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Hudson Street Beet, 1984
48 x 16 x 46"
steel, rubber, beet plant
photo: Mowry Baden
Mowry Baden was born in Los Angeles, California in 1936 and currently lives and works in Victoria, British Columbia. One of Canada's most renowned and influential artists, Baden studied at Pomona College receiving his B.A. in 1958 and Stanford University, receiving his M.F.A. in 1965.
Since his art career began in the early 1960s, Mowry Baden has been interested in the participatory nature of art. A maker of objects whose interest lies in the physical and perceptual interaction between viewer and work of art, Baden constructs interactive pieces that incorporate bodily participation. His body oriented works have been influential to generations of artists who were his students including Kim Adams, Lewis Baltz, Chris Burden and Jessica Stockholder, to name a few. In his work, participants are confronted not with an art object to contemplate but an invitation to engage in a task or an experiment, the goal of which is not immediately apparent.
Baden integrates the disciplines of architecture and sculpture where the viewer's interaction actually changes the physical appearance of the work. Hudson Street Tomato and Hudson Street Beet are comprised of stationary bicycles that have been modified so that the action of pedaling the bicycles directly affects the plants that are located on them. With Hudson Street Tomato, for example, the viewer's exertion causes the inflation of a dry cleaning bag that in turn acts as a hothouse for the plant. Another bicycle generates electrical heat that warms the soil in a pot that holds a beet plant. By pedaling the bicycle the viewer can contribute to the plant's immediate well being by enriching its ecosystem. If the viewer stops the plant will die unless another viewer volunteers. Pedaling places the visitor in a critical and political relationship with the plant. In this manner, Baden evokes consciousness of our relationships and the social consequences of our actions.