Rural Aesthetic Initiative:
Stoppage 1 (For Marcel), 2020
Installation view Plains Art Museum
gold leaf on wood
courtesy of the artists
Lisa Bergh site
Andrew Nordin site
“New London Artists in the Rural House,” Carolyn Lang, West Central Tribune
“Postcards: Traveling Museum,” video, Pioneer Public Television
Rural Aesthetic Initiative is the collaborative team of Lisa Bergh and Andrew Nordin, based in New London, Minnesota. Through this shared work, the couple has engaged in a long-term, multifaceted approach to facilitate public art experiences beyond the city, and to cultivate dialogue in the arts and culture field around how to most responsibly engage rural communities toward these goals.
Bergh and Nordin are multidisciplinary artists who are impressively adept at visual languages that span studio practice and social engagement, with special attention to the connection between abstraction and the forms of design found in the everyday rural landscapes. As the Rural Aesthetic Initiative, these artists have created a wide body of work that exhibits a tireless and authentic voice for rural arts and culture.
Stoppage I (for Marcel) is a recreation of a 2014 piece by Lisa Bergh and Andrew Nordin. It refers to Marcel Duchamp’s 3 Standard Stoppages, in which he let a meter of string fall from a height, haphazardly and by chance dictating a new length of measurement. Bergh and Nordin let a garden hose trace the first outline of the 2014 version of Stoppage I. The profile of the resulting shape for the 2020 version of Stoppage I is based on the contour of the Mississippi River between St. Cloud Minnesota, Maiden Rock Wisconsin, and Bettendorf Iowa. These locations are of personal and professional importance to Bergh and Nordin, as locations of memory and nodal points of travel.
Like much of the Rural Aesthetic Initiative’s work, Stoppage 1 (For Marcel) is simultaneously personal and objectively minimal. The aesthetic gesture is largely in the space around the wood boards, where the overlapping shadows create a compelling beauty. Its title, however, suggests both the legacy of Marcel Duchamp’s readymade sculptures and a more deeply ambiguous and personal narrative; in this space, as with much of the Rural Aesthetic Initiative’s work, the viewer finds the space to wander between expected forms and meanings and their own memories. The overlapping shadows cast beneath the piece invite this creative space.
In The Traveling Museum, the Rural Aesthetic Initiative brings contemporary art to rural spaces across Minnesota. The Traveling Museum harnesses the utilitarian design of fish houses that dot the winter landscape, an effort that both democratizes access to creative experiences and deconstructs the notion of art institutions itself. “The mobility of it gives so much freedom for opportunities,” Bergh told Forecast Public Art. “It can be set up anywhere that art doesn’t normally go.” This flexible design allows for Bergh and Nordin to curate exhibitions or welcome other curators and organizations to activate the space, and it has also served as a writing residency, workshop site, and even a mobile recording studio.
Beyond this collaboration, Lisa Bergh and Andrew Nordin are each widely recognized visual artists. Bergh has shown her work – which merges drawing, painting, sculpture, and installation —widely across the country, and she is also the Executive Director for the Hutchinson Center for the Arts. Nordin’s painting has also been broadly featured in solo and group shows and documented by Pioneer Public Television; he teaches art at Ridgewater College.
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