Holocene Passage


Holocene Passage is a site-specific, architectural intervention designed for the Archivio Emily Harvey, in Venice, Italy, as part of "NEXT," the 2002 Venice Architectural Biennale.

Aligned with a view of the Rialto bridge, the installation is an enclosed "passage" between two open windows of the gallery space. It is a transparent, glass and wood-framed structure lined with a field of moss collected from the forests of Northern Italy. The properties of the moss may be altered by daily climate change and other natural phenomena through the open windows at either end -- on dry days the moss is a dormant grayish color, on moist days, to the extent that weather can reach within the structure, a vibrant green. Additionally, other forms of nature such as birds and insects may interact within the enclosed space. Holocene Passage, forms a channel of nature through the gallery space, much like the Venetian canals and their sinuous interaction with the architecture of the city.

Holocene Passage investigates two resonate themes of my work, one that relates architecture and human activity to larger natural systems and geologic time, the second, in a similar way to the earlier landscape furnaces and other environmental works, where forces of nature are made visible in a confined environment and a dialog ensues between nature, the structure and its contents. Conceptually, the moss is seen as a bridge in time between the present and an ancient geologic past. Like the moss contained in Holocene Terrace, 1999, installed in the Lance Fung Gallery, New York, it is used as a reference to the primal conditions of sedimentary deposition, the material that later became the stone used for construction of the city’s architecture. In this context, the city is seen as a geologic formation, formed by parallel human activities: quarrying as erosion, transport as flow and construction as sedimentation. Conceptually as well as physically, Holocene Passage is a confluence of time, site, metaphor and process.

John Roloff, 2002