So language isn't just the alphabet. And language and time and memory are something I've, of course, played with in the memorials. So you might know of the first, the Vietnam, which is the first of the timepieces. So you have the beginning and the end of the war meeting. It reads like a book. The text is small. The letters are less than half an inch high.
So in many of my works there is a psychological connection, partly because I don't talk to you as if it's a billboard. I put a book out in public, and you have to read it the way we read books-- fairly intimately, fairly one on one. There's a very big difference. If you see 10 inch high letters and it's almost, like, declaring it to you, it's another thing to present almost a quiet book out in public view.
Second one in the series, Civil Rights Memorial. I focused on the history of the civil rights era, because I didn't know it. I didn't realize that someone was killed for using a whites bathroom in the South, [INAUDIBLE] younger. So it I felt it critically important to teach a brief history, intertwine events with people's deaths, leaving a gap with this one as far as the time, with the time before and after Brown versus Board of Education and Martin Luther King's assassination. And then this quote, because this is the Southern Poverty Law Center, what they're focused in-- struggle, which still goes on for equality.
The Women's Table at Yale. Again, it's not always focused on memorials, per se. I was asked by Yale, would I take a look at commemorating the 20th anniversary of women at Yale? And I said, let me dig into this, of course, because there were women at Yale before Yale went coed in '69. And there was one book that said, oh yes, women were allowed to audit courses, and they were called silent listeners.
So I went, hm, I think it's time we got counted. So you'll see a lot of zeros coming out of the font, and then it starts in 18-- I think 1880s, there were 13. It was the School of the Arts. Mr. Street had two daughters, and when he donated the money for Street Hall, I think there was a caveat that it would be the first coed school at Yale.
And it counts the number of women enrolled at Yale from when there were none to the day I put the piece in. So it's a never-ending-- oops, that one's out of order-- till when we ended it.
So again, time, history, data, scientific fact, which gets me to my fourth and fifth memorials, which are not concurrent. I started with Confluence first. I was asked by the state of Washington, but I was also asked in by the Chinnock tribe, the Nez Perce tribe, the Umatilla tribe, as it was the commemoration of Lewis and Clark's-- if I can get that out-- 200th anniversary.
They wanted me to take a look at the history because they asked-- and a lot of them were Vietnam vets, to be honest. And they said, we think you would look at the history differently. So I've been working at six places along the Columbia River. We start where Lewis and Clark ended, at Cape Disappointment on the West Coast. Their goal-- get to the Pacific Ocean. And it's a quite complex site at Cape D, where you have the estuary. Well, you have the jetty and all this [INAUDIBLE] land. And then you have this amazing-- god, it's really hard for me to see what's going on.
Anyway, there's the estuary and the ocean side. Lewis and Clark were in a bloody hurry to get to the ocean. They kind of paddled through what was, along with the Chesapeake Bay, one of the most abundant estuaries this country had. This is what we were met with. And it's going to lead to what is missing in green print at the end.
I don't think we meant to do this. We all grew up in this country. I'm from a town of 15,000 people. It hasn't changed in population. I have watched as Athens, Ohio first built one shopping mall. That wasn't enough, and gasoline is so cheap, so they built a second one down the line, which put the first one out of business, because you still have a population of 15,000 people.
That wasn't enough. What did they do? Third shopping mall, which has now kind of put the first two out. And then comes the Walmart. So we now have traffic jams getting to one side of town, even though the population is still sort of the same.
So here we are. We're in a national park, and we are met with parking lot restroom facilities and this really beautiful picnic area, with this incredible-- this is where the rangers sit and teach the kids about Cape Disappointment. And this is what it is today.
I'm an artist working in a national park. I kind of check my-- you know, I'm not going to do a Wave Field here. But what I did get them to do was do an entire transportation study. They were about to double the number of parking spaces at Cape D, literally.
And I said, let's do a transit study. I think they think it's kind of unusual when an artist asks you to do a transit study. Anyway, we were able to convince them. We restored the dunes to the natural sand dunes, got rid of the parking lot, created a much more contextual restroom. And now you can actually see what Lewis and Clark saw when they got there. You could actually see the ocean.
The funny thing is, I kept thinking, OK, how am I going to tell the history? And I always thought, the history of Lewis and Clark and the history of the Native Americans was going to go like that. They were going to, like, intersect. Sometimes they don't touch at all. So here you've got at the site a pathway that leads to the ocean. And on it we scribed every single marker. They sat there at Cape D, actually, stuck there by weather-- actually not at Cape D, but near there-- and they wrote their entire journey down.
So this is a Western European's way of looking at the land-- mile marker, distance, yards down. And then exactly 200 years from the day that Lewis and Clark arrived at this site, the Chinook tribe dedicated the site. And they wrote and read a poem. "We call upon the earth to teach us and show us the way."
So I asked permission if I could inscribe that entire poem on a pathway that leads to a small, quiet, private circle of cedars. We pulled up these old cedars from the storm's victims of timbering and created a little glade. And ironically, this pathway, which hugs what used to be the original shoreline, and the water used to come right up there.
And this is the other side, the estuary side. And the shrubs actually went the whole way down. This is what we were met with. This is the parking lot that they were going to double in size. And this is what it looks like today.
So my art here was actually to disappear completely because the art is actually the space itself. And now when you get there, you've got this natural almost wetland. the rainwater comes in, gets cleaned, percolated before it gets sent out into the estuary, and you're left with this one quote by Lewis and Clark, "traveled by a handsome bay." Because again, keep in mind, they were so desperate to get to the ocean, they just went right through here. And then there's a little footnote, and it tells you how important this estuary was and actually still is.
But sometimes I get intrigued by something. So at the other end of that parking lot was this thing, a fish cutting station. And this is what is there today. I didn't know that the creation myth of the Chinook tribe is of cutting a fish the wrong way. And from the blood of the fish springs an eagle. The eagle then flies to a nearby mountain, which you can see from here. And as the eagle lays an egg and the egg hatches, the first people are born, the Chinook tribe. So now when you're cutting your king salmon, you're reading the Chinook creation myth.
So every site we've selected sometimes for ecological reasons, sometimes because they were important for Lewis and Clark, other times because they were important ecologically. Like a bird blind commemorates when the Sandy River, they blew the dam, and they're allowing the Sandy to take its natural course. And this is a bird blind. And in it is every single species cited by Lewis and Clark and what their environmental status is today.
And to me, the most sacred site, which we're working on and will be working on for the next two years is a bridge. It doesn't go anywhere. It kind of leaves you out here. It's an art passageway. It's Celilo Falls. And it will tell the history of Celilo Falls. And then at about 2/3 of the way through, it'll say, the last dam to go onto the Columbia River destroyed the falls, or inundated the falls in 1957. And that's what you're left with today.
And then when you get out to the end, it'll tell you what it used to sound like. And these are kind of what's still underwater, and this is what it used to look like. So it be a piece that really talks about what is still there working underneath the water.
[END VIDEO PLAYBACK]
MAYA LIN: So I started What Is Missing? and I set up my own not-for-profit foundation. I had a commission, as you can recall, from the California Academy of Sciences, and I built that wire landscape. But I actually took most of the monies of the commission and launched the first iteration of What Is Missing?
And What Is Missing? is the fifth and last memorial that jumps form. It can be multiple shapes, multiple sites. It's a little bit like water, it goes where it's invited, it's free as long as you share it. The sound ring, as Director Wiles mentioned, will be a permanent installation, a sound landscape at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
John Fitzpatrick in the Cornell has been an instrumental partner. They've donated all the sounds of the library, a lot of the film. We've also got donations from the BBC and from National Geographic. We've linked to many of the environmental groups from WWF to CI to WCS.
And the idea started that I would end the memorials, the fifth and last, with one that would kind of have a life of its own once I got it going. This is the first iteration. It's called a listening cone. Renzo Piano had designed the California Academy renovation, and he really wanted me to work-- not in his piazza-- inside.
So I thought I'd do two artworks-- I know-- one on the Western terrace, which is the landscape of the San Francisco Bay, and then one on the opposite terrace, the eastern, which is this outdoor piece. Now I'm outdoors. You'll notice it's sunny. How am I going to share videos-- and I really wanted to focus on videos, because I wanted to play with sound, video, audio.
We are very visual. So you hear things and you read about an animal or a place before you see it. So I'm trying to arrest that first instinct to look first, because your sound sense is going to come out first. So you look inside.
And we've produced over 70 one to two minute films. We quote from all the environmental groups. And we've kind of reduced scientific fact to almost a haiku. So kids jump inside and play in it, and they kind of like it too. Recycled redwood on the inside, bronze on the outside.
But again, here's the Empty Room, which is up right now at the Johnson Museum, where literally there is a blackened room. You pick up the optic plexi, you pick it up, you go catch the light. And you get to hold the species or place in your hand.
So again, how can I make it more intimate? How can I make it more, in a way, human? We've created about 70 films. We'll probably have 100, but I'm also working on other special videos that are much more abstracted right now, that are really stripping out animal movement from animal sound to animal scale.
Meanwhile, this is sort of a sketch of the sound ring that will be about to be put into Cornell, and we'll work with them-- they are amazing-- to create almost a spatial soundscape of different places. One scene could be nothing but endangered species and habitats. Another one could be just northeastern sounds.
We also were given-- again, I'm a guerrilla artwork. Creative Time and MTV Billboard gave me in 2010 their video billboard in Times Square for the month of April. And we created four films for that.
So this is what we're left with. One in five mammals, one in three amphibians, one in eight birds, one in four conifers are known to be threatened with extinction with human alteration of their habitat the single biggest cause. So it's not just the species, of course. It's the habitats we need to protect.
As an artist this is also what I'm trying to get you to think about. Scale, abundance, the ability of animals to migrate freely, the longevity of species, the sound of once common songbirds down to the visibility of the stars at night. So we've basically diminished the entire planet. Our reach as a species has been enormous.
So I've been researching this now for seven years. I've been taking notes on this for over 20. And I always knew my true love and concern has been the environment, ever since I was a kid. And I knew that I would end the memorials with this one piece. So this is the size of some of the animals that we used to fish out of the ocean, or the fact that an Atlantic cod was bigger than a man in 1895.
So the issue is it's not just what's missing-- it's the memory, that we literally forget with every successive generation what used to be. It's called shifting baselines or landscape amnesia. And so how do we know? How do we even know to protect if we don't even realize it's gone?
This is buffalo heads. And if you thought there were a lot of bisons, 65 to 75 million bison, sea turtles-- immense numbers of sea turtles. When Christopher Columbus sailed into the Caribbean, he thought he had run aground. He hadn't. He had run into a sea of turtles.
So we've got a website up which forms the nexus of the project. I invite anyone to go on it. It is a little hard to navigate. It's about to flip to HTML. I apologize, you can't look at it yet on your iPads.
But play with it. Explore it. Every dot represents a story of the natural world. Right now, the map has two parts-- a past, which focuses on what we're losing. And I invite anyone into the room. You can go to a place called Add a Memory. Give us a memory, something you've personally witnessed diminish or disappear from nature. In time, the map of the past, the map of memory, is going to link to the second map that's up. As you go to time travel, it'll say Map of the Present, Conservation in Action.
We've linked over 40 environmental groups. They take you around the world and show you what they're doing. So in time, pretty soon, in the next two years, you might put in, "I'm missing grasslands in Nebraska," and up will pop-- because I'm going to collapse those two time periods-- conservation groups that are working in that area.
There are wormholes. So if you get a big dot, it's either going to be a core video or it's going to be a wormhole. So as we go around, we ask for memories of specific cities and waterways, because you see the same thing happen over and over again. Aside from Madrid, most of our major cities are placed on our waterways. And why were they placed there? Because they had so much natural abundance.
And then you see us crash it-- first with sewage, then with industrialization. But then you see the Thames, Hudson River, things-- quotes, things have never been cleaner in the water or the air than in 170 years. So through legislation and cleaning, nature comes back. Nature is actually pretty resilient. We've just beaten it down.
So this gives you an idea. You can click a button, and whether you see it geolocated or temporally. So you can, like, time travel. And you can literally see all those stories in time or in place. And then you can sort-- if you want to see extinct, if you want to see personal, if you want to see historical. We found ecological disasters and successes through history. And again, how much can we learn from our past?
And so this is sort of what's up there now. They're historical quotes that we've mined, personal memories that we're collecting, conservation groups, environmental successes and disasters, and core videos. So these are some of the things we found-- size of oysters and lobsters in Manhattan. Or sturgeon were so plentiful that boats collided with them. They were nicknamed Albany beef. Caviar was first made popular not because of Russia and the czars-- because caviar in the sturgeon were so plentiful, they gave it away free at the bars.
Or this is from the Missouri. We're basically going around the world, and we ask people, invite anyone to give a memory. This is from John Fitzpatrick about the Western meadowlarks.
So one of the facts that we found is 60% to 70% of our most common songbirds-- no, our most common songbirds are in a 60% to 70% decline. So literally, the landscape of songbirds that we might have heard as kids has significantly changed, and you might not have noticed it. Or this is-- someone gave us about the ice that used to form on Narragansett Bay, or in Korea about fireflies.
So again, I'm trying to create an intimate connection and a personal connection to what we're losing. And we're inviting high schools. This is our first case study with the Dalton School. We had over 100 high school juniors work with their history department, science department, and art department to research and create ecological timelines. So we've got about to launch-- I only surface on Earth Day, because this is a volunteer project for me, so I try to time it. And we're going to be posting a lot of their material.
From Cuba to Cairo. We've, again, linked to 40 environmental groups, so they take us around the world. The idea is to see the environmental movement as a whole. Sometimes we take histories of cities and present them in a blackened room. This was-- when my Pace show was up, we devoted a room to the ecological history of Manhattan. This might be London.
And I am really beginning to play with animal movement, sounds and scale. So this is just the intro video that's up on the website. But we're beginning to explore that. This is just a tracking of literally a point dot where we're beginning to look at tracing animal movement.
But the scientists when I first worked on this project said, please don't do this and just talk about loss. And for me, none of the memorials have really just focused on loss. They're about learning from history, and maybe they can give us a better understanding of where we need to go. So I won't make this thing fully public for another two years-- even though I've been building it in full view and the website keeps changing-- until I get Greenprint out, which is the map of the future.
And Greenprint is in two different parts. One, it's what we can all do as individuals that can make a huge difference. And then two, which is the larger view, what-ifs, macro view thinking about what it would take to change this and then mapping the future, which will be the most complex, which will ask experts to show us plausible future scenarios.
So just to give you an idea of some of the stuff that's coming out that we've been working on for the last year, it would take-- if we all consumed like Americans, we would need five planets. But then reverse the question-- how many Americans can live on the planet? So literally, it focuses in on resource consumption and land use.
So this just gives you an idea, sector by sector, from our diets to our houses to the water consumption to our carbon footprint, because so much of this is going to come to a head. So I'm balancing between climate change concerns and habitat species loss.
But just to give you an idea, we do things like this. Who would have thought a rabbit would be so efficient a meat source? And who would have known that a sheep and a lamb is as bad as an industrial cow? So infographics.
But OK, let's take this to the logical conclusion about meat. Let's go down to the bug. Who would have guessed a rat is as inefficient as it is? So you get down to bugs and everyone goes, ugh, we're not going to eat bugs-- not that more than X% of the planet eats bugs.
But then I play with things like this. Did you know that 36% of global annual fish feed is ground up into fish meal and oil to feed farm fish, chickens, and pigs? Or why do you think they call it fly fishing? And why do we have free-range chickens, and what should they really be eating? The protein shouldn't be soybeans. It could be a lot more bugs. Eating meat is something that, again, is very much land intensive, water intensive.
This is the amount of area it takes for a vegetarian diet versus a meat. And these are different policies in agriculture. So here's another thing for what you can do. What is the largest irrigated crop grown in America? Anyone have a guess?
I was told by a scientist it's not a crop. NASA calls it a crop, so I'm going to go with NASA. But did you know that more gasoline is spilled refueling lawn equipment than was spilled at the Exxon Valdez? So maybe as an artist I can kind of think outside of the box, have a little sense of humor, and rephrase what we're doing. And this is what it takes in terms of pesticides, fertilizer, and water. But the beauty is, this is giving half your yard back to nature. And then we have guidance on the site and links to other groups that shows you how you can green what's left of your lawn.
Or coffee-- the difference between shade grown organic versus plantation is 150 species with the one on the right and 20 to 50 with the plantation. And what's the price per cup difference in this country? $0.25 a cup.
And so then we take you to areas where that coffee is grown and what percentage is actually in the market that is organic, at which point there is room for growth, obviously. Or tuna, I'm going to do it. Don't eat Atlantic bluefin tuna, which is your sushi grade tuna. We're taking it out of existence. After Japan and after Spain, America is the top third consumer. Basically, World Wildlife Fund said, it's almost gone. But we could make a huge difference if we just stopped eating it.
There are about 10 species-- elephants, rhinos-- that are being absolutely threatened and could be saved if we could stop consumption for traditional Chinese medicine. The tuna is on our watch. We could do something. Again, shark fins, there are certain animals that absolutely we could save tomorrow if we just stopped consuming them directly.
And then this is, again, part of Greenprint. So what can I do with-- let's say Greenprint is in two parts-- what-ifs and then mapping the future. So what-ifs are the macro view, maybe what an artist can ask and pose a question. So what if the entire population, 7 billion of us, lived at the density of Manhattan? How much space would 7 billion people take up? Any guess? The state of Colorado.
So don't all move to Colorado. It's a really nice state, but in posing it this way, what you're really trying to say is, this is really a question just of population, or is this a question of land use and resource consumption?
Remember back to Cape D. I don't think we meant to sprawl all over a national park. We just did it. But the good news is, we could shrink our suburban footprint. We could shrink our agricultural footprint. We could plan this out a little better.
The power of cities. So 50% of us at this point in time live in major cities. By 2050, 75% of us will. So if we can focus in on the carbon footprint of that city but also energy in, food in, waste out. You have to not just see the city as an isolated event. You have to link it to its agricultural footprint and its metro suburban footprint. So we've started drilling down and analyzing cities around the world and around the country. And we've just begun. I feel like I've gone back to grad school, so it's going to take me two more years.
And then these are some of the what-ifs. What if we could offset our entire carbon footprint by growing a forest? What if we offset our entire electricity with solar power? What if we subsidize good practices rather than bad so we'll be trying to find out where people are spending their money? What if we rethought how we each spent our money? What if we sprawled up and minimized our urban, suburban, and agricultural footprint? What could the world look like?
So this just gives you an idea on the left-- on the left, you have Lester Brown, who did World Resource Institute, what it would take to save the planet and bring basic services up for mankind. And then on the right, we just found things we spend our money on.
Now, to do the bare minimum to protect biological diversity and bring it back is 31 billion. And if you look into really protecting biological diversity, that's 76 billion, which is about equivalent to what we spend on the pet industry. Not that I'm saying get rid of your pets, but again, we're spending the money.
So as we sit there and we dicker over the fact that coal is so much cheaper than solar, one, I'll show you, well, it's because we never subsidize the R&D for solar that we spend on subsidies for R&D for coal, nuclear, or for oil and gas. But it literally just puts it in perspective, we're spending the money. And what we're basically doing is we're spending our kids' future.
Or this is literally from the Land Art Generator Initiative, the amount of area it would take for us if we restored our forest to offset our entire carbon footprint. Or this-- all the area it takes-- granted, we're waiting for a great battery-- to generate enough solar energy for our usage. And this, again, is land needed for an American diet, a Chinese diet, and an Indian diet.
So again, what we eat, where it's coming from is going to be-- agricultural footprint is huge. So this, we just started working on this. But this is if you take the land grown for corn, wheat, rice, and soybeans. What is devoted to feeding livestock, and then this is the pasture land. What if we gave up meat two days a week? How much land would that free up?
And it's equivalent to all the protected land in North America and half of that in South America. So right now we're working with World Wildlife Fund and others because it's so complex to then do the logical thing. How much can we reduce emissions if we reforested, if we restored our grasslands?
But what you might not know-- and so I can't say this-- I'm not allowed to say this yet. Because when I do the calcs, assuming the worst case scenario for absorption, I end up offsetting enough carbon emissions that's bigger than the carbon emissions. But we're working on this. It'll probably take me a little while because there's so many variables. But we'll get there.
But what we do know for a fact is that wetlands sequester three times as much carbon as tropical forests. Now, guess what's going to happen is sea levels rise, and all our land-- the perimeters, again, there's a lot of land in perimeters-- which the oceans are going to, as they rise, make extremely vulnerable. So again, what if we devoted 20% of that back to wetlands and marshes?
So I think this is supposed to be playing. Can you turn the sound up? It's almost over.
[END VIDEO PLAYBACK]
MAYA LIN: So that was produced with help from Radical Media and Brian Eno donated the music. So yeah, I'm just going to leave you with this. And if you can give us a memory, I'd love to see a bump in Ithaca, New York of memories. If you post it won't go up right away. We kind of vet so that someone doesn't post, oh, I'm missing my dog.
But the idea is to create a memorial that is both personal and also global. It's not just to talk about what we're losing but to really focus in on what we can do, each one of us, and that we have to do. It's in our lifetime. And I just thank you for coming.
I think we're opening it up to questions, but I might have talked long. So I don't know if there's time for questions. Sorry. Are you guiding the questions?
STEPHANIE WILES: If there are a few questions, we could take a few quick questions. But I also wanted to invite people to come over to the museum-- we have a reception at the museum-- and to see Maya's pieces there. And then also there's a gallery talk by Lucy Orta and an artist that's represented in the Beyond Earth Art show. So are you willing to take a question or two?
MAYA LIN: Yeah.
STEPHANIE WILES: Any questions? Question.
AUDIENCE: The land wave-- I was just curious, in the many that you build, how often were the hills, the mountains you were creating, destroyed by rain.
MAYA LIN: They're not. Actually, the way they're built up, we do push the limits of the steepness. But I work with soil experts. And then the way-- like, for Storm King, we literally worked with grass experts. We used mostly native. And literally we worked so that there were grasses that went in the first few years that would then be taken over by others that were more hearty. So we're working quite carefully to make sure that-- and we work with landscape architects and horticultural experts to find the right grasses that will make it once it sets up to be fairly maintenance free.
Unlike the first one, which was, again, more like-- it was the first one I did, and it was a little intensive. But now what I'm focusing on is sort of a much more organic fertilizers, natural drainage, watering that once you get it set up doesn't need any watering, native grasses and hearty grasses.
AUDIENCE: But I meant while you were building it and it was still mounds of dirt and you had mathematically created just what you wanted, did rain ever destroy--
MAYA LIN: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. You begin-- and again, the bulldozer operators, a lot of this is being done to shape it. And then they come in with hand rakes, and everything gets reshaped. And then a burlap gets put down to hold the grass as it's being seeded. Because one, you don't want to use sod because sod's not very good for the environment. And two, what you really want to do is train the roots, which means everybody over-waters their lawns, by the way. You want to train your roots to go deeper and stronger.
But it takes time. So you put an artwork like that in, you don't allow anyone to walk on it for the first year or two. You basically put nice little ropes up saying, living work, give it time, it'll protect itself. Any other questions?
Memorial. It's actually everything. It's sort of like confluences-- architecture in it, artwork in it. I mean, I think in the end, even though I love that when I build a building and when I make an artwork I think they're coming out of very different impulses-- this is going to sound a little boring, I've said it in my book-- writing a poem or writing a novel is the difference I equate with making a building versus making a sculpture.
The monuments are that true hybrid. They sit in between. And definitely formally, I think I'm kind of letting that be the shared dialogue between the two disciplines.
AUDIENCE: Your perspective is so positive, the idea that this isn't just a loss, that all these species aren't just being lost but that there's actually something that can be done, it makes it sound so possible. And yet somehow, as humankind, have we ever done anything like that before?
MAYA LIN: Well, if you look at-- and it's hard to find-- the successes, I mean, we moved extremely quickly to band CFCs, and we work globally. It can be done. What we're going to do is show you that, well, if we did a zero waste to energy like Sweden, if we recycled our electronic toxins like Taiwan, if we practice solar on roof like Germany, I'm going to show you that everything other than a battery technology-- or I think the only biofuel is going to be algae-- that everything we could do is being done and in practice, because, again, I think that's hugely important, to show that nothing we're going to propose is not being done today. I mean, there will be a section of the things we're waiting for.
Am I hopeful? I think the response would be, what good is it if we're not hopeful? I have been called a Pollyanna. And I said, I'm not a Pollyanna. I am going to be an optimist. Because I actually don't want to think about what our alternative is. Because frankly, our alternative is to give up and say, there's nothing we can do. And I think that would be the problem.
I also think nature is very resilient. Marine no take zones, they come back in three years. Most of the fisheries are being fished out by 10 countries. And like Oceana is focusing in on five of those countries. So if you can begin to create better fishing policies, you're there.
So I think I'm out to try to just go-- I mean, I can be optimistic in that this is so solvable. No. Did we save salmon in Europe? And were the same excuses always economy, jobs, threats? And they lost it, so all that's left of this great industry is in Scotland. That is generally a history.
And that's why I'm so fascinated by looking at our failures and successes just to point it out. We do tend to repeat our past. We do tend to repeat our mistakes. But that doesn't mean we can't hope that we can do something else.
STEPHANIE WILES: So please come to the museum. We can continue the conversation in Andrea's Beyond Earth Art show, which brings up many of these topics from different perspectives. Thank you very much. Thank you, Maya.
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Maya Lin discussed her work, including recent sculptures and the installation 'Empty Room,' part of her 'What is Missing?' memorial, during an artist's talk April 10, 2014 at Milstein Auditorium.
Empty Room is on view at the Johnson Museum through June 8, as part of the BEYOND EARTH ART exhibition.