Deanna Sirlin, Watermark at Georgia Tech Library, Crossland Tower
April 13, 2022, through December 28, 2022
Images courtesy of Deanna Sirlin
This past year, GA Tech celebrated “50 Years of Science Fiction at GA Tech,” with workshops, seminars, and other events commemorating the institution’s inauguration of one of the first accredited Science Fiction courses in the country. The year also saw the launch of GA Tech’s Library Artist-in-Residence program. These two initiatives come to together beautifully in a recent site-specific installation created by the Artist-in-Residence program’s first participant, Deanna Sirlin. Commissioned to create an original artwork for Tech’s Crossland Library Tower, Sirlin recently unveiled, Watermark, two large-scale multi-colored panels of bright geometric abstraction that engage Tech’s legacy of science and Science Fiction.
The piece is comprised of C-print transparency covering two very large, high glass windows in the lobby of Crossland Tower library on the GA Tech campus. Reminiscent of Rothko’s Seagram’s Murals (1958), whose “array of wine reds, crimsons, and plum-purples” read, as artist Tom de Freston has recently put it, “like windows or doors,” Sirlin’s panels play similar architectural games. Reflecting and refracting light like a prism or kaleidoscope, the panels cast hypnotic and ever-changing colored patterns across the lobby’s floors and walls. But their semi-transparency allows at the same time for the transformation of the outdoor environment, as the sidewalk, street, passersby, and neighboring buildings and trees are seen through blue, orange, yellow, and pink tint. The effect of the piece is to create a lovely ambiguity about what constitutes the artwork—the panels themselves, the transformed outdoor environment that surrounds Crossland Tower, or the light reflected across the lobby’s floors and walls.
The lambent palette of Watermark—blues, yellows, greens, and pinks—evokes the Sci-Fi aesthetic of vintage Science Fiction magazine covers, such as Science Fiction Analog, Astounding Stories; and Thrilling Stories. But, the title of the piece, Watermark, tips a hand toward current issues of global climate change and the role that science might play in confronting it.
The piece takes its title from Joseph Brodsky’s book Watermark, a genre-bending prose-poem meditation on the city of Venice originally published in 1989. In a recent interview with Gillian-Anne Renault in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Sirlin, who was invited this year to exhibit at the 59th Venice Biennale, has stressed the connections among Tech, the city of Venice, and the challenges posed by climate change: “Georgia Tech has an interesting connection with Venice. It’s a sinking city because of climate change and in 2019 there were terrible floods. The MOSE project is a (recently installed) engineering device that prevents “aqua alta” or high water so that when the water rises in the Venice lagoon the city doesn’t flood. It’s pretty powerful. Rafael Bras, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and School of Environmental and Atmospheric Studies, was part of the team that created this engineering feat.”
Brodsky writes in Watermark that “beauty can’t be targeted…it is often the byproduct of other, often ordinary pursuits.” Balancing allusions to science fiction and climate change, Sirlin’s Watermark explores a fugitive beauty in the heart of downtown Atlanta.
Review by Robert Stalker