Six months ago, the artist Brigitte D’Annibale took cultural strategist Vajra Kingsley to see an abandoned home in Malibu’s Point Dume.
With its sweeping views of the Santa Monica Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, this was where D’Annibale wanted to realize a dream of some 30 years: to create immersive environment that would bridge art, architecture, design, and the natural world.
What Kingsley saw was a boarded-up structure slated for demolition. “I said, ‘this is a depressing home, and if you think you’re going to reactivate it in sixth months, you’re out of your mind!’” Kingsley told Artnet News.
But with a team of contractors and builders, D’Annibale gutted the home and stripped it to its studs, only to later reuse the salvaged raw materials to bring it back to life.
“As a metaphor, I took home, which is a point of origin, stripped it down, and everything I used to rebuild it as an installation came out of what was stripped away,” D’Annibale told Artnet News.
The installation is titled , after Lewin’s Equation, which states that behavior results both from a person and their environment, reflecting D’Annibale’s hope that the immersive space will help visitors connect with their surroundings in moments of contemplation.
The result, on view just in time for Frieze L.A., is like nothing you’ve ever seen. An imposing metal gate sourced from a Bali junkyard stands in front of the property, creating a dramatic reveal for visitors when the doors are finally opened.
The walls of the home are still boarded up in a patchwork of humble plywood. Visitors enter through a revolving sheet of glass that pivots to spin open.
Beyond it lies a two-story atrium, where D’Annibale has cut through to the basement below and installed a massive steel and glass skylight in the ceiling, from which hang spherical sculptures made from letters carved from reclaimed teak. The letter forms are references to the importance of communication, D’Annibale said.
She’s christened the skylight , and the entire atrium feature, which is designed to be seen at different times of day as the light and shadow changes is titled .
The rest of the first floor is something of a white cube. In it hang artworks by D’Annibale, including , a 16-panel encaustic piece, and two pieces of canvas wrapped around darkened mirrors, inspired by the appearance of building materials that were delivered to the site.
There’s also a moody dining room installation titled , above which hangs , a hollow naturally occurring sculpture of vines that once surrounded a tree trunk that died and rotted away.
But the true marvel is what lies below, when one exits the side door and walks down a sculptural concrete staircase to what was once the lower level of the home.
D’Annibale has completely opened it up to the backyard, covering the ground with 38,000 pounds of loose stone. Mounded beds planted with greenery and olive trees echo the shape of the mountains in the distance, and a sunken conversation pit beneath is literally built out of the mud where the foundations once stood.
“Originally, I was going to carve out this area. I wanted it to be subterranean. After I excavated it, we had three weeks of incessant rain, so it became a mud pit,” D’Annibale said. “I decided to use mud as a medium. I mixed it with decomposed granite and road base with a binding material.”
“I thought it would be beautiful to be able to have conversations in this very grounding environment,” she added. “I don’t think there’s a much more humble material than sitting in the dirt.”
The overall effect of the installation’s lower level is reminiscent of a Japanese rock garden or Chinese scholar’s garden, which D’Annibale said is a reflection of the years she has spent in Southeast Asia.
“I wanted to use the flow of the landscape to create this very holistic connection with nature,” she added.
Now that the ambitious project is completed, D’Annibale, Kingsley, and curator Elysia Borowy are beginning to formulate plans to activate the space. They envision performance events incorporating music and dance, and opportunities to host wide-ranging discussions around the conversation pit.
“This space is a vessel that Bridget has created,” Kingsley said. “It’s so much bigger than one artist.”
“This is just the beginning. This is designed to open up dialogue,” D’Annibale said. “It’s about immersion and interaction and connection.”
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