Making sculpture alive: Big Bambù at MACRO Testaccio

Starn brothers, MACRO Testaccio

Curious visitors have been wandering all last summer long about the strange conglomerate in the main courtyard of MACRO Testaccio.
It took a while and a crew of experienced rock climbers but Big Bambù, a giant architecture-sculpture, has been finished right in time for the past Christmas.
If you are around we advise you to get a look at this out-standing, site specific installation and give a kick start to your art-year.

The piece is a worldwide known creature of the Starn brothers.
American artists, twins, they have been working together for over twenty years, focusing mainly on conceptual photography and installations. They often use nature as inspiration and borrow images from it – three branches, leaves, insects for instance – to explore and express the concept of interconnection.
Their are represented by the famous Leo Castelli gallery and by himself until he was alive. Their pieces are part of various public and private international collections and have been exposed in many galleries and museums
One of those is the Metropolitan Museum of New York, which roof, back in 2010, was transformed in a waving form thanks to the ‘first edition’ of their major work, Big Bambù. The installation scored the ninth place in the rank of the museum most visited exhibition ever.
In 2011 Big Bambù was re-presented in occasion of the 54 Venice Biennale.
This time it was ‘hosted’ in Casa Artom, right next to the Peggy Guggenheim collection, and it offered a breathtaking view over the Grand Canal.
For their third overall, and second ‘Italian edition’, the Starn brothers took over the courtyard of MACRO Future, an exhibition space and former slaughterhouse in the Testaccio neighbourhood.


The hollow structure is made up of thousands of bamboo rod carefully interlinked and connected with well tied ropes, and has been built from within by the Starn themselves and a group of 32 experienced climbers. It raise up to 30 meters high, allowing an amazing view over Rome and adding to its characteristic skyline a contemporary touch.

Big Bambù has been conceived as a living organism. It exists only in relation to people and their presence inside it. It is a dynamic sculpture, an organic structure in evolution.
This crooked ‘anti-monument’ slightly recalls the shape of a pine three and with its apparent lightness and flexibility is meant to be a laud to human creativity and to the diversity of life.
The inner spiral structure invites to a mellow ascent but the unpredictable criss-crossing of bamboo poles, from the biggest to the tiniest, turns it into a rugged path. Visitors have to move suddenly with and around the work to reach the top, as they should be doing to avoid asperities in their lives. From its conception to its realization and ultimately to its fruition, Big Bambù lives and change over the time and together with the audience.

This installation is a gift to the city of Rome by Enel, in occasion of its fiftieth anniversary. Francesco Bonami, artistic director of Enel Contemporanea – a program of public art sponsored by the company since 2007 – said that it is a biological, magical piece. We couldn’t agree more.

If you suffer of height this won’t be the most pleasant of the experiences but it is definitely worth the effort. The act of climbing is an emotional climax, amplified and made even more thrilling by the sharing of such an experience with the other fellow visitors.

Starn brothers, MACRO Testaccio
Chairs, benches and even full lounges are obtained within the structure with the same, poor and natural materials. You can sit and wait for fairy lights and lanterns to be switched on at dusk or – if you are brave enough – lay on the very edge of the drop and hear the tiny bamboo twigs squeaking and bending under your own weight.

Emotionally and visually striking, Big Bambù is achieving resounding success once again.
If you do not want to be disappointed and prevented from entering the sculpture, remind to bring a proof ID to fill in a releasing. You will avoid being left outside with your mouth wide open.


Mike and Doug Starn, Big Bambù, MACRO Testaccio, Rome through December 13, 2014.

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by Caterina Berardi
in Focus on Europe

Wed Development by Digital Art Factory