Maya Lin, the architect of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., has completed a new sculpture for the Renzo-Piano-designed California Academy of Sciences. The cone-shaped artwork entitled „What is missing“ is part of a multi-sited, „multimedia memorial“ dedicated to species which have become extinct due to climate change and destruction of habitats.
Rethinking the traditional stationary monument, "What is Missing?" is a memorial that will exist in several media and in multiple places simultaneously. The permanent site-specific "What is Missing?" sculpture, installed at the Academy’s East Terrace, is part of a larger commission awarded to the artist that includes "Where the Land Meets the Sea", which was unveiled last September to correspond with the opening of the Academy’s new facility designed by architect Renzo Piano.
„What is Missing?' is a poignant reminder of what we stand to lose if the crisis surrounding biodiversity and habitat loss continues,” said San Francisco Mayor Newsom. “Maya Lin’s sculpture shows what is at stake and why reducing our environmental impact is one of our most urgent challenges. By making significant changes in our daily lives, such as driving less, recycling more or supporting sustainable food production, we can stem global warming and protect endangered species for generations to come.”
The permanent "What is Missing?" sculpture consists of a 8'6"h x 10'8"w x 19'2"l bronze “Listening Cone” lined with reclaimed wood. A 2' 4 ¼"h x 4'6"w screen, located within the cone, features more than 20 minutes of video footage that links extinct as well as threatened and endangered species to the habitats and ecosystems that are vital to their survival. The featured species, which include the tuna, dodo bird, monarch butterfly, golden toad, and others, were selected because they are either already extinct or will most likely disappear in our lifetime. The video footage is overlayed with text describing the decline of the featured species and the alarming degradation of their habitats...
A dedicated environmentalist, Lin has been committed to focusing attention on the natural world throughout her career, and has incorporated sustainable and recycled materials into many of her artworks. “"What is Missing?" is both a wake-up call and a call to action,” says Lin. “I believe that art, at times, can look at a subject differently, and in doing so can get people to pay closer attention.”
The setting for "What is Missing?" is in itself a part of the memorial’s story. Scientists at the California Academy of Sciences have been exploring and documenting biodiversity for more than 155 years, and the museum’s exhibits highlight some of the planet’s most unusual and endangered life forms. In developing "What is Missing?", Maya Lin spent multiple visits over a 4-year period talking with Academy researchers about the stories behind various extinctions and dwindling populations.
The second component of the "What is Missing?" memorial is a traveling dark room with projected images and sounds from a variety of endangered species. Visitors are encouraged to navigate through the space with translucent screens that capture images and brief statements when held over the floor projections. Moreover, a "What is Missing?" website will launch around Earth Day 2010.