The importance of TapeScape in community development

Tapescape Ipswich


American artist Eric Lennartson has again brought something special to the Art Gallery with his latest exhibition, TapeScape. The artwork features 115,000 metres of packing tape constructed into a multi-sensory experience, where children can climb inside the structure and understand how it works, from the inside out.

Lennartson began the project at the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota in 2011,
which at the time was an emerging museum that didn’t even have a building to be housed
in. He and his team purchased an empty retail space near a shopping centre and, after seeing photos from Architectural Record Magazine of a similar installation in Europe by Numen For Use, decided to fill the space with an interactive, hands-on exhibit designed for children.
Lennartson and the museum had no budget and no team, but thanks to the power of community generosity and effort, amassed a totally donated foundation of materials and
The 3M company donated the tape, Jones Metal donated the steel pipes and over the next few months each member of the community pitched in, hand to tape, to personally construct the awe-inspiring installation.
Lennartson attributes the birth of TapeScape to the efforts of those around him, stating that it couldn’t have come to life by him alone.
“I had family, friends, co-workers, fellow board members and students from Minnesota State University Mankato’s engineering and construction management programs.
“They would later tell all their friends and would bring them to the museum to show them
what they helped build.

Tapescape Ipswich
That became the model of building almost all of the future TapeScape projects- community connections and engagement.”
This is Lennartson’s second exhibition at the Ipswich Art Gallery. The first time in 2011 was the largest installation he had created to date so his return to IAG was marked by a desire to drive the collaboration deeper and build bigger and better.
“For this TapeScape we had a team of about 12 to 15 each day for around three weeks consisting of IAG staff along with a team from All City Arts. Maintenance for the installation requires cutting out some of the tape that might get dirty and sometimes adding more tape to areas that get a lot of traffic or might stretch out over months of play.
People of all ages and professions come to see Lennartson’s work. What began as an exercise in community building, artistic expression and engineering has transpired into a tangible message of the importance of valuing the arts in conjunction with STEM learning and how they can compliment and strengthen one another.
This is exemplified in the reception to the piece, which Lennartson remarked upon for it’s unique perception and creativity.
“I’ve heard people say that the spiralling construction reminded them of a surgical fibre optic scope camera or a scene in a Magic School Bus book, where they were travelling though the vascular or nervous system. Engineers see the bridges and forces at play to how the tunnel systems can support thousands of pounds or kilograms of weight.
Some think it looks like a crazy and gigantic spider web system or from Tolkien’s Hobbit. It also can look like a galactic wormhole, Dr Who’s space-time vortex, or from Norse Mythology Bifrost when we add the LED Lighting to the tunnels.”
The most important aspect of the work is the delightfully intense focus on childs play and the way it opens a door for everyone to experience and interact with something bigger than themselves, built on community.
While TapeScape has left the IAG for now, Lennartson says he is already working on some new pieces that intersect with science and art, and he hopes to bring them back to the space in the next few years.

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Images: Ipswich Art Gallery