Terry Graff MFA '81, MA '91

Ducks in the Garden

The first complex machines in history were automata, by means of which human beings attempted to simulate nature (or imitate life) and domesticate natural forces. Along with plants, early gardens included mechanical curiosities such as hydraulically operated singing birds and other biological automata. Ducks in the Garden is intended as a contemporary interpretation of this tradition.

In the early 1990s I created a large-scale sculptural installation-performance called Ecotopia: Season of Return that toured nationally. It was constructed of recycled metal and employed various mechanical and electronic components, as well as an original soundtrack created by my brother Bruce Graff to simulate the migration of a flock of ducks. The theatrical, kinetic work featured ten cast-aluminum ducks that flew back and forth across a forty-foot I-beam for a period of twenty minutes.

Now, after more than twenty years, I have reconfigured and weather-proofed a version of this work for presentation outdoors at Kingsbrae Garden. Reflecting on ideas and issues related to "the machine in the garden," the tension between technology and organic nature, industrial noise and Edenic serenity, it combines both controlled and uncontrolled movement, and both natural and pre-recorded sound.

Terry Graff, 2012

Graff-500 Ducks in the Garden