Unveiling the RamleAnthropocene: The Artistic Vision of Daniel Rothbart
By: John Wisniewski| Daniel Rothbart’s RamleAnthropocene| Image: Chad Weckler
Exploring the concept of RamleAnthropocene through the Artistic Vision of Daniel Rothbart
Daniel Rothbart is a renowned artist and writer known for his thought-provoking works centered around the concept of RamleAnthropocene. With a unique blend of visual art and written narratives, Rothbart explores the complex relationship between humans and the environment in the Anthropocene era.
Rothbart's artistic practice encompasses various mediums, including painting, sculpture, installation, and photography. His works often incorporate found objects and materials, creating multi-dimensional pieces that challenge traditional notions of art.
As a writer, Rothbart delves into deep philosophical themes surrounding our impact on the planet. Through his insightful essays and articles, he raises important questions about our responsibility as individuals and societies in shaping the future of our environment.
On behalf of Cultured Focus Magazine, Journalist John Wisniewski met with Rothbart to discuss his latest project, how he became interested in sculpture, and his plans for the future. Read the full interview below.
Daniel Rothbart on RamleAnthropocene
1. How would you describe your current installation titled RamleAnthropocene?
RamleAnthropocene is a constellation of floating sculptures in the Pool of the Arches, a ninth-century archeological site in Ramle, Israel. Dr. Smadar Sheffi curated the installation as a project of the Center for Contemporary Art, Ramle.
I created the work by welding aluminum arabesques around spheres of found glass, to create serpentine chain forms that move freely in the water. The sculptures suggest ancient aquatic life forms, with roots, risers, tendrils, and transparent bodies of colored glass.
The Pool of the Arches is an underground reservoir that visitors explore in rowboats. It was built by the Umayyad culture and is graced with a carved inscription and elegant vaulted stone arches. Natural light illuminates the space from above through oculi from which villagers used to lower buckets to collect water for their livestock.
According to a local legend, a genie that lives in the pool. This doesn’t surprise me because I found the environment is quite magical. Shafts of light from the oculi traverse glass elements of my sculpture are redirected into mysterious, flickering projections on the cistern wall.
The installation is accompanied by readings of water-themed poetry by Agi Mishol, Rashid Hussein (read by Marwa Saabni), Richard Milazzo, and Carter Ratcliff. I also collaborated with Italian actor Carlo Giuliano on a short film that was conceived for the Pool of the Arches titled The Canto of Ulysses (for Primo Levi). The film juxtaposes a reading of Canto 26 of Dante’s Inferno with footage of my floating sculptures in the Hudson Valley. All of the poetry readings were filmed and include Hebrew, Arabic, and English subtitles.
2. How did this project come about?
In 2020, during the height of the COVID pandemic, my wife and I had temporarily relocated to Hudson, New York, from Brooklyn. We lived close to a lake, so I could make new floating sculptures and I began searching online for the most interesting environment to install them. At the time, this was pure fantasy, because nobody was traveling. I searched for bodies of water, both natural and manmade, before stumbling on the Pool of the Arches in Ramle, Israel. It was love at first sight.
Prominent Israeli curator Dr. Smadar Sheffi had founded the Center for Contemporary Art Ramle CACR nearby, so I reached out to her with a proposal to install my sculptures in the pool. As it turned out, Dr. Sheffi was already working with artist Dor Zlekha Levy on a media installation in the Pool of the Arches titled Reflection and was open to entertaining new ideas.
She liked the proposal, and Zoom meetings followed between her, myself, and museum director Ron Peled. With the advent of vaccines, the world began to open up again. Unfortunately, we lacked funds to realize the project. With encouragement from Randall Bourscheidt, I applied for, and was awarded, a New York State Council on the Arts grant. Additional funds from the City of Ramle and The Ramle Foundation for Education, Culture and Development, and private donors made it possible.
3. What has the reception been thus far?
The reaction thus far has been favorable. Tour groups and individuals arrive each day to experience the installation from rowboats and have responded warmly. Refugees from the kibbutzim in southern Israel are admitted free of charge, and I hope it gives them some comfort. RamleAnthropocene was supposed to run through January, but has been extended through May 17, 2024.
RamleAnthroponcene was discussed in an article by critic Avi Pitchon in Haaretz and journalist Ruth Eglash wrote a feature article on our project in The Jewish Insider. RamleAnthropocene also received wonderful coverage in The Jerusalem Post, Time-Out Israel, TLV Times, Israel Travel News, and Channel 13.
I returned to New York City on October 1st and set to work editing video footage. Subtitles were applied to the Agi Mishol and Marwa Saabni poetry readings and I edited a montage of footage of the installation accompanied by Armenian drone Duduk music.
“RamleAnthropocene” was presented to a New York City public through two live events. Artist and curator Yohanna M. Roa invited us to hold a panel discussion on the floating installation, ecology, and sustainability at WhiteBox Contemporary Art Center on Saturday, December 9th. Panelists included Carter Ratcliff, Dr. Smadar Sheffi, and myself. Udi Urman, Director of the Lambert Center for Art + Ideas, invited us to screen “RamleAnthropocene” films and hold a panel discussion at the JCC Manhattan. This event took place on Sunday, December 10th and panelists included Richard Milazzo, Carter Ratcliff, and myself.
4. How did you become interested in working with sculpture in the water?
My working method with found glass and welded aluminum grew out my childhood on the West Coast, and later dialogue with Italian Arte Povera artists Jannis Kounellis and Michelangelo Pistoletto during my time as a Fulbright scholar in Naples. Once in the water, the works become kinetic, animated by wind, currents, and boat wakes. The sculptures enter into dialogue with water and the environment – in this case a rupestrian cistern – and shafts of light from above. Through a language of structure, light, buoyancy, and kinesis, my installations reframe perceptions of familiar waterways. The floating sculptures and spoken word interventions explore dichotomies of appearance and reality, nature and civilization, creation and destruction, contamination and rehabilitation. These dialectics continue to drive my work with water with the aim to restore, through secular ritual, a sense of power and mystery that many waterways have tragically lost.
5. What are your future plans for this work?
Dr. Sheffi and I intend for RamleAnthropocene to be the first of a series of international collaborations with museums, botanical gardens, and historic sites. By engaging with varied communities, we wish to explore different relationships to water and place while promoting dialogue around sustainability and water stewardship.
In summary, Daniel Rothbart's work serves as a powerful reminder of our interconnectedness with the natural world and urges us to reconsider our role as custodians of the Earth. Through his artistic expressions and thought-provoking writings, he invites viewers and readers alike to reflect upon their own actions and contribute towards building a more sustainable future. With an impressive body of work spanning various mediums including painting, sculpture, installation art, and writing, Daniel Rothbart continues to captivate audiences with his thought-provoking exploration of the Anthropocene era. His contributions to both the art world and environmental discourse have solidified him as an influential figure in contemporary art. Follow Daniel Rothbart
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