Sunday, February 6, 2011

Butterfly Effect

Are you really sure that a floor can't also be a ceiling?' by Bik Van der Pol, image courtesy of MACRO

Public art is gaining a more and more significant position in today´s art scene, in the time of the domination of "liberal capitalism" that imposes privatisation of urban space and social system all around the world. Paradoxically, more and more "public art" projects are being funded and even organised by private sectors while the public authorities are increasingly retreating from the mission both due to financial and ideological crisis... How much public art can still make sense in such a context? How to imagine and implement relevant visions, forms and strategies to engage with this contradictory reality? At the end, is public art, like public sphere itself, a utopia in this age of privatisation? Is there anyway to make it realisable and meaningful for ordinary people in order to re-activate debates and projects of reclaiming the rule of democracy? And, facing the urgent issues of our society today such as economic, cultural, political and ecological crisis, how much the art world and the powerful ones - both public and private authorities - can resume their responsibilities to take initiatives to propose intellectual, ideological and spiritual ideas for improvements of the society?

Are you really sure that a floor can't also be a ceiling?' by bik van der pol

Therefore, public art becomes crucial for the survival of our society. This is a true battle.

Bik van der Pol are among those who have been acting on the frontline of such a battlefield for the last two decades. Based in Rotterdam, the Netherland and consisting of Liesbeth Bik and Jos van der Pol, the collective has been actively exploring the notion of public-ness and its impacts on various contexts across Europe and other parts of the world. Their projects, systematically conceived for specific venues as devices of memory, knowledge production and communication/collaboration with different communities. The outcomes are utopian and radical proposals for transformation of communal spaces in order to produce new forms of social life and public realm. Exploiting both physical and psychological dimensions, and dynamically engaging social dialogues, they often turn up to be provocative and enlightening.

Referring to common heritages of modern and contemporary utopias evoked in recent history , their work is frequently related to invention of new architectural forms, often resorting to temporary constructions that provide new spaces for public interactions - ranging from mobile cinema to diving platform, from public library to multimedia interfaces ... More than often, the interventional projects of Bik Van der Pol leave highly inspiring and enduring legacies in the communities where they take place. This long term effect successfully extends the significance of artistic activities as a major resource of collective and social imagination and critical reflection - an efficient form of reality check.

Bik van der Pol understand that ecological crisis and related issues are increasingly central to the debate of the common good of our society today. They tackle the question of environment as a main part of their artistic and sociological reflection and production. Environment, or Biosphere, is now understood as a key public sphere in which human beings are striving to rescue and improve the harmonious relationship with nature after much damage of natural conditions of our existence due to over-exploitation driven by our own activities. It´s at first social, cultural and hence political - an intense territory of change and exchange in terms of production of common projects for our survival. For the occasion of the Enel Award, referring both to the emblematic Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe as an ultimate example of human pursuit for the harmony with Nature and the scientific theory of Butterfly Effect they propose to create an environmental structure in the heart of the Eternal City - Rome, to incarnate the complexity, contradiction and fate of our world. Combining a human living device and a gathering niche for butterflies, or the "indicator species" that can not only play the role of pollinator for plants but also change completely the giant system of Nature by simply vibrating their thin wings, the structure functions as a condensed environmental machine that constantly reminds the fragility of our Environment, or the true public sphere. On the other hand, like the contemporary technology of virtual reality, this machine that embodies "virtually" the key negotiation between Man and Nature invites and relies on the interaction with its users, namely the public. Walking around and through the structure and contemplating the beautiful modernist architecture and the massive and energetic movement of the butterflies, the public are actively involving in the maintenance of the sensitive equilibrium between the two indicators of Existence... Like the movement of a butterfly´s wings, our every gesture can indeed trigger unexpected incidents in the system and provoke uncontrollable chain reactions... This is even inevitable.

Public art, in this respect, can also have its butterfly effect!
Text by Hou Hanru

Bik Van der Pol: are you really sure that a floor can't also be a ceiling?
MACRO museum of contemporary art, rome
december 4th, 2010 to january 16th, 2011