Circle of Memory
The documentary film-maker and artist, who has been married to producer and director Francis Ford Coppola for over 40 years, has created a deeply moving work of art. Circle of Memory was devised together with five other artists – writer and photographer Jean McMann, sound technician Richard Beggs, designer Robilee Frederick, architect Elizabeth Macdonald, and lighting technician Alexander V. Nichols.
The installation is inspired by prehistoric cairns. Irish passage graves, erected many thousands of years ago, were of particular importance to the project. Built from carefully selected stones, these cairns were used for many centuries for rites of renewal and as final resting places. The Circle of Memory, which is constructed from bales of straw, is reminiscent of their shape and meaning.
The installation is entered via a corridor with a ceiling of tree branches. The inner circle can be reached by passing through a curtain made of pig’s gut. Salt trickles to the ground from the roof of this chamber, and the sound of children’s voices can be heard through loudspeakers. The outer circle consists of pictures of cultic stones from Ireland. Visitors are given the opportunity to write a message or name on a piece of paper and to place it between the bales of straw. In this way, the Circle of Memory becomes a place where memories are stored and from which they can be retrieved.
The personal background for the installation is a journey to Ireland that Eleanor Coppola and Jean McMann undertook in the 1990s. While there, they visited the cairns and conducted a remembrance ceremony inside one of them, in which they remembered people who had passed away. Coppola commemorated her eldest son, Gian-Carlo Coppola, who was killed in an accident at the age of 22 in 1987. She chose to work through the deep emotions that she felt by conceiving this art project.
Eleanor Coppola is an accomplished documentary filmmaker, artist, and costume designer. In 1962, she worked on a low-budget independent film, Dementia 13, as assistant art director. There she met the film’s writer/director Francis Coppola. The following year, Francis and Eleanor were married.
While in the Philippines for the making of Apocalypse Now, Eleanor shot the documentary footage for the acclaimed, Emmy award winning film, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmakers Apocalypse. She published a journal of her experiences in 1979, titled Notes. During the 1995 filming of John Grisham’s The Rainmaker, Eleanor shot a documentary that focused on Coppola’s techniques for working with actors, The Making of “The Rainmaker” which aired on HBO. She has made documentaries of her daughter’s and son’s films – The Making of The Virgin Suicides, On the Set of ‘CQ’ and The Making of Marie Antoinette. In 2007 her documentary about Francis Coppola, Coda: Thirty Years Later was released. Her book Notes on a Life was published in May, 2008.
She has designed costumes and stage décor for the ODC Dance Company San Francisco and her drawings, photos and conceptual art pieces have been exhibited in many galleries and museums. Her installation Circle of Memory, a public space for visitors to commemorate children who are missing or have died originated in the Oakland Art Gallery. It has been shown in the US in San Diego, Santa Fe and in Europe in Montpellier, France.
She is active in the management of Rubicon Estate Winery, the store, and E.C. Selects, an all natural gourmet food line. She is a past member of the board of the San Francisco Art Institute and an honorary board member of Copia, The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts.
Eleanor Coppola, Richard Beggs, Robilee Frederick, Elizabeth Macdonald, Jean McMann, Alexander V. Nichols
Circle of Memory, 2003-2008
Exhibition period and opening hours
2 July to 31 August 2008
Every day from 09:00 - 22:00 Uhr
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