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Art

Give me some polygons, nature and light: you will immediately catch my attention. I recently bumped into two different works which I would like to spend some words on.

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Image taken from javierriera.es

The first one is the the project of a spanish artist, Javier Riera, who created spectacular perspectives projecting geometrical shapes on a natural landscape. The result is a suggestive painting, where light adds depth and volume to the natural canvas and geometry gives abstraction to the view. As the artist said in an interview, “geometry has the quality of representing the driving forces of nature that are not visible, the immaterial design of things, the origin of energy and matter”. The projection of scattered geometrical shapes into such context makes me feel out of place and wonder wether the view is real or not.

Cambodian Trees, by french artist Clement Briend, is the second project that drew my curiosity. The work is based on the digital projection of images from cambodian spirits and deities on big trees in different urban areas of Phnom Phen. The projections want to be a visual representation of the divine spirits that live in our world. They have a powerful impact that creates a sort of spiritual aura in the urban environment.

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Image taken from thisiscolossal.com

In both cases the projections create an effect which is halfway between sculpture and installation, and light, together with the natural element, gives the pictures an unusual depth, and a mesmerising effect to our minds.

 

I’m fascinated by the sun-shaped lamp, called Little Sun, designed by Olafur Eliasson, together with the engineer Frederik Ottesen. Eliasson was born in Iceland, a country where, during the winter, you cannot see any sunlight. That’s why he gives extreme importance to light in his works. Certainly everybody remember The Weather Project, realized at the Tate Modern, London, in 2003, where he installed a giant semi-circular object made up from hundreds of mono-frequency lamps, in order to recreate an artificial sun in the Turbine Hall of the museum. This new project is also about sunlight, but, this time, the small piece of art wants to be part of our everyday life, as the real sun. Little Sun is a solar-powered lamp, conceived to bring light to those countries were electricity is not accessible to everyone. As stated in their project web page: “Little Sun helps decentralize access to power in the world by making sustainable light available anywhere. It promotes economic growth in regions of the world where electricity is not available or reliable.”

On the other hand, I would like to show another kind of project: an intervention realized in Berlin, which concept lies on the opposite pole of Little Sun. Powerhouse 2 The People is a project conceived by the creative studio Cheesecake Powerhouse. What they did was give citizens the chance to take care of a small piece of their urban furniture, installing a switch on a streetlamp and letting people free to turn it on or off as they wanted, when they wanted. We’re used to have light in our life and often we don’t give value to it, sometimes we also waste it without even realizing it. This project faces the problem of sustainable energy-consumption, hacking the frame of the city, involving citizens and encouraging them to think about how their everyday life works. A small effort for a great effective result.

 

Sometimes fireworks are not needed to create special effects. Sometimes we can reach an high level of beauty with very few simple ideas. Nature can do its part and make our job easier.

That’s the case of Edge Effect, a photographic project by Daniel Kukla, a young photographer with an interesting background in biology and anthropology. Awarded with an artist’s residency by the United States National Park Service in Joshua Tree National Park, California, he spent long time in the area between Sonoran and Mojave deserts. It is here that he documented, in a very simple and effective way, what ecologists call The Edge Effect, that is, the meeting of different ecosytems in the same natural environment. To record this phenomenon, Daniel Kukla choose few basic elements: a mirror, a painter’s easel and his camera. Reflecting a piece of a landscape in the mirror, he combines in the same picture two different images, two (sometimes) contrasting parts of the same natural scenery. The result is a fascinating game of lights and perspectives, that emulates the feeling of an hyperrealistic painting, placed within an open air museum in the middle of  the desert.

Kukla’s project reminds me a series of paintings by Magritte (titled The human condition, 1933/1935), wherewhere the landscape on the background of the canvas is exactly reproduced in a painting lying on a tripod, that can be seen in the foreground. The two images are placed on two different levels but they are one the sequel of the other. The Edge Effect is the exact opposite of Magritte’s artwork but, as in Magritte’s paintings, the different natural sceneries shown are part of the same setting or, better, they are the same environment. Perhaps, the end result is as powerful as the one produced by the belgian artist.

In The Edge Effect, nature is free to express itself without limits and filters, just a mirror as a canvas, revealing its grace.

Images taken from danielkukla.com

Some weeks ago in Chicago, for the fourth year, Art On Track took place: a huge mobile gallery on board of a CTA train, that circled in loop for five hours on september 17th to give the visitors a unique experience. Different artist customized each of the carriages, turning an everyday experience into something unusual: not just a boring trip on the way home, but a party of colors and original performances in the same place where we used to see the same grey routine. Every coach was a sort of pavilion where artists could show their works and ideas: someone turned the train into a cosy home, some others made up a fashion show and somebody else built a real garden, almost a jungle, in the small space of the carriage. This specific project, realized by noisivelvet is named  Mobile Garden. Covering the floor and all the seats with a carpet of green grass, the artists created a nice garden with indigenous plants and flowers spread in every corner of the track and hanging from the top.

This project was a sort of preview of the original one noisivelvet is currently trying to realize:
an open-air art installation of a native plant garden pulled behind the L line of Chicago subway for one month. Once tasted this appetizer, we cannot wait to see the big one.

In april 2011, the artists El Tono and Momo were invited to participate in the event Nova Rio Contemporary Culture, organized in Rio de Janeiro by Rojo. They worked together to create some colorful sculptures at the Parque Lage. They decided to create something ephemeral and realized a modular wooden sculpture that could change its shape in an almost infinite range of possibilities. They model 23 pieces of wood that would be combined in different shapes and compositions. Then, after a week of work over the structure, they colored each piece and placed the sculptures through the park, in the middle of the jungle and its local fauna.

With their simple but provoking colorful structures, the artworks of El Tono and Momo have a familiar look to my eyes: they remind me some of Calder’s installations and sculptures. The sparkle of vivacity created from their works in the park is bright and attracting, and, although being non-natural elements, it seems like they were born in the park itself, together with trees and flowers.

Images taken from www.eltono.com

Image taken from urbanfields.wodpress.com

The New York Times recently published a list of the 41 things not to be missed during 2011. Between them there was also the new Museo del Novecento, in the very heart of Milan. So, some weeks ago, when we where traveling there, we decided to visit the museum, giving a chance to the world-renowned newspaper.
During this visit, we had the chance to see a temporary exhibition, organized in a hall of the museum and dedicated to the relationship between art and urban environment In Italy from 1968 to 1976. The exhibition is called FUORI! (Outside).

 

As the curators explain in the nice catalogue, around 1968 artists started to act outside galleries and museums, to face the real world and involve more and more people in their performances, installations and sculptures. While analyzing this movement, they especially focused on four historic events and exhibitions; in between them, Arte Povera + azioni povere, organized in 1968 in the old dockyard and in the streets of Amalfi, Campo Urbano, that took place in Como in 1969; Festival del Nouveau Réalisme, which happened the city of Milan in 1970, and Volterra 73 in the homonymous little town in tuscany during 1973.

Even if these events where different between each other in the specific interventions they presented, they all had a common line based on ephemeral performances happening in the streets of the cities, a sort of first step towards that feeling of appropriation that characterized the following years and the early seventies. One of the main goal was to create a closer relationship between artists and citizens, as well as to encourage people to participate to the life of their cities, as it was demanded by the social and political atmosphere of that time.
All of these events had basically an ephemeral soul, and that is why the exhibition prefers to tell this story with historical videos, pictures and slides. Visiting the exhibition, it was interesting to notice how what we are nowadays investigating has old and distant roots, also in our own country’s history.

A few years ago, the landscape architecture office CMG was asked by a group of citizens to create a special garden in a precise area of the neighborhood. With the project Crack Garden, they created a green space from an area mainly made out of concrete, by removing some strips, cracking the material with a hammer drill and leaving this way only the naked ground of soil. Then, various type of flowers, herbs and vegetables were planted in these strips. This is how the authors explain the project:

The Crack Garden is a hostile takeover of a concrete urban backyard by imposing a series of jackhammer “cracks.” Inspired by the tenacious plants that pioneer the tiny cracks of the urban landscape, the formal rows of this garden create order amongst the random and mixed planting of herbs, vegetables, strange flowers and rogue weeds.

Images taken from www.cmgsite.com

Crack Garden reminds us about two other similar interventions. The first one is the artwork Cut made by Franziska and Lois Weinberger in 1999. The project was realized in Innsbruck University square and consists in a “cut” that crosses all the square, thanks to a straight removal of the pavement, in order to create an interruption of the public space. Inside the cut, flowers and little plants were inserted. Along with time, the pattern became homogeneous with spontaneous green grown in the crack. As for Crack Garden, this artworks was inspired by all these plants that grow in the hidden corners and cracks of our city, the famous third landscape of Gilles Clément.

The second project we were thinking about is the one of Depave, a group of activists and citizens based in Portland which goal is to remove unnecessary asphalt in urban areas, in order to replace it with plants and flowers. They also recycle wrecked concrete to make up little enclosures where to plant different seeds.
In lots of cities, the majority of ground surfaces is covered by streets or parking: Depave, through the removal of pieces of pavement, wants to re-establish natural environment, leading the way for green spaces in the city.