Reinhard Reitzenstein’s work has consistently explored ways to interconnect nature, culture, science and technology crossing several disciplines: installation and sculpture, photography, drawing; outdoor tree-based installations and sound art. Reitzenstein has held over 100 solo exhibitions and participated in almost 300 group exhibitions in North America and abroad. He has completed more than twenty public art commissions along with numerous private commissions. His work is represented in over 50 public and corporate collections internationally.
He is currently Associate Professor at SUNY, Buffalo where since 2000 he has directed the Sculpture Program. He is represented by the Olga Korper Gallery, Toronto, and Indigo Art, Buffalo, NY.
This interview has been edited for length and concision.
Annie Corrigan: It made me smile to see that your bio on the U of B website features a picture of you by the Duke of Duckworth! Describe your connection to St. John’s.
Reinhard Reitzenstein: Ah yes, the Ducky. Well, it’s a great pub, and I have been coming to Sound Symposium since the very beginning in 1983. I fell in love with ‘The Rock’, and have continued to visit, even have just gotten a property on Bonavista Peninsula. I have made many works here and participated in countess performances and exhibitions. I love the many wonders and spectacles and surprises, and the people are amazing. Many astonishing experiences. The ubiquity of the ocean. Sounds and smells.
AC: What is it about trees that has inspired your art?
RR: I have been working with trees and arboreal cultures for years in many contexts. At their most basic for me they embody place and allow us to breathe. They provide habitat for many creatures. Trees in Newfoundland are unique in some ways, particularly the “Tuckamore” trees. These wind-shaped, wind-blown, wind-sculpted trees are the epitome of place, very specific place, the edge of the ocean surrounding the island. They can be the tiniest plant barely a few inches in height. Some grow flat to the rocks around them tucking out of the wind and sucking warmth from the sun exposed rock surfaces. Tuckamores define their place by echoing the winds’ direction and veracity/velocity. They are the great adapters.
AC: We live in the time of climate change, so art that features nature feels political. Is this fair to say about your art?
RR: Politics. Yes, I guess it is fair to say that my work is political. In that regard, I am very critical of the forestry practices that enable clear cutting and drastic burning off of forested lands for pasture. I am fearful too of the eventual impact of the disappearing forests globally. This, in a way, will compromise our collective breath, but also effect climate — climate change, erosion, and temperature modulation. Trees are also complex communities with vast communication networks that inter-connect them. These communities are now understood to directly communicate with one another. Clear cutting can only mean absolute devastation of such communities.
AC: What can attendees anticipate from your workshop at Sound Symposium?
RR: Attendees to my workshop will learn to use their voices to intone/incant the names of the trees they choose to draw/represent. We will vocalize the names together as a kind of grove. Maybe a grove/groove will happen. I will conduct the group through some variables and together as we intone the names of trees we will, I believe, help to empower and support them.
Reinhard Reitzenstein At Sound Symposium XIX*
- Walking Workshop, Name Of Trees — Tuesday, July 10 at 4:00pm (begin at LSPU Hall)
- Workshop Creations — Thursday, July 12 at 7:00pm (LSPU Hall)
*Times and locations subject to change.