Knock on Wood
red cedar, brass, iron - 12 elements, each approx. 72" x 6” x 6”
Forest Hills Cemetery, Boston, Massachusetts USA
Forest Hills Cemetery is a 250-acre, Victorian-era landscaped cemetery that annually commissions contemporary artwork to enhance and respond to its contemplative setting. For the 2006 exhibition theme of Dwelling, I created a sculpture installation entitled Knock On Wood, which combines the materials of wood and metal with the “immaterials” of ritual and sound. The piece features a series of stately wooden columns, arranged along a path leading into the forest. Each column bears a different antique door knocker, producing a distinct tone when struck.
The front door of a house marks a very specific threshold: the boundary between our loved ones within, and ourselves waiting outside. The closed door is a barrier, and the door knocker is a means of communication across that barrier. When we knock, we are making the declaration: I am here, I’ve come to see you. When we think of burial sites as final dwellings, however, we know that our friends will not answer our call. Yet we come here nevertheless, where our knock is answered only by the gentle silence of the landscape. Thus the unopenable door is here replaced with a sounding-box, a resonant voice set among living trees.
The phrase “knock on wood” comes from the superstition that spirits live in trees and can be awakened with a knock, to listen as we make a wish. In this sculpture the knock becomes not a request to enter, but simply a request to be heard — we bring our memories and longing to the cemetery, and ask the spirit of the place to bear witness.