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Shaking it up

World-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind will turn his eyes on salt and pepper shakers before a lecture at Pier 21.



Daniel Libeskind, the architectural pioneer responsible for monuments such as Berlin's Jewish Museum and the master plan for New York's World Trade Center, will critique NSCAD jewellery students on their salt and pepper shaker-making abilities this week. It's not really a stretch for the architect, in Halifax giving a public lecture Thursday at the Pier 21 immigration museum, where his "Wheel of Conscience" memorial to Jewish refugees was unveiled in January.

NSCAD instructor Tom Ferrero and his advanced techniques jewellery class are designing salt and pepper shakers that explore concepts relating to "cities," a theme Libeskind picked for the students. "You can analyze a building the same way that you would analyze a piece of jewelry or ceramic work," explains Ferrero. "It's both artwork about people and for people." Regardless of whether you're constructing a building or a smaller piece of artwork, "You have to consider how your eyes are going to travel around it and how the viewer's going to interact with it," says Ferrero. He asked his students to create salt and pepper shakers because, "you have a pair of objects that have to relate to each other," similar to the manner in which buildings relate to one another in a cityscape.

Libeskind is a critic of structures that are predictable, habit-forming, ready-made and reinforce a "false stability" on the viewer's mind. "What is a habit? It's just a shackle for ourselves, it's a self induced poison," says Libeskind frenetically in an emotionally charged TED Talk. "I've never been interested in the forgettable reuse, rehashing of the same things over and over again." Rather, he's interested in the "spark of new energy" created by "space that doesn't always follow us like a dog that has been trained to follow us." Just as our eyes grow accustomed to looking at the hoards of grey, brutalist buildings on Halifax streets, our hands get used to the standard shape and feel of common household objects. Ferrero's students hope to of put a fresh twist on salt and pepper shakers, challenging and dismounting the typical perspective one assumes when glancing absentmindedly at the objects.

Liz Van Allen, a 22-year-old jewellery student, is putting an unusual slant on the assignment, creating shakers that explore the idea of bridging gaps and bringing people together. "I am focusing on cities around the world globally and how they connect, so the inspiration for my piece came from international airports and flights that connect people from city to city," she explains. Van Allen found satellite images of flight paths, which she is etching into her metal salt shakers. They stand firmly, touching only at their bases and their peaks, enclosing a large negative space in the middle.

Van Allen's classmate Jenny Fife found inspiration in contemporary suspension bridges in Brazil and around the globe. Fife, 24, is embedding magnets in the bottoms of her silver shakers, which assume the form of arches and sit upon steel plates. "I was thinking about the idea of tension and movement in cities, so the bridges have become very abstract," she says. The viewer can interact with the shakers by changing the shakers' positions in relation to one another on the steel plate. The students are anxiously anticipating their classroom visit with Libeskind.

"It's incredibly nerve-wracking but it's also an incredible opportunity," says Van Allen. "The pressure's on."

Daniel Libeskind lecture, February 10, 7pm, Pier 21, Free

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