Glass is one of the materials used throughout Barba’s entire practice—fulfilling practical functions, such as in the lenses through which she captures her films and the screens on which she projects them. It enables the observation of the astronomical phenomena foundational to her conceptual practice, and serves as a purely sculptural material in its own right.
In Open Field Poem3, it finds new resonance in the context of winemaking. Synthesizing tradition and versatility, structure and spontaneity, knowledge and intuition are at the heart of glassmaking and winemaking. Both share alchemical qualities related to transformation, demanding an intimate understanding of chemistry, matter in various states and adherence to a time-bound, disciplined sequence of actions to achieve form, taste, or color. A glassmaker utilizes ingredients with established properties to initiate a predicted reaction, yet they must finely attune to the nuances of temperature, viscosity, and the interplay of minerals, in order to craft form and color. Glass is colored through the introduction of mineral elements and compounds. Classical mineral-derived colors include cadmium red and sulfur yellow,4 but the exact hue imparted by these minerals bespeaks the geographic locale from which they were sourced. Trace elements exclusive to the earth from where a given was quarried lead to slight variations, and to this extent it can be said there is a terroir of glass.
Similarly, a winemaker draws upon known agricultural principles, gained through empirical generational knowledge, in order to guide cultivation, vineyard organization, and orientation of trellising and training systems. Winemaking also adheres to a seasonal cycle that dictates pruning and shaping canopies in response to sunlight, precipitation, and airflow. Yet, it too remains at the mercy of forces over which we have no control, demanding that winemakers continually adapt and harmonize the vineyard’s practices to ever-shifting environmental conditions.
1 What is a heliostat? A device programmed to track the sun’s regional trajectory and direct its light to a pre-specified target or sequence of target. It typically consists of a mirror or reflective surface mounted on a movable platform equipped with motors and sensors that continuously adjust its position to ensure that the mirror accurately reflects sunlight onto a designated area, regardless of the sun’s changing position in the sky. Heliostats are widely used in various applications, including solar energy systems, architectural design, and artistic installations. In this context, the heliostat plays a crucial role in dynamically manipulating sunlight to interact with the colored glass panels, it ensures that sunlight is directed precisely as intended by the artist. The static mirror opposite the heliostat enhances this effect. The heliostat moves at 24 pre-specified intervals, and is programmed to transition between 3 positions per hour at approximately 20 minutes per interval. It takes approximately 2 minutes to move between positions, and remains fixed on each target for approximately 15 minutes.
2 These include the spectrum observed in ultraviolet and coronagraphic imaging of the sun and red and yellow filters employed in cinematography.
3 The title, “Open Field Poem,” pays homage to American poet Charles Olson’s essay “Projective Verse,” which advocates a form of poetic composition guided by auditory rhythm and breath-driven cadence rather than formal meter. In Olson’s vision, the page is treated as a spatial canvas, an “open field,” where a poem can organically unfold, unconstrained by traditional semantic conventions or linearity. Barba adopts this philosophy, translating language into a visual medium capturing abstract elements of experience and perception that words alone often fail to encapsulate.
4 The chemical interaction influence which wavelengths of color the glass absorbs or reflects, enabling the manipulation of hues within a single color family. This, too, shares resonance with spectral imaging, as they both rely on the selective absorption or filtering of wavelengths.