Accidental Art:
Construction Fences in the Landscape

Accidental Art
image gallery

The bright orange plastic fences that surround construction sites and other temporary installations have become so ubiquitous in urban settings that they are accepted as part of the landscape.  Their functionally obtrusive color can be especially jarring, however, in a natural setting.  It was this juxtaposition of the natural and unnatural that first drew my attention to temporary fencing. 

The concept for this series evolved from a previous project documenting an urban watershed.  I had discovered an environmental restoration site along a three-mile stretch of river that had created a huge, linear construction zone. Both sides of the river were lined with black, environmental-impact fencing and blaze orange access control fencing.  Placed in seemingly random routes, the fences wound lyrically through the landscape.  The contrast was dramatic and surprisingly appealing:  I began to see them as inadvertent aesthetic additions to the natural environment rather than intrusions.

Although reminiscent of Jeanne-Claude and Christo’s famous "Running Fence," "Valley Curtain," and "Gates" installations, here the fences were not arranged by an artist; they serve a purely utilitarian function.  But the more time I spent with them, the more I saw them as "accidental art" and possessing symbolic power. Their physical presence in the landscape was symbolically interlaced with issues of access, power and control, and aesthetic and environmental integrity.  Fences in any context represent real divisions between the people and places they separate. Their purpose, simply put, is to divide space. Inevitably, however, such functionality is accompanied by an aesthetic experience, whether consciously created or, in the case of construction fences, incidentally and temporarily. The found aesthetic experience thus may be transformed by the observer who records it, reveals its presence, and identifies it as "accidental art."

Ours is a society lived in constant psychological tension. We are bombarded with a steady stream of news concerning potential environmental catastrophes: global warming, resource depletion, mass extinctions, and so on. Simultaneously, we are offered promises of salvation through new technologies and “green” practices. Anxiously, we wonder whether we are inexorably destroying our environment or can possibly save it. Progress once was measured by human achievements without weighing their ecological impact. We now see that measure as unsustainable. The construction fence expresses this tension. What are we constructing? What kind of future will our endeavors bring?

Mareil Pulorak Atrium installation
Humphrey Memorial Chapel and Art Center
Carroll University
(see below)



A collaborative installation at the Lynden Sculpture Garden

The Lynden Sculpture Garden contains one of Milwaukee’s premier collections of outdoor sculpture. Phil Krejcarek and I were part of a series called INSIDE/OUTSIDE for which pairs of artists were invited to create collaborative installations on the grounds of the Gardens.

Our theme, Under Construction, built on the Accidental Art project. The installation at the Lynden Gardens involved fences that were inserted strategically amongst the permanent sculptures and around the natural landscaping. It was important conceptually that these fences retain the character of intrusive fencing rather than be seen as deliberative sculptures. The idea was to mimic the conditions under which construction fencing might be seen without it having an actual function.

To contrast with the orange fences, Krejcarek created sculptures based on symbolic ladder-like forms. Unlike the fences, which appear to retain their function, these forms were contorted into functionless abstractions. The combination was intended to veer between the surreal and the whimsical, posing questions about the relationship between artistic creation and functional construction and playing on the very notion of collaborative sculpture.

Because the installation remained in place from October through January, the changing of the seasons were an important component of its complexity and visual appeal.

For images of the installation go to Lynden Sculpture Garden image gallery on flickr
or click on any of the thumbnails to the right.

Accidental Art: Carroll University Installation 2009  

The first exhibit of this series was installed in and around the Humphrey Art Center at Carroll University, Waukesha, WI. The exhibition dates were Sept. 3 - Oct. 11, 2009. In addition to the images, the installation included black silt fences and orange construction fences.

The inclusion of actual fencing, much of it found in locations where it was used and abandoned, takes the subject out of the picture frame and surrounds viewers. The exhibit presents two realities: the reality of the photographs that depict fencing in the world and the reality of the gallery setting itself, which shapes the context of the experience. The unframed prints are mounted directly to a strip of black silt fence, so that the subject itself acts as a frame for the work. The mounting method, using metal clips, continues the industrial theme. The viewing experience is tempered by light from the skylight filtering through overhead fences that also create patterns on the walls. Visitors are welcomed to the Art Center by construction fences that seem utilitarian but which have been separated from their normal function. This creates a blatant aesthetic presence with a more subtle symbolism, since their meaning is not revealed until entering the gallery and discovering the content of the exhibit.

This exhibit is available for installations. Each installation is site specific and tailored to the gallery in which it is presented. To inquire about scheduling, contact Eddee Daniel at

prints on fencing

Prints installed in gallery
framed by silt fencing


View of installation

fence around Art Center

Installation of fencing outside Humphrey Art Center

Accidental Art image gallery

Lynden Sculpture Garden image gallery on flickr

site map


Eddee Daniel - Fine Art Photography