I was walking east across the park just south of 81st street the other day when I spotted what looked like a huge eagle’s nest on top of the Metropolitan Museum. I had no idea what it was, but clearly there was a new installation on the roof.
After a brief stop at the Victorian scrap book exhibit (which didn’t grab my attention for long), I climbed up to the roof and entered at the southern end where there were long poles of bamboo stacked up and a few hearty-looking fellows who were clambering among them while in deep conversation.
It was odd seeing what felt like a work in progress and a bit of a mess, when everything else at the Museum always seems so controlled and staid.
For some reason, I didn’t snap automatically into my journalistic persona and begin asking questions. I suspect that the whole pick-up-stix jumble took me by surprise–just the thing this installation is supposed to do!
In fact, I wasn’t able to hop right into the moment until I turned the corner and found myself standing underneath a tall, sprawling structure made of bamboo. (Why they are spelling it “bambu'” I do not know, and it doesn’t really matter to me either.)
This installation brings out the kid and the adventure traveler in grown-ups. I saw two elegant Japanese women tucking themselves into a cave-like segment and having their pictures taken while they were giggling. I looked up and saw a number of people climbing up some internal bamboo staircase. (You need to buy special tickets to do this.) The whole scene brought to mind a challenging ropes course I did when I was younger, braver, and more into facing my fears.
Big Bambu’ is the brainchild of two identical twin brothers: Doug and Mike Starn. Looking at pictures of them doing the installation, I was reminded of the famous Hines photographs of fearless native Americans balancing in the clouds on structural beams of the Empire State building.
Here are some details from the Museum’s web site:
Big Bambú is a growing and changing sculpture―a vast network of 5,000 interlocking 30- and 40-foot-long fresh-cut bamboo poles, lashed together with 50 miles of nylon rope. It will continue to be constructed throughout the duration of the exhibition. The first phase of the structure―measuring about 100 feet long, 50 feet wide, and 30 feet high―will be completed by opening day, April 27. Subsequently, the artists and rock climbers will build up the eastern portion of the sculpture to an elevation of 50 feet. By summer, the western portion of the sculpture will be about 40 feet high. An internal footpath artery system will grow along with the structure, facilitating its progress. The evolving state of the work will be documented by the artists in photographs and videos.
Be sure to take a close look at the ties that bind the bamboo poles together. They are works of art in themselves.
Go! You won’t be disappointed. And the views of the park from up there are amazing.