Artist Heather Hart Discusses “The Eastern Oracle” At The Brooklyn Museum



How often do apartment-dwelling New Yorkers get a chance to climb the roof of a real house? Bed-Stuy-based artist Heather Hart and The Brooklyn Museum invited Life + Times to check out her new installation, “The Eastern Oracle,” the fourth exhibition in Raw/Cooked, a year-long series of exhibitions by under-the-radar Brooklyn artists.

The Eastern Oracle is a rooftop removed from its house and is located on the fifth floor of the Museum’s rotunda where viewers are encouraged to interact with the structure. If you wear flat-soled shoes (preferably rubber) and sign the waiver exempting the Museum of liability to injury, you can walk on and into Hart’s impressive and astonishing structure which is made of wood, shingles, metal, gold leaf and cardboard. Eastern Oracle is the second part of Hart’s Oracle series–the first structure was The Northern Oracle: We Will Tear the Roof Off The Mother, installed in Franconia Sculpture Park in Minnesota in 2010.

A site for contemplation, meditation on security, self empowerment and the discord folks are facing–think 2012 world-is-ending angst and the loss of tradition–Hart, born in Seattle and speaking to us an hour into the tour, said she was inspired to make her project because of experiences she shared with her father, and because she was interested in successive teachings.

“I’ve always worked with ideas that are passed down through generations, forms like carpentry and sewing, things that have to do with heritage,” Hart, who is afraid of heights, said. “I used to build roofs with my father. We built our roof, and I didn’t realize until I was an adult that that wasn’t a scale everyone is familiar with. So, the inspiration came from having that safe, reflected space, on top of our house. When I started the Oracle projects, I wanted to see if I could recreate that structure by myself. The inspiration also comes from the Brooklyn Museum’s collections, the Schenk House and the Egyptian collection.”

The Egyptian reference can be found in the mirror located at the altar in the interior of the structure. As you enter, you are encouraged to take gold leaf and use it as an offering in exchange for consulting the Oracle. Your own image is reflected in the mirror as you consult. “It’s a place for self-healing and reflection,” explained the 2009 New York Foundation of the Arts Fellow, Princeton-Rutgers graduate and recent cancer survivor. “You can go in there and make a wish or a prayer like you would to Buddha but it ends up being to yourself.”

Hart’s roof looks like it fell from the sky and is living its own life, “a site of cosmic afro-futurism and native legends.” Just check the title of the installation: it references a lyric by Parliament. “I like puns,” said Hart. “Parliament is that mashup of afro-futurism to me, so it’s the perfect title connecting it to roofs.”

Hart’s Eastern Oracle opens today and will run through June 24. It was funded in part by Kickstarter contributions, Bloomberg and The Brooklyn Museum, and Hart was recommended for Raw/Cooked by Brooklyn-based artist Mickalene Thomas. Check Eastern Oracle for yourself–it’s out of this world.

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