From 'Marabar' to 'Sudama'

John Hill
1. April 2023
Photo: Dylan Singleton (All photographs courtesy of American University, Washington, DC)

World-Architects has been paying attention to Marabar since May 2020, when we learned about efforts to save the sculpture from demolition at the hands of NGS, which was proposing to demolish the plaza and build an entry pavilion in its place. 

The installation — five large boulders placed astride a 60-foot-long trapezoidal pool — was notable for being the first major commission for Zimmerman, who earned her MFA at UCLA in 1974, gained the commission in 1981, and saw it completed in 1984. Furthermore, Jack Rasmussen, director and curator of the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, across from which Sudama is located, described the original as “a major, ambitious installation. Women artists just didn’t get commissions like this at that time.”

Marabar was saved in March 2021, thanks to the efforts of The Cultural Landscape Foundation and others, including the artist herself, and in early 2022 it was announced the artwork would be moved to the campus of AU, just four miles northwest of its original location. The official dedication of Sudama takes place at 3pm on April 4, 2023, at the artwork's new home: the ellipse behind American University’s Kay Spiritual Life Center.

Take a visual tour of Sudama through photographs below, accompanied by captions with more information. 

While Marabar was in an urban environment, with NGS buildings on three sides, the campus location of Sudama is open, giving more prominence and “breathing room” to the artwork. (Photo: Dylan Singleton)
Similar to the original, which NGS employees and their visitors would walk around to access the buildings, AU students approach and walk around Sudama from different directions, such that the relationship between the boulders is always shifting. (Photo: Dylan Singleton)
Zimmerman, now 77, created the original as a site-specific installation, leading her to make modification appropriate to its new site… (Photo: Dylan Singleton)
…these included “making the pool longer and crescent shaped and adjusting the relationships of the large rocks to the changed form of the pool,” in the artist's words. (Photo: Dylan Singleton)
The adjusted relationships have resulted in views between the rocks that frame views of the Arboretum & Gardens the artwork is now a part of. (Photo: Dylan Singleton)
Rasmussen describes Sudama as "a reflective space — literally and figuratively. You see yourself, your surroundings, see the water, the smooth, polished stone, in that very special space.” (Photo: Dylan Singleton)
What about the new name? Whereas Marabar took its name from the fictional caves in E. M. Forster's novel A Passage to India, Zimmerman looked to the source, naming Sudama after a real cave at the Barabar Caves in Bihar, India, which served as inspiration for Forster a century ago. (Photo: Dylan Singleton)

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