Opening Aug. 31 in Campbell Art Park, Multiple Voices is the first public artwork in the United States by Eva Schlegel, the Austria-based artist known for engineering steel and mirrors into spectacular, architectonic sculptures.
When Schlegel visited Oklahoma City in 2020 for the opening of Bright Golden Haze (which included one of her photographs), she was struck by both Oklahoma Contemporary’s architecture and the special quality of Oklahoma’s light. The interplay between the built environment and the natural world sparked a series of conversations about light, place and perception that led to Multiple Voices.
“Our building, designed by Rand Elliott Architects, takes its inspiration from the ever-changing nature of the Oklahoma skies,” says Oklahoma Contemporary Director Jeremiah Matthew Davis. “Comprised of 16,800 aluminum ‘fins,’ the building’s façade shimmers and shines, reflecting and refracting the light as it changes throughout the course of each day.”
“Working with similar materials — aluminum and glass — Schlegel created a series of polished and translucent surfaces that catch and reflect light and parts of the surrounding environment. The sculpture’s architectonic form rises from the ground toward the sky, encouraging us to see the light and shadow hitting the ground and foundation of the installation, the sculpture itself and the skies above.”
To tie Multiple Voices even more closely to Oklahoma, Schlegel decided to incorporate local authors. After reading works by dozens of writers, she selected texts from three poets connected to the state: Steve Bellin-Oka, Kimberly Blaeser (Minnesota Chippewa) and Joy Harjo (Muscogee Nation). Their poems appear in blurred form directly on Multiple Voices’ glass panels — though each text is part of the sculpture, all are rendered cryptic to the viewer.
“The texts are chosen to create an immaterial space, a thought space, an emotional space in relation to different voices, including some contemporary Native American artists, in the form of their wonderful poems,” Schlegel says. “The blurred texts work like a way of announcements, inviting visitors to come closer and find out about the meaning and story of these writings.”
Visitors can further explore the texts and the sculpture two ways: by using a printed “map” that features the poems from Bellin-Oka, Blaeser and Harjo or by scanning a QR code to hear Schlegel read the works aloud.
“The text pieces create a specific space like the mirror sculpture, a ghostlike expanding space, but real,” Schlegel says. “When you read, text creates space and worlds in your head, intended by the poets. When confronted with the blurred text on Multiple Voices, the intimacy between reader and text is disturbed, raising questions, making the reader aware of how perception works.”
The pivotal text elements in Multiple Voices refer to America and specifically Oklahoma. “The poems question what it means to be both a citizen and an exile simultaneously,” Schlegel says. “They also ponder the nature of human connection on a continent divided by conflicting national myths and identities.”
Multiple Voices opens 6 p.m. Aug. 31 with a reception and an artist talk featuring Schlegel. Free tickets available here.
Oklahoma Contemporary programs Campbell Art Park through a public-private partnership with the City of Oklahoma City. The unique space along Broadway Avenue provides a home for installations, events, programs and more. Perhaps most importantly, the space remains a public park, accessible to residents and visitors alike. Schlegel, who has permanent installations in Switzerland and Austria and work in collections in New York and Los Angeles, is one of many international artists who Oklahoma Contemporary has brought to the park, including Thomás Saraceno, Orly Genger, Erwin Redl, Jen Lewin, Gonzalo Lebrija and Chakaia Booker.
“Eva Schlegel’s site-responsive sculpture introduces another important artistic voice to Campbell Art Park and Oklahoma City,” Davis says. “The artist’s decision to incorporate the words of poets with connections to this place ensures the international and local converge in this installation. Additionally, the collaboration of poetry and sculpture emphasizes our mission to encourage artistic expression in all its forms, accentuating the importance of transdisciplinarity in Oklahoma Contemporary’s curatorial and programmatic philosophy.”
Multiple Voices will be on view through Jan. 13, 2025.