Photos by NU Staff Photographer
Stepping into the lobby of Deering Library on the evening of March 12th was like stepping into another world. Beneath the stone arches, the crowd was hushed and expectant, their faces illuminated only by the words scrawled in light across the walls and ceilings. The tremulous notes of a small choir echoed through the vault as one by one, poets stepped up to the podium and read pieces inspired by trees in multiple languages. In his poem “City Eclogue: Words For It,” distinguished poet and professor Ed Roberson explored the innate complexity of trees, whether planted by municipal planners or scattered by birds:
What it will be the stinking flower
the difficult fruit bitter complex the trunk —all
This riveting interdisciplinary installation was created by Kaplan Artist in Residence Marco Nereo Rotelli, a celebrated Italian artist whose work focuses on the intersection between light and language. He frequently incorporates poetry into his work, whether through live readings or through the illumination of text on the façades of buildings. Rotelli’s previous light installations have taken place at cultural landmarks like the Petit Palais of Paris and the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
Where does Deering Library fit into this picture? Weinberg junior Claire Dillon, who is currently working with Rotelli on a similar project at the Field Museum, explains that the artist always tailors his light installations to accommodate the specific characteristics and demands of each site. “At Santiago de Compostela, for example, the project was a celebration of Spanish culture with 100,000 people in attendance. Marco was required to incorporate fireworks into this project. To meet this requirement, he created a fireworks show that echoed speech patterns, which he thought was an original and interesting use of the fireworks.” In contrast, she explained that the interior of Deering Library provided a more intimate venue for the poets and the audience, while still allowing for the visual grandeur of the light installation on the exterior of the building.
After the readings concluded, the poets and a group of students from different language departments were invited to write poems on a scroll that was unfurled across the floor of the library. The Kaplan Institute is working on a way to display the scroll, which presents a message of peace, beauty, and global unity through poetry in different languages. Like the scroll and the Institute itself, Rotelli’s installation explored the diversity of human experience, incorporating visual, musical, poetic, and even tactile forms of art into an immersive interdisciplinary experience.