Part garden, part machine: “Landscape Abbreviated” by Nova Jiang

Artist Nova Jiang scoured the sidewalks of her native New York (Brooklyn, to be precise) to extract moss samples to embed into the moving planters of her Landscape Abbreviated art installation. Jiang describes her creation as a “kinetic maze,” but the intention seems more to have been to delight and inspire than to confuse or bamboozle.

The art installation consists of 12 wood and aluminum planter stands arranged about three feet apart in a square formation, creating a grid of nine smaller squares within. The planters themselves are shaped something like the paddles of aircraft carrier Landing Signals Officers, but with elongated handles. These lie horizontal to the ground at roughly the waist height of the average adult. They pivot at the circular end, effectively forming rotating gates which open up and shut off parts of the maze. They’re controlled by a computer algorithm which continually generates new forms for the planters to adopt.

If that sounds like a rather mundane description of the constituent parts ofLandscape Abbreviated, not to worry: Jiang has come up with more expressive descriptions.

I envision this sculpture not as a classical labyrinth built to ensnare, but rather as an architectural abbreviation of grand ideas,” she writes. “In this way, the maze relates to literature, mathematical beauty, game play and the rigor of software programming, as much as it does to architecture and landscape.”

Landscape Abbreviated is additionally described by Yiang as “a garden that is simultaneously a machine,” and, my favorite, “a patchwork of unintentional archaeology.” The latter description derives from the fragments of urban jetsam (“broken glass, plastic…”) contained in the moss samples, collected not only from sidewalks, but also building façades, subway grates and their ilk.

Jiang claims that she came up with the idea of Landscape Abbreviated while visiting the 28-acre (11-ha) gardens of the Wave Hill estate in the Bronx. The piece was exhibited at Wave Hill’s Sunroom Project Space over the summer. A video of the maze in action is embedded below. Warning to the aurally staid: soundtrack contains abstract atonal electronica.