Eto Otitigbe

Looping Back

Otitigbe’s Looping Back will represent the shape of jazz and the aesthetics of improvisation, as inspired by the Carnival of Swing held on Randall’s Island Park in 1938. This event brought together jazz legends such as Count Basie and Duke Ellington to celebrate and honor the music of composer George Gershwin. The event’s archival footage shows a crowd of over 20,000 jazz lovers from many different ethnic backgrounds, a rare occurrence for that time in American history. It is a testament to the power of music and its ability to bring people together. Looping Back is proposed as an undulating toroidal form, 20’ in diameter, made from reclaimed poplar bark shingles. Its circular shape will encourage people to walk around it, pass through it, or sit on it. Otitigbe aims to create a space where a variety of activities can take place – including meditation, reading, listening to music and socializing.

The Blog

Looping Back Final Images

Here are some images of the final piece.  I would like to thank Uchenna Itam, Ben Weisgall, Stephan Williams, Stefan Keneas, and DJ ZUKO! for all their help and support through the entire design, fabrication, and installation process.  I could not have pulled this off without you.  One of these images made it into Rush Arts Gallery as part of Curate NYC 2013.

Photography by Eddy Vallante

Looping Back Build Process

LOOPING BACK’s final design consisted of twenty-one separate units.  Each one having a plywood “substructure” that provided structural integrity.  All of these substructures were “skinned” with poplar bark shingles.  Fourteen units, which were identical in design, made up the smaller sections of the overall structure. Each of the remaining seven units had a unique structural design.  

I initially I developed LOOPING BACK’s using two CAD software applications Solidworks and Rhino. These two applications made it easy for me to fabricate the fourteen identical sections.  However as I went on to construct the remaining sections, which were larger and more complex in design, I could no longer rely on software or even simple measuring devices like rulers.  I had to create each of these sections by hand and eye, relying solely the experience I gained from making the smaller sections.  At this point the only other tools I could use to were a band saw, hand-held electric drill, and an angle-finder.  This process of using simple tools to achieve complex forms is typically employed by boat builders.  I view this type creative process as a form of improvisation.  I gained a certain degree of mastery over the materials and form while making the smaller repeated sections.  Then I was able to abandon the repeated structures in favor of a composition that was varied and more complex.

Ever wonder what 500 square feet of tree bark looks like?

Since my project started I have been in touch with the folks at Barkhouse in North Carolina.  They turn tree bark into useful building materials.  They helped me select the best type of bark to use for Looping Back.  Just yesterday I received a shipment of 500 square feet of bark.  It weighed about 3/4 of a ton!



Looping Back - Fabrication Technique

Looping Back was first modeled in Rhino, a C.A.D. software application.  Then the detailed engineering was developed using another program called Solidworks.  Looping Back's  "skeleton" is made using hundreds of wooden panels that were cut out using a computer controlled wood router.  After the panels are cut out they fit together like a huge 3-D puzzle.

The Artist

Eto Otitigbe(b. 1977, Buffalo, New York)

Eto Otitigbe is polymedia artist whose practice includes sculpture, performance, and installation to investigate issues of race, technology, politics, and human interaction.

His work is charged with current political subject matter such as the over-engineering of society’s basic needs like food and water. Otitigbe’s art can be experienced as type of a creative protest, a cultural artifact, or a radical sculptural environment.

Otitigbe places his art in dialogue with itself by extracting still images from videos and turning them into digital prints; or transforming two-dimensional graphics into sculptural reliefs.

Eto Otitigbe was born in the northern corner of New York State to parents from Nigeria’s Delta Region. He has lived across the United States, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom. He operates like an open system in constant flux negotiating between the various polar regions of his identity: Nigerian-Artist-American-Engineer-DJ-Designer, to name a few.

Otitigbe studied Mechanical Engineering at MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts (BS, 1999) and Stanford University, Palo Alto, California (MS, 2003).  He earned an MFA in Creative Practice from the Transart Institute (2012). In 2013 he participated in the Bronx Museum’s AIM Residency program and biennial. Otitigbe lives and works between Austin, Texas and Brooklyn, New York.

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