Nafasi Yako Ni Ya Kijani (Your Place is Green) 2017

This work is a memorial. It is an installation inspired by reflection and introspection. It is an invitation to engage with loss and memory, sound, light, and time.

Nafasi... is about listening. It’s visually sparse to center the act of listening as you take in the scope of the lawn and surrounding trees. As you sit in the chair, sounds slowly begin to emerge from different directions in the environment. Some merge with all the ambient sound that exists, wind, voices, birdsong; other sounds are sharply audible and crystalline.

 An initial rendering made to visualize the work.

Nafasi... consists of a handmade white oak rocking chair on a low circular deck on the great lawn at Villa Montalvo in Saratoga, California. The empty chair is a symbol of absence when the work is unoccupied. One reason for choosing a rocking chair is that it can’t be rushed. It has a particular cadence and rhythm.

When in use the rocker sends very brief radio signals to the trees via a piezoelectric switch in the base. Hidden in the trees surrounding the chair are sound vessels made from old conga drums. These speakers emit carefully composed and curated sounds contributing to the existing soundscape.

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This work was commissioned by Montalvo Arts Center for the exhibition Now Hear This! The show features five newly commissioned site-specific works of sound-based art by distinguished national and local artists Taraneh HemamiWalter KitunduHugh LivingstonShane A. Myrbeck & Emily Shisko, and Stephen Vitiello. Drawing inspiration from Montalvo’s natural and built environments, participating artists present immersive soundscapes and interactive sound sculptures that invited visitors to experience Montalvo’s grounds in new ways and listen more attentively to the world and one another.

Now Hear This! is presented as part of the Lucas Artists Program’s Art on the Grounds initiative at Montalvo Arts Center. Art on the Grounds is a commissioning and exhibition program providing artists with opportunities to develop and present works of art in the context of a 175-acre public park.

A Sound Installation Takes Form

Take a photographic journey through the  making of this artwork. From the chair to the deck to the sound vessels and the final installation, it's all documented below.

The rocking chair...

The sound vessels...

The deck...

The final installation and opening...

This work would not have been possible without the efforts of Montalvo's Kelly Sicat, Donna Conwell, Lori Wood, and Will Moran for his tireless assistance during long and hot installation days. Also the programming talents of Ranjit Bhatnagar, the aerial prowess of David Freitag, the grace of Fran at FedEx Freight, and the generosity (and strength) of my neighbor Craig Wildi. Their presence and energy and commitment to this peace was inspiring. I am forever grateful to them for their support.

This work is dedicated to my late mother Mary Ellen Kitundu. My deepest appreciation is reserved for my wife Shirin Vossoughi and my daughter Azadeh for their love and support. This work would not exist without them.

 An overview of the piece as it existed in my mind before construction began.

An overview of the piece as it existed in my mind before construction began.