Dezeen’s top 10 installations of 2017

A golden cage protesting Donald Trump’s border-control measures and an “obese house” in Vienna are among some of the installations created in 2017. Continuing our review of 2017, editorial assistant Natashah Hitti selects her top 10.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors by Ai Weiwei

In a campaign against Donald Trump’s border-control measures, Chinese artist and human-rights activist Ai Weiwei built three monumental structures from metal fencing, to resemble security fences.

All located in New York, the structures include a giant golden cage in Central Park, and an enclosure that slots inside the Washington Square Arch.

Find out more about Ai Weiwei’s installations ›


Tree of Codes set design by Olafur Eliasson

Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson used a combination of mirrors and coloured screens to create illusionistic, abstract scenes for Wayne McGregor‘s Tree of Codes ballet, which was on show at London theatre Sadler’s Wells in March.

The performance is based on, and named after, an artwork in the form of a book by Jonathan Safran Foer, which was created by cutting apart Bruno Schulz’s book The Street of Crocodiles to form a new narrative.

Find out more about Olafur Eliasson’s Tree of Codes set design ›


Fat House by Erwin Wurm

Earlier this year, Austrian sculptor Erwin Wurm installed his “obese house” in the grounds of Vienna’s 18th-century Belvedere palace.

Similar in form to a conventional suburban house, the seven-metre high sculpture was created as a commentary on middle-class consumer culture. The house’s walls appeared to have swollen out, giving the impression of fatty flesh rather than an architectural structure.

Find out more about Erwin Wurm’s Fat House ›


Aura installation by Studio Nick Verstand 

Shown as part of this year’s Dutch Design Week, this audiovisual installation by Studio Nick Verstand, in cooperation with VPRO Medialab, reinterpreted people’s emotions as pulsing light compositions.

Equipped with multiple biosensors that register brainwaves, heart-rate variability, and galvanic skin response, visitors sat or laid down on the floor as a musical composition played out in the background, triggering emotional responses. The visitors’ emotional “data” was then analysed and metamorphosed into different forms, colours and intensities of light that were beamed down onto them from above.

Find out more about Studio Nick Verstand’s Aura installation ›


Mirage by Doug Aitken

American artist Doug Aitken built this house-shaped structure clad in mirrors, which reflects the surrounding desert landscape of the Coachella Valley.

The Mirage installation was modelled on a ranch-style suburban American house, and also found inspiration from the modernist ideas of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Find out more about Doug Aitken’s Mirage installation ›


Destierro by Anish Kapoor

British sculptor Anish Kapoor filled a room with over 100 tonnes of earth spread across the floor before spraying it with a bright red pigment, to represent the unseen borders that separate the modern world.

The installation, titled Destierro, was on show at the Parque de la Memoria in Argentina, which was created as a memorial to the victims of the military regime that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983.

Find out more about Anish Kapoor’s Destierro installation ›


Cloud House by Matthew Mazzotta

This shed-like pavilion by artist Matthew Mazzotta features a cloud-shaped element over its corrugated roof, which rains whenever someone sits inside.

Once a person is sat on one of the rocking chairs in the shelter, pressure sensors in the floor are activated, causing pumps to transport water from an underground storage tank up into the cloud, which releases the liquid through tiny holes to simulate rain. Those inside can hear the “warm pleasant sound” of the drops hitting the tin roof, and watch the water permeate through the window lintels to feed plants growing in the sills.

Find out more about Matthew Mazzotta’s Cloud House ›


Six Pins and a Half Dozen Needles by Alex Chinneck

British artist Alex Chinneck created this “cartoon-like” installation from 4,000 bricks, intended to look like a page ripped from a book.

Titled Six Pins and a Half Dozen Needles, the sculpture was designed to appear as if part of the building’s facade had cracked in two. The installation was situated on the site of Assembly London – a campus of offices, retail units and restaurants situated in Hammersmith.

Find out more about Alex Chinneck’s installation ›


Passage/s by Do Ho Suh

These colourful translucent doorway structures represent all the different places that Korean artist Do Ho Suh has lived and worked, in a bid to explore ideas about identity and migration.

Displayed at London’s Victoria Miro Gallery, the Passage/s installation gave physical form to Suh’s idea of life as a journey, “with no fixed beginning or destination.”

Find out more about Do Ho Suh’s Passage/s installation ›


Kaleidoscopic Ivy by Nendo

Japanese studio Nendo used over 40,000 shards of polished steel to form this installation spread across a Japanese flower-arranging school, designed to emulate an “ivy of mirrors.”

Featuring in an exhibition titled Hana So (Fireworks), the mirrored landscape reflected the flower arrangements placed around the space, resulting in kaleidoscopic visual effects.

Find out more about Nendo’s kaleidoscopic installation ›

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https://www.dezeen.com/2017/12/11/top-10-installations-review-2017-design/

 

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Art draws out the beauty of physics

When it comes to quantum mechanics, it’s easier to show than tell.

That’s why artist residencies at particle physics labs play an important part in conveying their stories, according to CERN theorist Luis Alvarez-Gaume.

He recently spent some time demonstrating physics concepts to Semiconductor, a duo of visual artists from England known for exploring matter through the tools and processes of science. They’ve done multiple short films, museum pieces and festivals all over the world. In July they were awarded a CERN residency as part of the Collide@CERN Ars Electronica Award.

“I tried to show them how we develop an intuition for quantum mechanics by applying the principles and getting used to the way it functions,” Alvarez-Gaume says. “Because honestly, I cannot explain quantum mechanics even to a scientist.”

The physicist laughed when he made that statement, but the artists, Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt, are comforted by the sentiment. They soaked up all they could during their two-month stay in late 2015 and are still processing interviews and materials they’ll use to develop a major work based on their experiences.

“Particle physics is the most challenging subject we’ve ever worked with because it’s so difficult to create a tangible idea about it, and that’s kind of what we are all about,” Jarman says, adding that they are fully up for the challenge.

Besides speaking with theorists and experimentalists, the artists explored interesting spaces at CERN and filmed both the construction of a new generation of magnets and a workshop where scientists were developing prototypes of instruments.

“We also dug around a lot in the archives,” Gerhardt says. “It’s such an amazing place and we only really touched the surface.”

But they have a lot of faith in the process based on past experiences working in scientific settings.

A 2007 work called “Magnetic Movie” was based on a similar stay at NASA’s Space Sciences Laboratories at UC Berkeley, where the artists captured the “secret lives of invisible magnetic fields.” In the film, brightly colored streams and blobs emanate from various rooms at the lab to the sounds of VLF (very low frequency) audio recordings and scientists talking.

“Are we observing a series of scientific experiments, the universe in flux or a documentary of a fictional world?” the artists ask on their website.

The piece won multiple awards at international film festivals. But, just as importantly to the artists, the scientists were excited about the way it celebrated their work, “even though it was removed from their context,” Jarman says.

Picturing the invisible

At the Department of Energy’s Fermilab, another group of artists has taken on the challenge of “visualizing the invisible.” Current artist-in-residence Ellen Sandor and her collaborative group (art)n have been brushing up on neutrinos and the machines that study them.

Their goal is to put their own cutting-edge technologies to use in scientifically accurate and “transcendent” artworks that tell the story of Fermilab’s past, present and future, the artist says.

Sandor is known as a pioneer of virtual photography. In the 1980s she invented a new medium called PHSColograms, 3-D images that combine photography, holography, sculpture and computer graphics to create what she calls “immersive” experiences.

The group will use PHSColograms, sculpture, 3D printing, virtual reality and projection mapping in a body of work that will eventually be on display at the lab.

“We want to tell the story with scientific visualization and also with abstraction,” Sandor says. “But all of the images will be exciting and artistic.”

The value of such rich digital visuals lies in what Sandor calls their “wow factor,” according to Sam Zeller, neutrino physicist and science advisor for the artist-in-residence program.

“We scientists don’t always know how to hit that mark, but she does,” Zeller says. “These three-dimensional immersive images come closer to the video game environment. If we want to capture the imagination of school-age children, we can’t just stand in front of a poster and talk anymore.”

As co-spokesperson of the MicroBooNE experiment, Zeller and team are collaborating with the artists on virtual reality visualizations of a new detector technology called a liquid-argon time projection chamber. The detector components, as well as the reactions it detects, are sealed inside a stainless steel vessel out of view.

“Because she strives for scientific accuracy, we can use Sandor’s art to help us explain how our detector works and demonstrate it to the public,” Zeller says.

Growing collaborations

According to Monica Bello, head of Arts@CERN, programs that combine art and science are a growing trend around the globe.

Organizations such as the Arts Catalyst Centre for Art, Science & Technology in London commission science-related art worldwide, and galleries like Kapelica Gallery in Ljubljana, Slovenia, present contemporary art focused largely on science and technology.

US nonprofit Leonardo, The International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology, supports cross-disciplinary research and international artist and scientist residencies and events.

“However, programs of this kind founded within scientific institutions and with full support are still rare,” Bello says. Yet, many labs, including TRIUMF in Canada and INFN in Italy, host art exhibits, events or occasional artist residencies.

“While we don’t bring on full-time artists continually, TRIUMF offers a suite of initiatives that explore the intersection of art and science,” says Melissa Baluk, communications coordinator at TRIUMF.  “A great example is our ongoing partnership with artist Ingrid Koenig of Emily Carr University of Art + Design here in Vancouver. Koenig tailors some of her fine art classes to these intersections, for example, courses called ‘Black Holes and Other Transformations of Energy’ and ‘Quantum Entanglements: Manifestations in Practice.’”

The collaboration invites physicists to Koenig’s studio and draws her students to the lab. “It’s a wonderful partnership that allows all involved to discover news ways of thinking about the interconnections between art, science, and culture on a scale that works for us,” Baluk says.

Fermilab’s robust commitment to the arts reaches back to founding director, physicist and artist Robert Wilson. His sculptures are still exhibited around the lab, says Georgia Schwender, curator of the Fermilab Art Gallery.

Schwender finds that art-science programs attract the community through the unconventional pairing of subjects; events such as the international Art@CMS exhibit last year at Fermilab are very well received.

“It’s not just a physics or an art class,” she says. “People who might be a little afraid of the art or a little afraid of the science are less intimidated when you bring them together.”

Fermilab recently complemented its tradition of cultural engagement with a new artist residency, which began in 2014 with mixed media artist Lindsay Olson.

Art-physics interactions

Science as a subject for art has grown since Sandor’s first PHSCologram of the AIDS virus bloomed into a career of art-science collaborations.

“In the beginning it was almost practical. People were dying, and we wanted to bring everything to the surface and leave nothing hidden,” the artist says. “By the 1990s I realized that scientists were the rock stars of the future, and that’s even truer today.”

Sandor relishes being part of the scientific process. Drawing out the hidden beauty of particle physics to create something scientifically accurate and artistically stunning has been one of the most satisfying projects to date, she says.

Like Sandor, Semiconductor works with authentic scientific data, but they also emphasize how the language of science influences our experience of nature.

“The data represents something we can’t actually see, feel or touch,” Jarman says. “We reference the tools and processes of science and encourage the noise and the artifact to constantly remind people that it is man observing nature, but not actually how it is.”

Both Zeller and Alvarez-Gaume have personal interests in art and find value in the similarities and differences between the fields.

“Our objectives are very different, but our paths are similar,” Alvarez-Gaume says. “We experience inspiration, passion and frustration. We work through trial and error, failing most of the time.”

Like art, science is abstract but enjoyable, he adds. “Theoretical physicists will tell you there is beauty in science—a sense of awe. Art helps bring this to the surface. People are not interested in the details: They want to get a vision, a picture about why we think particle physics is interesting or exciting.”

Zeller finds her own inspiration in art-science collaborations.

“One of the things that surprised me the most in working with artists was the fact that they could articulate much better than I could what it is that my research achieves for humankind, and this reinvigorated me with excitement about my work,” she says.

Yet, one key difference between art and science speaks for the need to nurture their growing intersections, Alvarez-Gaume says.

“Science is inevitable; art is fragile. Without Einstein it may have taken many, many years, and many people working on it, but we still would have come up with his theories. If Beethoven died at age 5, we would not have the sonatas; art is not repeatable.”

And a world without art is not a world he would like to imagine.

04/12/16

Labs around the world open their doors to aesthetic creation.

https://www.symmetrymagazine.org/article/art-draws-out-the-beauty-of-physics