An Illustrated Journey: From Art Installations to Landscape

Watch an interview featuring the BAM designer, Z-dawg!

THE INSTALLATION ROOM at BAM’s 10 Years of Dumb” Retrospective

The Installation Room at BAM’s “10 Years of Dumb” retrospective exhibition is a cacophony of models, physical tests, videos, images, and drawings. The process by which BAM creates it’s so called ‘art’ is highly iterative and non-linear. Models of all kinds hang from a shelf suspended from the ceiling, among other placed on Astro Turf displays the installation room is a maze of objects and images. BAM has always had a hard time calling these works ‘art’ and prefers the term installation as these projects are much more a realm for design exploration, as opposed to the creation of art, although they are marketed as such.

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From Trash Bags to Forested Urban Plans: An Illustrated Journey

BAM started as a group of like-minded individuals in architecture school interested in installation art and publication as a means to create and activate community. This in part was a rejection of traditional methods by which architecture is taught, the implication that architecture is the center of the world and the highest of art forms.

Alt text ^ BAM rejects traditional methods by which artchitecture is taught. Architecture is not at the center of the design world.

Our initial interest in installation work lead us to gravitate away from traditional architecture towards the field of landscape, which inherently deals with a more social agenda and less controllable conditions. However BAM’s evolution towards landscape was not a straight line.

Alt text Alt text Alt text ^ BAM’s evolution toward landscape was not a straight line. BAM began by making many small installations such as Pingyao Flowers which existed for no more than a handful of minutes.

In our initial years starting out in a hutong in Beijing, we had no clients and no money. At this time we did many small interventions, funded and installed by ourselves. Eventually these interventions allowed us to land more significant art installation commissions. These installations were often associated with indoor or outdoor public or semi-public retail space, commissioned by developers.

Alt text Alt text ^ Construction of Cloud, commissioned by a real estate developer.

The work led us to the realm of designed “art.” While this type of work cannot be considered “art,” as a place for design exploration and developing technical know-how in large construction and fabrication, this evolutionary stage of BAM was critical to laying the foundation for our future.

Alt text Alt text Alt text Alt text Alt text Alt text ^ Most recently BAM designed and built a public plaza fountain in Shenyang. Beautifully crafted out of 5mm 304 stainless steel, the Rain Ring is one of BAM's highest quality China constructions.

Always aiming towards working large-scale in the public realm, exposure to Chinese retail environments and clients guided BAM’s evolution towards the ephemeral, fast-paced world of seasonal installations. The world of seasonal installation exposed BAM to a side of Chinese culture that in no way may be gained through the lens of design or art. Designing huge environments, objects, and graphics meant to conjure associations with customary national holidays such as Mid-Autumn Festival, Spring Festival, and western Christmas, allowed us to tap story-telling aspects of Chinese culture—the stories a culture tells itself to maintain continuity, all expressed through the mechanism of shopping. This seemingly short-lived phase of BAM’s evolution was highly prolific, resulting in a wide variety of bizarre, blasphemous works, created in a condition completely free of restraint from historic typological art forms. The strangest of these works was the design of parade floats for a small mountain town in the south of China, Wuyishan.

Alt text Alt text Alt text Alt text Alt text Alt text Alt text ^ Retail landscape projects snowballed into larger-scale works such as Daxing Central Park in Beijing.

Continued exposure to the world of retail allowed BAM to access more developer clients. With the completion of BAM’s first landscape project, a collaboration on a garden for a Beijing Exposition, BAM was able to push more deeply into the realm of public landscape. This project, combined with our learned knowledge of retail, provided opportunity to capture retail landscape projects. These opportunities snowballed into landscape projects of all kinds: hotels, resorts, malls, and eventually larger-scale works such as parks.

Alt text Alt text Alt text ^ Unsatisfied with approaches to creating retail environments, BAM pushes a design agenda at the urban scale.

Unsatisfied with cookie-cutter methods that developers employ to create retail environments, BAM pushed into even larger-scale work through our agenda at the urban design scale. Yet even as BAM is poised to evolve into one of China’s leading landscape and public-oriented design firms, the field that we find ourselves in is beginning to reveal boundaries and constraints. Boundaries are not something BAM is comfortable with, and by virtue of this, BAM is also not comfortable being defined by any given field of art or design.

As an advocate for the public realm and urban spaces, the boundaries of design professions cannot be manipulated by those dependent upon the status-quo to survive. Meaning that if one’s livelihood and work-pattern depends on the current way in which work is perceived and executed, then it is not necessarily in the ‘professional’s’ best interest to innovate or disrupt that system. Thus the academic realm becomes a critical tool for imparting change.

BAM’s “10 Years of Dumb” retrospective exhibition is a springboard for defining BAM’s future direction: away from the purely professional, away from purely survival, into more academic realms of exhibition, representation, and writing.

Alt text Alt text Alt text Alt text ^ BAM’s project to re-imagine as landscape a traffic intersection in the Central Business District of Beijing. CLICK HERE to read more about this project, "Re-Imagining Guomao." For BAM research in this academic realm is a critical tool for imparting change.

点击这里观看关于BAM安装的视频采访,采用神话般的BAM designer,Z-dawg!

BAM“愚蠢的10年” 回顾展之装置展厅

装置展厅是一个充满了模型、实体样品、视频、图片及图纸的混杂空间。BAM创造的所谓的“艺术”过程是不断迭代而且并非一蹴而就的。所有不同类型的模型都被悬挂在天花板上吊挂的架子上。在人造草坪上,装置展厅更像是一个由各类作品组成的迷宫。比起将这些作品称为“艺术”, BAM更倾向于“装置”这个术语——尽管这些作品确实是靠“艺术”来推销的。然而,它们更像是一个设计探索的领域,并非艺术的创作。

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Alt text Alt text ^ BAM's numerous, early temporary installations included this circle of trunks made using segments of a felled tree found on Cornell University's campus.

BAM早期对艺术装置的兴趣引导我们逐渐远离传统建筑并朝向景观领域进发。然而,这在本质上需要面对更复杂的社会变革(social agenda),并且可控因素变得更少。因此,迈向景观的路途并不是一帆风顺的。

Alt text Alt text ^ BAM's many small installations also included this canopy of trash bags, made when BAM lived and worked in a Beijing hutong.


Alt text Alt text Alt text Alt text ^ Installations became more significant in scale and quality, and often were associated with public or semi-public retail space.



Alt text Alt text Alt text Alt text ^ Making large-scale work for the public realm guided BAM toward the ephemeral, fast-paced world of seasonal installations. Above, a temporary lantern installation for Mid-Autumn Festival.

Alt text Alt text ^ Spinning”flowers” for Chinese New Year at Hong Kong Landmark retail center.

Alt text ^ Sets for Chinese national holidays like this Christmas Party (with a Renaissance theme) allow BAM to tap story-telling aspects of design which connect more deeply to culture.

Alt text ^ At one bizarre point in BAM’s evolution, BAM designed eight unique parade floats.



Alt text Alt text Alt text Alt text Alt text Alt text ^ With the Finite/Infinite garden, BAM pushed more deeply into the realm of public landscape.



Alt text Alt text Alt text Alt text ^ In reference to this Beijing retail landscape, BAM blogs about how “culture is a tricky thing.”